Putin Unveils Monument to Yeltsin

ReutersPresident-elect Dmitry Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin laying flowers at the grave of former President Boris Yeltsin in Novodevichye Cemetery
President Vladimir Putin called Boris Yeltsin "one of the most striking politicians of the 20th century" as he honored the former president at the unveiling of a new monument at his grave Wednesday, the first anniversary of Yeltsin's death.

Family members and politicians, including President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the director of the Federal Security Service Nikolai Patrushev, attended the ceremony at Yeltsin's graveside in Novodevichye Cemetery.

The new monument was created by sculptor Georgy Frangulyan in the form of the Russian tricolor flag, which was reintroduced by Yeltsin.

"It is proper that his tombstone is covered with the Russian state flag -- the tricolor, the national flag of Russia, which was returned by Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin to our history, our country and our people," Putin said.

Channel One news showed Putin appearing to fight back tears as he watched Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II bless the monument.

"Boris Yeltsin traveled a difficult path as a politician and a citizen and in the course of his life often found himself faced with a complex choice, based on principles," Putin said during the ceremony. "But his path was as unique as the fate of our country -- a country which passed through unprecedented transformations and severe shocks, but which defended its statehood and its right to free, independent development."

Among those in attendance were Yeltsin's political contemporaries, including the former president of Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akayev, former Russian prime minister and now Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, UES chief Anatoly Chubais and the first president of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma.


Ria-Novosti / Reuters
Putin speaking at a ceremony Wednesday marking the first anniversary of Yeltin's death at Novodevichye Cemetery.
While these leaders, along with Yeltsin, were part of a period that has been heavily disparaged in recent official rhetoric, Putin stressed Yeltsin's positive qualities during the troubled period.

"The stormy 1990s were a time of rapid change and bold, gifted people -- personalities capable of going against the tide, who called for new aims and led the masses with them," Putin said. "Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, without any exaggeration, belonged to this outstanding constellation."

Yeltsin's widow, Naina, and one of their daughters, Tatyana Yumasheva, laid roses at the stone memorial.

"The entire family liked the monument immediately," Yumasheva told journalists at the ceremony, Itar-Tass reported. "The one thing we wanted to avoid was a portrait in stone."

Yeltsin's memory was also honored in the Sverdlovsk region, where he grew up and was Communist Party secretary.

Zubkov signed a decree saying Ural State Technical University in Yekaterinburg, where Yeltsin studied, will now bear his name, Interfax reported.

In addition, Channel One news showed a sign being fixed on a new Boris Yeltsin Street in Yekaterinburg. The street was formerly called Ulitsa 9 Yanvarya, in honor of a revolutionary event in 1905.

A memorial plaque was fixed on the house where Yeltsin was born in the Sverdlovsk region village of Budka, bearing his words: "In my life, I have done the most important thing: Russia will never go back to what it was," Interfax reported.

Yeltsin is the second 20th-century leader to be buried at Novodevichye Cemetery, following Nikita Khrushchev. Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko were all buried beside the Kremlin wall.