10 Years Since Boris Yeltsin Stole Millennium

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Yeltsin announced his resignation just few hours before a new Millennium celebration.

Alexandre Bykov

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Alexandre Bykov, a communications expert, launches a new blog dedicated to Russia and the UK on http://abykovruk.livejournal.com/284.html

31st December 1999 was a controversial date: some expected IT systems to crash and burn; few argued about the actual date of a new century saying that the new Millennium started in 2001 not in 2000. However, many agreed that the first Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, stole the limelight on 31st December 1999.

The news about his resignation was the number one story on major news bulletins around the world, including the BBC, and Boris's photos covered the front pages of all the major international media.

Nobody could predict his resignation, especially, seeing how hard he had fought for his second election, urging the Russian electorate to vote to prevent the possibility of a communism regime returning to power in Russia.

One can only speculate if there was a real chance of Russia making a u-turn. What many say is that Boris found himself between the devil (Communism) and the deep sea (newborn Oligarchs or the so-called 'Family'). His actions seemed to have been influenced by the inner-circle (the 'Family') and his drinking habits. But the second election victory came at a huge price - his health. The burden of a power was too heavy for a man with heart problems.

Whilst many look back (fondly) on Yeltsin as a bit of a comic figure, he proved to be a very intuitive politician, especially compared to his predecessors, including Gorbachev. Boris could feel that the Russians needed a new, strong leader who could carry out real changes. As well as that, his resignation showed that Yeltsin did not want to be remembered as just another former Politburo leader who was clutching to power. And as soon as he found a strong man to continue his programme (Putin, who by chance had a KGB past) he felt it was safe to resign.

We can only guess what major criteria Boris used in choosing his successor - a commitment to a real change and progress or some loyalty to the 'Family'.

The last 10 years has shown that at the heart of the Kremlin project lies a complete rejection of any Communist politics and a clear endorsement of Yeltsin's view of worshiping the free market and the rich. Russia still has a growing gulf between wealthy and poor. As worryingly, the country has not yet managed a transformation from an economy dependent on energy to one that is diverse and more stable.

The latest attempt by the current Russian President to turn the situation around has been met with a certain degree of scepticism. As BBC stated: 'Opinion is divided as to whether Mr Medvedev's annual state of the nation address heralded a far-reaching shake-up of the Russian economy or just cosmetic reform.' http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8358672.stm

One can only hope that Russian leaders will follow Yeltsin's legacy in establishing Russia as a strong, independent, and democratic State. Boris Yeltsin might have stolen the limelight 10 years ago; but for a good reason - paving a way for a new Russia.

Alexandre Bykov

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