MOSCOW — Suffering from what doctors called an acute viral infection, former Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin was taken from his luxurious country dacha and hospitalized Tuesday, two days before his 70th birthday.
It was Yeltsin's first hospitalization since a bout of pneumonia in November 1999, and it brought back memories of the repeated health problems that plagued him during his nine years as president.
A spokesman for the former president said his doctors ordered him into a hospital bed because they wanted "to be on the safe side," adding that Yeltsin is likely to remain at least two or three days at the government's Central Clinical Hospital.
"Thank God it is not flu," said the spokesman, Vladimir Shevchenko. "At least the doctors have not diagnosed it as flu.
"However, Boris Nikolayevich has a high temperature. It was higher than 38 [100.4 degrees Fahrenheit]. He didn't have any other symptoms, though, to speak of. He doesn't even have a sore throat."
In Russia, Yeltsin continues to be addressed by the title "first president," in recognition of his unique role as the first popularly elected leader of Russia in the country's more than 1,000-year history.
Since leaving office 13 months ago, the tempestuous politician who formally ended Communist rule in Russia in 1991 has been leading the life of a country gentleman in the government's posh Barvikha dacha compound.
He has polished his latest volume of memoirs and emerged only occasionally to travel and confer with his handpicked successor, Vladimir V. Putin. He publicly disagreed with his protege last month, when Putin decided to adopt the Soviet Union's old national anthem, which had been scrapped by Yeltsin, as Russia's new anthem with revised lyrics.
Interviewed over the holidays by state-owned RTR television, Yeltsin looked slightly puffy in the face but spoke with a firm, deep voice about how he had enjoyed his retirement since his shock resignation Dec. 31, 1999, six months before his second term as president expired.
"For me, this year was not that hard. I thought it would be much more difficult," Yeltsin said. "But I worked on the book, [spent a lot of time in] consultations, telephone conversations, this and that, this and that. And the year went by so fast I didn't even notice."
In another interview late last year, this one with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, Yeltsin spoke of his desire to keep out of the limelight. "Everyone who retires has to make this choice--to remain in public life, travel a lot, give lectures, continue to work actively in general," he said, "or devote your time to your loved ones.
"I chose the second option. It best suits my soul."
Yeltsin's memoirs, titled "Midnight Diaries" in English and "Presidential Marathon" in the Russian edition, were published in October and covered his troubled later years as president, when his popularity plummeted to single digits and he spent a significant portion of his time in the hospital.
The former president had a history of heart ailments that culminated in a quintuple bypass in late 1996 at the Central Clinical Hospital.
Although he briefly appeared to become more vigorous after that, from 1997 he was hospitalized on and off for the rest of his presidency with what was reported as a series of flus, respiratory inflammations and stomach ulcers.
The illnesses quickly became a political liability for Yeltsin and threatened to be a source of instability for the country as various factions jockeyed to succeed him.