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April 24, 2007

Boris Yeltsin Dies

To be honest, I'm amazed he actually lasted this long. We all thought he was going to die when he had a heart attack just before his second election.

The obituary seems fair and balanced to me. I'm sure there'll be any number who tell us that his original mistake was the blowing up of the Soviet economy without having something else other than Maffiya Capitalism to put in its place. I have to admit that I don't agree: as one who was living and working there at the time, I don't think anyone had any form of possible alternative. After 75 years of the idiocy simple abolishment and starting over was the only possibility.

The big change came in 1985, at the start of the Gorbachev era,     when he was given a seat of the communist party’s central committee,     and then became Communist Party boss of Moscow, giving him a seat on     the Politburo as a non-voting member.  The Moscow job was     notoriously difficult: Gorbachev needed an outsider to sweep aside     the mafia which had ruled the city’s bureaucracy under Viktor     Grishin, Yeltsin’s predecessor.

The Mafia running things was hardly new.

Certainly a flawed man but there's one story I remember from an old Bernard Levin column, I guess one of the last he wrote before Alzheimer's descended upon him. Levin was talking about the first coup, the one against Gorbachov, the one where Yeltsin stood up on the tank and rallied the crowds. (The second one I was actually in Moscow for and that one was entirely bizarre.)

As Levin retells it there's a crowd around the Duma and the Communist coup leaders have announced, over the tannoys, that under the law, the KGB, the State (blah blah) that the crowd should now go home. And they laughed. Instead of being cowed by those who had murdered their forefathers in their millions (and yes, Gulag Archipelago had been published in Russian by then), the crowd simply laughed at the posturing.

That's the wave he rode.


That one in the corner, of him dancing on stage with the bird, I remember watching on Russian TV.

April 24, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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