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"Democrator"

 

Following Boris Yeltsins surprise voluntary resignation on 31 December 1999, just a few hours before the start of the millennium celebrations, analysts were quick to dub the decade of the 1990s in Russia the Yeltsin era. For better or worse, Boris Yeltsin will go down in history as one of the great figures of the twentieth century. His rule was nothing if not controversial. Like Gorbachev, there were two sides to Yeltsin: the radical reformer condemning the privileges and political corruption of the old nomenklatura and the apparatchik (i.e., a member of the Communist apparat) who was thoroughly imbued with the ethos of the old regime.  

 
Boris Yeltsin shedding a tear during his resignation speech

These two sides were in constant tension. The tug-of-war between the democratic and the authoritarian aspects of his political personality has allowed Russian journalists to describe Yeltsin as a democrator, a hybrid of democrat and dictator. This hybrid nature of his charisma and leadership in a distinctive way reflected the ambiguities of the country itself.

In his last televised address to the nation, Yeltsin asked the Russian people for forgiveness. He asked them to forgive him for the failures of his reforms, for his mistakes and illusions. He said he sincerely believed it was possible to overcome quickly the legacy of the totalitarian past and in one great leap to reach a society with normal civilization. This did not happen, he said.

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The Yeltsin Era

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