Boris Yeltsin 1931-2007

One section of the recent superb Adam Curtis three-part documentary, The Trap, dealt with how Boris Yeltsin, the first elected president of the Russian Federation, was instrumental, wittingly or otherwise, in the formation of a super-rich elite – the oligarchs – and, despite initial promises, the return of an autocratic style of government. The death of Boris Yeltsin today, obituary here, followed the weekend protests against current President Vladimir Putin – the Big G’s Newsblog tackles the coverage of those anti-Putin demonstrations in Moscow. It may be tempting now to only remember the drunken buffoon, and there are some of the more infamous Yeltsin public appearances here, but as David Hearst points out at CiF, history will not be kind to Yeltsin.

If you want find a reason for the popularity of Vladimir Putin, you should look no further than Boris Yeltsin, who died today. All the seeds of today’s Russia – the return to authoritarianism, a controlled media, elections which are a foregone conclusion, the past decade of war in Chechnya, the loss of Russia’s standing in its near-abroad and the attempt to impose its will – were laid in the short and breathless period when anything seemed possible, but where democratic dreams turned to dust.