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Russia: More Reactions to Yeltsin's Death

While the previous post reflected some of what Russian bloggers’ thought of Boris Yeltsin's life and death, this one deals with the reactions of predominantly non-Russian observers, blogging in English.

Moscow-based Rubashov of Darkness at Noon writes about his Russian host family's grief:

[…] The mood is heavy in my apartment right now – as I've noted before, my host parents are among the dedicated faithful that remain of the old democrats. They were with him at the White House in August 1991 and despite his many flaws, believed in him to the end. We just toasted to Yeltsin's memory, but it's obvious that the shot of vodka does little to dull the pain. It's interesting, of course, since few Russians would ever hold Yeltsin in such high regard. […]

Rubashov also posts an Ode to Yeltsin, emphasizing the ambiguous nature of the ex-president's legacy:

In August 1991, you showed them that the State should answer to the People, that it could be defeated. You showed them that democracy was worth fighting for because it could be won.

In October 1993 you showed them that sometimes it was OK to use the iron fist to save “democracy.” But what would that teach your successors who have their own ideologies (and power) to save?

In July 1996 you showed them that it was possible to win an election at any cost, even if it caused that election to fall short of the democratic ideal for which you had once fought. Because the alternative – a return to communism – was too horrifying to contemplate. And so, in the name of democracy, democracy was undermined. […]

Sean Guillory of Sean's Russia Blog lists things Yeltsin will be remembered for. Here's one:

[…] Yeltsin will be remembered for introducing the world of Vladimir Putin. A virtually unknown figure in 1999 when he became Prime Minister, Putin was originally viewed in Russian oligarchic circles as a manageable bureaucrat who would rule in their name. He wasn’t and what Russia looks like today is very much a result of Putin’s efforts to tame the oligarchy. In this sense, present day Russia is also in part laid in Yeltsin’s lap. […]

In a comment to Sean's post, Heribert Schindler Rossijskaja Federazija offers a German perspective on Yeltsin's legacy:

[…] In Germany he will be remembered the most for one particular fact, the withdrawal of the “Western Group of Forces”, the Russian forces remaining in Germany after WW II.

The withdrawal of the troops was one of the largest troop transfers to times of peace in military history. Despite the difficulties, which resulted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the same period, the departure was carried out according to plan and punctually until August 1994. […]

Estonia-based Giustino of Itching for Eestimaa praises Yeltsin for putting an end to the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states:

[…] But above all, he was smart to recognize and correct Stalin's mistake of occupying the Baltics in 1940 and to withdraw the Russian army from countries that didn't and still do not pose any threat to Russia. He may have been a bumbling drunk, but, in terms of the Baltics, he didn't let nationalist pride get in the way of making the right decisions that have been ultimately beneficial for Russia.

According to the beatroot, many Poles will likely have positive memories of Yeltsin, too, and here's why:

[…] Yeltsin, the first ever elected president, retired on New Year’s Eve, 1999, without any support at all. The average Russian hated and despised him. Internationally, he was seen as a joke – staggering, drunkenly around the globe, failing to turn up often for meetings with heads of state, because he had drank just one too many (bottles of) vodkas.

Talk to Poles, though, and most look back with nostalgia to the Yeltsin years. He ended communism, after all. And they probably quite liked the fact that Russia became weaker and weaker, and so less of a threat to the new ex-communist Poland. […]

The Ruminator of Ruminations on Russia writes, among other things, about Moscow at the beginning of Yeltsin's second term:

[…] If you can remember post-election Moscow in 1997, you weren't here. […]

Copydude writes on how Yeltsin's era played out for the “Russian Bride industry”:

[…] He not only presided over capital flight but also female flight. The late nineties saw the heyday of the Russian Bride exodus when numbers doubled almost year on year. Well, if all the money in Russia had been laundered abroad, there wasn’t much to keep the girls at home. […]

Nosemonkey/Europhobia posts two videos of Yeltsin having fun and writes:

[…] Yep – Yeltsin was the perfect leader for Russia: drunk, a bit stupid, highly unpredictable, almost certainly extremely dangerous, and practically impossible to work out. Just like Russia itself. […]

To Robert Mayer of Publius Pundit, Yeltsin's death “seems pretty irrelevant” – but he writes about the man anyway:

[…] Truthfully, one can only guess to what people will remember of him. I suppose the first thing I think of is vodka, but that's because he didn't affect me much. […]

Near|Abroad posts a comprehensive roundup of media and blog responses; Robert Amsterdam sums up “obituaries and reflections that various newspaper editors had stored in their top drawers;” and Eternal Remont quotes three “emails sent into CNN today.”

1 comment

  • Steven Conn

    Now that Yeltsin has passed away – God rest his soul – his “achievements” are being trumpeted…what are they?
    Economic collapse, tanks shooting at the parliament, neither salaries nor pensions paid out for months and months while billions of dollars were laundered abroad, while a few dozens of billionaires – many of them Yeltsin cronies who seized state assets – came to control 25%-50% of the economy. This is the Yeltsin achievement. Key democratic changes were initiated and implemented under Gorbachev – open press, contested elections, private enterprise, and peaceful secession from the Soviet Union. What did Yeltsin contribute?
    People still shiver from memories of skyrocketing inflation, a contracting economy – by 45% during 1991-1999, looting of state assets, near destruction of the middle class, huge disparities of wealth, and international embarrassment of seeing their president drunk at meetings and summits. Every year Russians saw two, three, and four prime ministers hired and fired – and some of these ministers only found out through the newspapers. Is this a way to run a huge country? Any country?
    Yeltsin won his second term in 1996 despite an approval rating of 5% – this is many times worse than G.W. Bush. How did he do that? He gave up more state assets to oligarchs and used their TV stations and newspapers, on a smaller scale, powerful oligarchs passed around sign-up sheets and pledges within their companies and demanded that people vote for Yeltsin. In the regions the governors lobbied for Yeltsin – a man who famously told them “take as much sovereignty from Moscow as you can handle”. And much like after the 1993 tank assault on the Russian parliament, US leaders approved – “Yeltsin is the guarantor of reforms”…“Yeltsin has the right to use force to protect democracy”. What reforms? What democracy? Chaos…In fact a lot of the western praise of Yeltsin is that he destroyed – USSR, the communist system, the command economy. Do these people have any idea or feelings or care that he also destroyed lives, savings, ideals, beliefs, optimism, and good will?
    If these shocks and abuses are considered “reforms” and “democracy”, then what are we to make of the claim that Putin is “rolling back democracy” in Russia?

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