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Yeltsin's "finest hours"

Jonathan Weiler: Did Russia's first democratically elected President really serve his people?
 
 
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The first comment I read about Boris Yeltsin's death yesterday was from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. Marshall wrote:

Yeltsin dies.

Certainly a contradictory figure. But it's hard for me to see where he won't be one of those figures whose positive moments, even if brief and episodic, were profound enough in their importance to outweigh the longer periods of lassitude, corruption and drift.

A variant of this sentiment is, it appears, already a common reaction among more casual observers and among mainstream commentators in general - that, despite significant flaws, Yeltsin's positive contributions to history clearly ought to carry the day. Yeltsin was the man who brought about the final downfall of the Soviet Union, our sworn enemy. He was, according to the Washington Post, the man who "engineered the final collapse of the Soviet Union and pushed Russia to embrace democracy, market economy."

Does Yeltsin deserve to be remembered, on balance, as a positive force in Russian history? Most commentary says yes. I disagree.

Jonathan Weiler teaches at UNC Chapel Hill and has written a book on Human Rights in Russia. He's currently co-writing a book on authoritarianism in America and contributes to the sports blog - The Starting Five.