Lot of Poles – especially the more right wing ones – will mourn the death of Boris Yeltsin.
Yes, he was the man who stood on that tank, during the failed coup of 1991, when a few desperate communists tried to re-take power.
Yes, he disbanded the old Soviet state and gave Russians freedom they had never enjoyed in their lifetimes, or their parents’ lifetimes.
Yes, he ushered in a ‘shock therapy’ market economy, and opened up Russia to investment. A lot of people got very rich.
But lots and lots more got poor and poorer. The economy collapsed. Growth went into reverse for many years; inflation went crazy; people’s savings became worthless; inequalities ballooned; corruption became endemic.
The then there was the war in Chechnya, where thousands lost their lives – it was like Afghanistan all over again.
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.
If they could choose between Putin’s (who was virtually hand picked by Boris, remember) strong, authoritarian Russia, or Yeltsin’s drunken oligarchy, bandit capitalism, they’ll take Boris’s, anytime.
Russians would beg to differ.
Some of Yeltsin’s greatest video hits.
Yeltsin the comedian, with sidekick Clinton
Very drunk Yeltsin wonders where he left the rest of his speech
Monday, April 23, 2007
Posted by beatroot at 4/23/2007