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Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, Soviet Premier Who Presided Over Economic Chaos, Dies at 94

Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, a premier of the Soviet Union who in 1990 took the brunt of the blame for economic chaos that engulfed the last years of Communist rule, leading to the nation’s political collapse and the end of the Cold War, has died. He was 94.

His death was confirmed on Wednesday by Valentina Matvienko, the head of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper chamber of Parliament, in a statement on Telegram.

Starting as a welder in a factory in the Urals, Mr. Ryzhkov rose as a party loyalist with economic expertise to peaks of success as a protégé of the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The general secretary of the Communist Party, Mr. Gorbachev in 1985 named Mr. Ryzhkov as chairman of the Council of Ministers — a title more commonly known as premier — the second-most-powerful post in the Soviet hierarchy.

For millions of citizens, Mr. Ryzhkov was a figure of command and compassion at the scenes of two disasters — the 1986 nuclear power plant accident in Chernobyl, where he ordered the evacuation of a 19-mile radius contaminated with radioactivity, and the 1988 earthquake that killed 25,000 people in Soviet Armenia, where he coordinated relief efforts and comforted survivors.

Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Ryzhkov visiting Armenia, which was then part of the Soviet Union, in 1988, after an earthquake that killed 25,000 people. Mr. Ryzhkov coordinated relief efforts. Credit…Wojtek Laski/Getty Images

It also fell to Mr. Ryzhkov to share, with Mr. Gorbachev and other senior officials, responsibility for a national economy battered by the costs of a long arms race with the West and teetering on disaster after seven decades of corruption and mismanagement under a succession of dictators.

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