Monday, April 23, 2007

Boris the Great?


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.
Dancing Yeltsin

Yeltsin the comedian, with sidekick Clinton

Very drunk Yeltsin wonders where he left the rest of his speech

26 comments:

michael farris said...

I always assumed that Putin and not Jelcyn (I like the Polish romanization better) picked Putin.

I also assumed Jelcyn was more or less forced to resign as Putin thought it would be easier to be elected president if he already held the office. But then I'm a cynic.

beatroot said...

Jelcyn, Putin, were both 'reformed' communists and when in power reverted to type - authoritarian, self selecting. Putin has has had the advatage of having the economy booming as the world economy has grown and grown and needs the energy. Putin also tarted to control Jelcyn's bandit capitalists and stabalised things more and made Russians feel better about themselves.

But Putin was really Son of Boris.

Korakious said...

Good riddance. I am almost as euphoric as when Pinochet died.

Anonymous said...

Thx for that - I didn't realise much about him before - he certainly looked OK ? in the west - but we rely on our own news here:-(

Biased as it is:-(

Love Is

beatroot said...

My favourite is the third video. It's Boris's comic timing when he looks for the rest of his speech...maybe it's tucked away in a little hiding place in the piece of paper he is holding, and then...he looks again!

Like Basil Fawlty. Marvellous stuff.

steppling said...

Putin is many things...but he has capped the oligarchs....and is, therefore, wildly popular in Russia. Speak to any Moscow resident about life after shock therapy and you can understand the appeal of Putin.

beatroot said...

Poles just don't get that. How Russians trade basic freedoms (like freedom of the press) for stability, improving lifestyles etc?

But I get the feeling that many Poles would make that trade. Like the current governments supporters, perhaps?

varus said...

Beatroot said:
Poles just don't get that. How Russians trade basic freedoms (like freedom of the press) for stability, improving lifestyles etc?

Trading freedom for stability and or security has always been necassary even in western democracies. For exampled during WW2, Britain had quite stringent control of the media in order to protect national security. However, in other circumstance this can lead to totalitarianism. i.e. Lennin's War Communism arguably prepared the ground for Stalinism. I can understand Poles distrust of this trade off. Trading freedom is always a slippery slope. Although, perhaps Poles should look closer to home as the new 24hour courts, although seem to deal with a 'clear and present danger' removes a fundamental right to the accused. That is the ability to adequately prepare a defence. At the moment the courts deal with quite a limited number of crimes, however, if they are perceived as being successful, how many more will be added to the list?

opamp said...

How Russians trade basic freedoms (like freedom of the press) for stability, improving lifestyles etc?

Easily. There has never been a democracy in Russia, so the population views such freedoms as a completely abstract and foreign concept.

By the way, I wonder how they are going to solve the problem of the Putin's term ending...

jannovak57 said...

How long will it take for Europe to wake up and realize the honeymoon with Russia is over? The idea of democracy taking hold in Russia any time soon is just unrealistic; the baggage of Russian culture and history will frustrate any attempt at change. The Russian mentality demands a strong leader at the helm with the hope that it would be a stern but benevolent master.

Yeltsin was a transitional figure with the main focus of transition being a change of economic systems, who ever was in his shoes would have been the focus of discontent. The transition was extremely painful, as one would have expected. This pain is now associated with the so-called period of democracy. Putin provided a form of order after the transitional disruption.

Now it’s time for some old fashion EU hypocrisy, this is where we pretend to not notice Russia is an authoritarian state and conducting an aggressive foreign policy directed at the former satellites and old Soviet republics. This is because we a vision problem, a splash of oil in the eyes does this. The more authoritarian the Russia state becomes the more it will play foreign policy as a zero sum game.

For Poland this will mean an increase in the economic warfare for the near term and later the interruption of fuel supplies.

The Bush white house has an official policy of denial with respect to the situation in Russia (also with most things), but public opinion is starting to shift.

