Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Boris Yeltsin 1931-2007

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin has died, 76 years old. He was the first president of the Russian Federation from 1991 to 1999, and was prime minister of Russia as well from november 1991 to june 1992.

What he is mostly remembered for by many people was his drunkness while in office. There are countless examples of his eratic behaviour while drunk, often causing diplomatic incidents.

His finest hour was in defying the military coup in 1991, which was a last effort by the hard-line Communists to regain power. Here he defined the military leadership, and got the lower ranks of the military to join his side, this leading the way for th defeat of the coup. Ironically Yeltsin used the military to bomb the Russian parliament just two years later, nearly creating a civil war.

Living in a small country fairly close to the border of then-Soviet Union, both incidents were rather frightening, and something we paid close attention to in Europe.

Overall, it can be said that Yeltsin was one of the major players in the collapse of the Soviet Union, and as such should be honored. Unfortunately he, his family and his friends, were also the cause of many of the problems that Russia now have, especially on the economical front (the wholesale guttering of public companies for personal profit being a major cause).

Maybe Gorbachev sums up Yeltsin the best when he said that he "had major deeds for the good of the country as well as serious mistakes behind him", though he and I probably have different reasons to believe so (Gorbachev is still a Communist, who wanted to save the Soviet Union till the end).

A noteworthy, and some times great, person has died. May history be kind to him.

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