Russia’s outgoing and would-be presidents have recently participated in a ceremony to unveil a memorial to Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin. Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev came to Moscow’s Novodevichye С emetery to pay homage to Boris Yeltsin who died a year ago. In his speech Russia’s outgoing president Vladimir Putin marked the place of his predecessor in the history of the country, and in fact he acknowledged the importance of Yeltsin’s epoch for the chosen way of development. According to Putin, Russia is still following that way.
It was essential for Putin to show the succession of the political course because the succession of power is a key issue in modern-day Russian politics. But there is another reason for that. Traditionally, in Russia rulers in office debunk their predecessors to improve the current political situation. Vladimir Putin does not want this to happen to him and his epoch, even if there will be no need for that.
“Today we live in an open and independent country that is developing in conformity with the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. The presidential power will always guarantee the basic law, citizens’ rights and will further serve Russians and defend sovereign interests of the country,” Vladimir Putin said emphasizing the importance of the presidential institute.
“We know that President Yeltsin always parried blows with dignity, took overall responsibility for the situation in the country and showed that it was important to follow the strategic course bravely and decisively, and at the same time to remain open and receptive to everything new and useful for the country. In this sense Boris Yeltsin set an example for us. Such a firm and principled position of the country’s president will be the base for further progress, as well as for Russia’s present and future successes.”
Vladimir Putin spoke about Yeltsin’s crucial role when he attended the funeral of Russia’s first president a year ago. But now, before Putin’s resignation these remarks sounded different. They contained an attitude of one ruler who is making history to another ruler who influenced this history. “Boris Yeltsin has traveled the difficult path of a politician and a citizen and he found himself in a situation of a complicated and principled decision. But it was as unique as the history of our country,” said Putin. “Our country underwent unprecedented transformations and severe hardships, but it stood up for its statehood and its right for the free and independent development.” According to the president, “nobody and nothing could ever prevent people’s major aspiration, the aspiration for independence.”
Vladimir Putin called Boris Yeltsin “one of the brightest politicians of the 20th century who cardinally influenced the development of our country and the world history.” There was a novelty in his speech: Vladimir Putin distinctly spoke of Yeltsin’s importance for the whole world.
Taking into consideration the political fashion to heavily criticize the 1990s, Putin’s words sounded like an attempt to rehabilitate the epoch. “The turbulent 1990s were the time of swift changes, courageous and uncommon people who were able to fight tooth and nail, who called for new purposes and led the way for many people,” said the current president. “Without any exaggerations Boris Yeltsin belonged to such outstanding people. The memorial we unveil today is not just the tribute to the first president of the country,” Putin underlined.
The second president also emphasized the role of Yeltsin as the founder of symbols of Russia’s statehood: “His memorial is rightfully covered with the Russian national flag which Boris Yeltsin returned to our history, our country and our people,” Putin said.
At the end of his meeting Vladimir Putin reminded of the most important thing – people’s memory. “Demise does not mean that the way is over. He is alive as long as we remember him, his deeds and ideas. In our memory and in the history of our country he will always stay Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, Russia’s first President, Russia’s courageous and brave leader. We will always remember him,” the second president said about his predecessor.
It is advisable that Putin’s words at Yeltsin’s memorial on April, 23 2008 would became a moral credo for Russia’s new power, for we have not gone too far along the way of freedom that Russia chose under Yeltsin.
Translated by Julia Bulygina