From a recent article in the Washington Post “Let's stop pretending that Russia's deteriorating domestic politics are unrelated to Russia's increasingly antagonistic and anti-American foreign policies. The same autocratic regime is responsible for both

steppling said...

geeez...russo-phobia .....I always forget how much poles hate russians.
Putin quite correctly acted to stop the Oligarchs....and again, ask any russian who went through jeff sachs' and his shock therapy. The country is still run by gangsters....that is a result of the fall of communism. NOW, im not making a case for the corrupted communist state that was tossed out...but the after effects ended up being far worse for most people. Yeltsin sold off state mining, for example, for 2% of its real value....(to Boris B.)_....and thats just one example. Terms like freedom are tossed around without much thought.....in the US, as malcolm X once said, yeah, slaves are free now, free to starve. The US has increasingly limited freedoms....errosion of the bill of rights is talked about on all sides of the political debate. To say russia shoudnt be anti american is bizarre.....WHY SHOULD THEY BE? the US is surrounding their country with NATO bases and supporting west leaning *revolutions* in neighboring countris (former soviet countries or terroritories).....I think people should choose what they want in terms of government.....and for Poles to attack russians for wanting the stability of Putin is quite like the US demanding everyone replicate their own form of **democracy**.

beatroot said...

Varus
Britain had quite stringent control of the media in order to protect national security. However, in other circumstance this can lead to totalitarianism. i.e. Lennin's War Communism arguably prepared the ground for Stalinism.

That’s probably correct – although you could say that Britain and all the others attacking Russia at that time contributed to what followed contributed to the ‘war communism’ in the first place.

But UK during WW II and Russia now are not equivalent. Nobody is attacking Russia.

Opamp
Putin will nominate a successor…that’s how they will deal with it. But I agree that Russians have never had democracy and they don’t actually value it very much. I see the same here, I am afraid.

But I wonder how I would react in the same circumstances? Utter chaos but ‘free’ or a bit of security and rising living standards,. It’s not so easy.

Jan
What Yeltsin did was give away large parts of Russia to his friends. Those friends have turned against Putin. Looik at the London contingent. Plotting to ‘overthrow’ Putin by a violent revolution (as reported in the Guardian two weeks ago.

What saddos! They sit in their penthouses in Mayfair counting their all stolen money and plot to overthrow someone who at least bothered to get elected.

Kasparov is typical. I hero of mine, by the way, cause I love chess…but he supported the bandit capitalism that Yeltsin created and now he is organizing a movement made up of fascists and communists to overthrow Putin.

What a weird country! Steppling
In many ways Poles are jealous of Russians. Get them to talk about their literature etc. They have as complicated a relationship with Russia as they have with Jews.

steppling said...

a follow up from Justin raimondo.....
http://www.antiwar.com/justin/?articleid=10867

beatroot said...

Boris Berezovsky is the rich bandit in London going on about a 'revolution' againnst Putin. Putin is not a nice character but at least he went - however imperfectly - through the ballot box. Who ever elected Berezovsky? London is full of these cretins.

varus said...

BR, the question is will London send this particular cretin back to Moscow? I think not, although he undoubtedly deserves it.

jannovak57 said...

beatroot said... “Jelcyn, Putin, were both 'reformed' communists”

Yeltsin was a reformed communist but Putin was just a communist that woke up one morning and found there was no longer a communist state in existence and adapted accordingly. Putin’s action such as restoration of the old Soviet anthem and the official glorification of the Soviet period speak volumes about his true convictions.

Steppling said... “russo-phobia .....I always forget how much poles hate russians.
Putin quite correctly acted to stop the Oligarchs”

In proper prospective Putin acted only against the oligarchs that failed to pledge their loyalty to him. There is no reason he couldn’t of reigned in the oligarchs with the rule of law and supported the civil liberties and reforms Yeltsin brought in. He acted to give himself authoritarian powers because his vision of Russian doesn’t include democracy or the rule of law.

Steppling said.....”and for Poles to attack russians for wanting the stability of Putin is quite like the US demanding everyone replicate their own form of **democracy**. “

Following this chain of logic would require us to refrain from being critical of German society for bringing Hilter into power. Arguing against the rule of law and democracy in light of the historical experience certainly requires some intellectual acrobatics.
Putin will go down in history as having authored the assassination of Russia’s brief attempt to become a democracy by the time he leaves office Russia will sit on the borderline between authoritarianism and full fledged dictatorship.
A recent directive to the news media in Russia was content had be positive news for 50% of the broadcast and the painting the US as an official enemy of Russia was required. With 42 dead journalists the writing on the wall.

sonia said...

