April 24th, 2007 03:48 EST
Remembering Boris Yeltsin
In the world this week, we bid a farewell to former Russian president, Boris Yeltsin. Since resigning from his post in 1999, Yeltsin had been suffering with multiple health problems and died Monday, apparently of sudden heart failure. Now I'm not Russian, nor have I ever been to Russia in my life, but it’s important that we, a democratic nation, share and remember what good times Yeltsin brought to Russia and to the entire world.
Yeltsin was elected President of Russia in 1991, receiving 57 percent of the popular vote. This, by the way, made him the first Russian president elected by popular vote. The eight years Yeltsin reign (1991-1999) are marked with nothing but political, philosophical and social change. Not to mention the constant wrestling for government control he would experience soon after his election. Former Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev would become his most fierce rival. Just two months after Yeltsin’s election, Gorbachev attempted an overthrowing of the Russian democracy, wanting no parts of a free society. And years following this, Gorbachev accused the president of “tearing the country apart out of a desire to advance his own personal interests.” Oddly enough after hearing of his death, Gorbachev told the Kremlin that “he did a lot for this country even though he committed serious errors.”
Let me remind Mr. Gorbachev that it was your policies that almost brought Russia into complete failure. It was you who allowed your country to suffer from several severe famines by the late 1980s. You also left Russia with billions of dollars worth of debt. It was the inevitable; Moscow’s rule wasn’t going to rule the nation for much longer.
In stepped Yeltsin. His presidency of the Russian Federation and the infamous photo of him sitting on a tank during the coup attempt were soon to follow. Russians under his rule either loved him or hated him. Still, he came into a nation during the late 1980s after decades of Imperial and Soviet power struggles. He immediately fascinated the nation. He played a monumental role in the fall of the Soviet Union and was a fighter until his death for a democratic Russia. Very few Russian leaders, if any, can be remembered in like manner.
Now there are many people with the opposite opinion who will side with Gorbachev. In 1993, the Russian Congress attempted to impeach Yeltsin after Russia decided to take on all of the USSR’s external debts. The Congress collected more than 600 votes, but fell 72 short of the impeachment. Shortly after this, the Russian constitutional crisis ensued with mass protests at the Russian White House. Like the stern politician he was, Yeltsin stood in control of his military and, most important, his country.
Yet his reign was still filled with problems. Much corruption took place during his era in which the bad taste still lingers in the mouths of many Russians who fell into poverty. Yeltsin was a firm believer in state and business remaining separate, which led to much of the corruption.
Despite the naysayer’s opinion on Yeltsin, it’s important to remember the positive side to Yeltsin’s reign. Outside of Russia, he was much more popularized. He had control of Russia at the most difficult of times and didn’t let them down. Even by looking at old black and white photos and videos of him, you become entrapped through his charisma. So remember Boris Yeltsin for the good things, not for the corruption or coup attempts. For he was one of the original Russian fighters for democracy.