Cultural Revolutions

Boris Yeltsin, R.I.P.

On April 25, Boris N. Yeltsin, Russia’s first postcommunist leader, was buried in Moscow.  Many foreign dignitaries attended the funeral, praising the late president’s achievements.  U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton also bid farewell to their partner in dismantling the Soviet Union.

Yeltsin’s death, seven years after his resignation at the dawn of the new millennium, underscores the striking difference between U.S.-Russian relations then and now.

To put into perspective how a great number of Russians regard their first president and his policies, imagine the governor of Illinois striking a deal with the leaders of New Mexico, Texas, and California and offering them support for their independence in order to oust his personal rival, the president, from the White House and take over the rump United States.  Imagine, in addition, that he dissolves the U.S. Congress by sending in tanks, resulting in the deaths of over 150 citizens.  These patriotic activities then lead to hyperinflation, wiping out the citizens’ personal savings.  The economy is now in shambles, and high-tech gives way to raw-material extraction.  Silicon Valley infogeeks are escaping to China, Europe, and Brazil.  Lucrative businesses are “privatized” and handed over to the president’s cronies.  His reformist economists attempt to fix the economy by not paying wages—for years. ...

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