I've been to Russia three times, in 1981-2 under Communism, in 1995 under Yeltsin and in 2005 under Putin. It's like three totally different countries. A boring Communist prison became a dangerous Wild Wild East, to finally become a prosperous clone of Pinochet's Chile.

Russia is fascist country now. But even that is an improvement over what it was under Communism.

beatroot said...

So now you are admiting that Pinochet was a fascist?

sonia said...

I never said he wasn't...

beatroot said...

You defended Pinochet. So that means you have fascist tendencies...

jannovak57 said...

Pinochet was a conservative that acted out of duty to save his country from a clearly defined evil.

sonia said...

Jannovak57,

Correct. But since he wasn't democratically elected, 'fascist' is an appropriate term...

Beatroot,

Tell that to a defense lawyer: your client is a criminal and you're defending him, so that means you have criminal tendencies...

Was Joe McCarthy an uncle of yours ??

beatroot said...

Was Joe McCarthy an uncle of yours ??

?????????

varus said...

Sonia said:
Correct. But since he wasn't democratically elected, 'fascist' is an appropriate term...

Does one exclude the other. Hitler was democratically elected and was a fascist. Fascism is an ideology of political process. If 51% of the people in a country support fascism, then regardless of whether ‘representative democracy’ is used, then surely it is democratic. That is if we go back to the root meaning of democracy, i.e. Democracy just means rule by the people. Today we associate democracy with a whole load of things (US State Dept)

THE PILLARS OF DEMOCRACY
· Sovereignty of the people.· Government based upon consent of the governed.· Majority rule.· Minority rights.· Guarantee of basic human rights.· Free and fair elections.· Equality before the law.· Due process of law.· Constitutional limits on government.· Social, economic, and political pluralism.· Values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation, and compromise.

However, these are superfluous to what democracy really is. This also goes for Fascism, we associate it with Nazism, but this is misleading, as they were not the same, Nazism incorporated elements of Fascism but can not be used as a synonym.

George Orwell, had this to say about the words use (Wikipedia):

...the word ‘Fascism’ is almost entirely meaningless. In conversation, of course, it is used even more wildly than in print. I have heard it applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, homosexuality, Priestley's broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, women, dogs and I do not know what else ... Except for the relatively small number of Fascist sympathisers, almost any English person would accept ‘bully’ as a synonym for ‘Fascist’. That is about as near to a definition as this much-abused word has come.[22]

I am not trying to exonerate, promote or condone fascism. Merely say that it is often an over used word.

sonia said...

Beatroot,

?????????

Like you, McCarthy treated the same way the actual, Stalin-worshipping Communists and progressive liberals who simply defended the Communists's First Amendement rights...

I am not a fascist, but I will defend them if they are unjustly accused, like Pinochet was.

Varus,

Hitler was democratically elected

Fascism was the least of Hitler's problems. He was a genocidal, paranoid, anti-semitic, racist psychopath. His fascism, along with his vegetarianism, looked positively wholesome by comparison. Yes, he was elected, but only once. After 1934, there was no free press, no opposition parties and no free elections. Parallels with Chavez are striking in that respect.

varus said...

Sonia said:
"Yes, he was elected, but only once. After 1934, there was no free press, no opposition parties and no free elections. Parallels with Chavez are striking in that respect."

Sounds very similar to many other systems including communism.

My point was that you seemed to be defining fascism by there being a lack of democracy. As I said before, are they mutually exclusive?

The Roman Republic was the archetypal idea of fascism, (Mussolini was harking back to it) they however held elections for the Senate, and would elect a dictator for the space of a year, when confronted by an overwhelming threat. Therefore democracy and fascism co-existed. That is, if we take fascism to be the centralised control of authority.

For an analogy, we could look at the idea of a commercial company. A company has a very vertical decision making structure. However a case may occur where a worker buyout could result in the situation where the workers hold the power to elect the board and thus the CEO. As a collective they appoint the CEO. However, as an individual they must obey the commands of their manger/supervisor.