An intriguing and potentially controversial biography of the new President of Russia, by husband-and-wife Russian ÇmigrÇs Solovyov and Klepikova (Behind the High Kremlin Walls, 1986; Yuri Andropov, 1983). Skipping lightly over Yeltsin's early years, the authors concentrate on his conflict with Gorbachev and the Communist Party. While strongly supportive of Yeltsin (``a man of truly heroic stature'') and critical of Gorbachev (``a 60-year-old man made of Silly Putty''), their approach is sober and informed. Yeltsin and Gorbachev were born a month apart, the authors tell us, both the issue of generations of peasants and both hailing from villages remote from Moscow. But while Gorbachev grew to enjoy luxury and to cling to the Communist Party almost to the end, Yeltsin proved himself sternly incorruptible (during his tenure as Moscow Party boss, he traveled to work on the crowded subway) and made his mark as the first dissident from within the Kremlin, the first to leave a high Party position voluntarily, and the first to lead a popular revolt against the Party. Solovyov and Klepikova describe Yeltsin as sociable, noisy, effusive, a bit of a showoff, provincial and proud of it, but with ``extraordinary political instincts.'' The most controversial aspect of the authors' reportage, though, lies in their coverage of the August coup and the evidence they present that Gorbachev may even have been responsible for it (they cite key KGB sources, for example, who claim that Gorbachev's communications at his dacha were not, in fact, cut off). The authors conclude that they ``dare not close this book on an optimistic note,'' but they leave a sense that if anyone can triumph over chaos in Russia, it may be Yeltsin. Often disjointed and disorganized, as if hastily prepared, but providing remarkable insight into the conflicts in the Soviet Union and the quality of the man who has been called upon to deal with them.