Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Make Mine A Double

I'm actually quite a bit more choked up 'bout this than I'd've guessed I'd be. Believe it folks, the breakup of the Soviet Union could've gone A Lot Worse for everyone on this pale blue dot. A LOT worse.

He weren't no saint, but to more than just the folks of Russia, his tank ride (unlike some pissant Chimp's pretensions of Captaincy) truly resulted in salvation. I am not a vodka fan, but will be having one in his honor sometime soon.

na zdrovje
Boris Yeltsin, 1931-2007
Russia's tragic reformer
Updated April 23, 2007
CBC News

His finest hour came on Aug. 19, 1991, when he clambered onto the tanks surrounding Russia's parliament buildings and transformed them into his own personal soapbox, in the end thwarting a coup by hardliners attempting to turn the Soviet Union away from its flirtation with democracy.

At the time, Boris Yeltsin was the newly elected president of Russia, which was still only a satellite in the Soviet constellation. But his defiance of the hardliners made him democracy's hero around the world and catapulted him into the top job, where he ended up presiding over the demise of the Soviet Union and enduring his own personal demons in the process.

A timeline of his life and career:

6 comments:

  1. Red Bull and Wadka all around!

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  2. Odd, I read totally different opinions of the man. As for me - just another dead politician who lived like a politician doing political things.

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  3. Good idea, Frederick! I forget what they call those but I'll sure to be havin' one this Friday at the Bleu Detroit.

    Oh, no doubtin' it, Mary. Zee ol' apparatchik was a ragin' alcoholic as well. There's no question that, like most historical political phenomena, it could've gone Much More Smoothly and with far greater efficacy to all concerned.

    But seriously, imagine how bad it could have gone. As far as we know, not one nuclear weapon from the Soviet arsenal has been used against anyone, inside or out of that defunct Empire. That's nearly miraculous!

    Yeltzin's policies and personality had no small part in ensuring this timeline's lack of apocalyptic radioactivity.

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  4. It had taken 70 years to build, and it was held together with brutal iron bands. When it started to come apart, there was probably no way to slow down the tumble. Boris did the best he could, but he gave us Putin.

    For me, his legacy is that he helped expose the fraud that always was "the Soviet threat." There was no threat, except in their reaction to our threats.

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  5. Believe it folks, the breakup of the Soviet Union could've gone A Lot Worse for everyone on this pale blue dot. A LOT worse.

    Hmmm...maybe for everyone else, but not for the Russians.

    Having been to Russia post-Yeltsin, I can say with confidence that most Russians refer to the Yeltsin era as "the dark times". Putin is viewed as a huge improvement, and from an economic standpoint--cash reserves, real income, wealth distribution--Putin's reign has been much more stable than Yeltsin's. It has also been many other terrible things, but that is for another comment.

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  6. I like your take, Larry. When I was much younger, early 20s or so, I'd starting learning what Marxism meant to Soviet society and, while I knew of and detested the atrocities of Stalinism, I also saw where krazy Kruschev had some very good plans which the "machine" simply wasn't capable of implementing.

    In no small part that was because of the West's fear of yet more Stalinism, but obviously its failure was due to lack of any semblance of real Democracy in their culture. It was truly a blown opportunity for the West, IMO. We could have helped and made at least the type of progress we've made with China in the last couple of decades.

    That potential is why I can't help but see the good in tricky Dick; he took a much needed chance and almost engendered perestroika decades before Gorbachev. If only dude wasn't every bit as paranoid as most of the U.S.S.R.'s leaders of the day...

    Still, that leads me to your point, Kvatch. I've never been there but worked for almost a year studying post-soviet russia while in college. The few Russians I knew at that time were of mixed opinions on Boris, but the bottom-line for all of them, and from what I gathered reading English versions of Izvestia every day, was that the darkness was unavoidable since the West refused to think like Slavs when it came to understanding capitalism.

    The Mafyas were ubiquitous at the time. They were the only ones with ANY ability to get ANYTHING done and Boris - or anyone else for that matter - wasn't going to remain alive if he didn't try to accommodate those factions which looked to have the most cultural support.

    People like Lenin - incredibly rare in most of the world, but a dime a dozen in the history of the U.S. - were even harder to find in Russia, where people have rarely over the last thousand years even considered that they might have some chance to change their fate.

    Boris was perhaps the perfect bridge from the Czarist past to the democratic future. Unfortunately, his alcoholism, pretty much a staple of the "common man" before, during and after the Oktober Revolution, crippled any chance he may have had to prevent the rise of such an intelligent yet fascist leaning man such as Vlad Putin.

    But, as you say, that's for another thread altogether.

    (And I know that the above is an over-simplification. Maybe I'll post more on it later. It's certainly the kind of thing I'd LOVE to sit around talking 'bout for hours! )

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