Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Final Words on Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin's funeral in Moscow today has shown how much he has achieved for Russia and for the rest of the world. Despite the serious mistakes in leadership, his contribution can be measured by simply looking at the variety of those that attended the funeral. Most of them owed much to Yeltsin, and for most of them the death of Yeltsin became a uniting factor, a reconciliation of previous disputes and differences.

Mikhail Kasyanov and Vladimir Putin, now bitter opponents since the opposition of the former to the Kremlin through membership in the "Other Russia" were all seen expressing their deepest condolences, with Mr. Kasyanov visibly in tears. Ukrainian prime-minister Viktor Yanukovich, Belorussian President Lukashenko, former UK premier John Major, two former US presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, the latter giving a hug to Yeltsin's wife Naina as if they were members of a family. All of Russia's dominant political parties, except for the Communists, were represented no matter how big their difference were with Yeltsin's presidency. They knew very well that they owed their existence as parties to Yeltsin.

Despite criticisms in the Russian and Western press that Putin did not express publicly his gratitude to Boris Yeltsin, to whom he owed his present position, it is clear that Mr. Putin did a lot to highlight in the most positive light the first Russian president's achievements and heroism. The unprecedented funeral procession followed by a similarly unprecedented media coverage all served to finish Boris Yeltsin's legacy with a bright, down to earth, honorable period, and to forever preserve his name in history as the person who brought Russia democracy. No matter what the cost, as is usual in Russia's "achievements". President Putin did what he had to do.

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