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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Why Does Yeltsin Get No Gifts?

"We are frightfully ungrateful! In years past the thankful people sent their gifts to comrades Lenin and Stalin, and even to comrades Khrushchev and Brezhnev ... We alone express no thanks to Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, who is, after all, the first president of Russia."

With this salvo, Komsomolskaya Pravda reporter Andrei Dyatlov admonished his countrymen for the dire shortage of gifts sent to the Russian president in an article Thursday. He wrote with tongue firmly in cheek, to be sure, but his intention to reverse Yeltsin's fortunes on birthdays and major holidays is in earnest.

"It has always been a tradition of our people to present gifts to our leaders," Dyatlov said Friday. "Probably a third of the Lenin Museum consisted of gifts. Stalin in his day was known for his first portrait, engraved on a grain of rice; anyone who wished was allowed into the Museum of the Revolution to look at the portrait of the leader in a microscope."

Nikita Khrushchev fared quite well, and Leonid Brezhnev, the aficionado of expensive race cars and lavish hunts, cashed in on the people's generosity most of all. But Yeltsin, alas, took his place at the treasure trough only to find that the people were not in a giving mood any longer.

What happened? "Democracy!" chimes Dyatlov's colleague from across the office, and he agrees. "It used to be considered prestigious to present a gift to the leader, but now you can plaster the sign of your respect for the president on every fence in Moscow," he said.

Among his peers Yeltsin still makes out quite well. The Turkmen Bashi, or leader of Turkmenistan, gave him a horse, and the Queen of England, Dyatlov said, gave him diamond cuff links.

One basic reason for Yeltsin's lack of drawing power when it comes to hand-knitted socks and amateur portraits is that the Russian president carries little of the clout that the Soviet General Secretary did. "A whole enormous system stood behind the General Secretary," Dyatlov said.

If you are with the program, as they say, and you want to help fill Yeltsin's trophy case with signs of your respect, Dyatlov suggests three dates. "After all, gifts have to come on some festive occasion."

?Feb. 1, Yeltsin's birthday.

?"Yeltsin promised to stabilize our economy in two months, so March would also be a good time for gift-giving," Dyatlov said.

?June 16, if Yeltsin wins a second term as president (and if not, perhaps a "consolation prize").

What should you get for Boris Nikolayevich? Try something related to his three main hobbies: hunting (he has received some handsome firearms during his Party-boss past), tennis (but no more Ellesse gear, please), and memoir writing (a box of Bic pens, perhaps).

Only one day into the gift drive, Dyatlov reported no responses from Komsomolskaya Pravda readers, but said this was normal. A week or so is needed before the responses start rolling in.

Staffers at the paper, however, have already pledged their efforts in the campaign. "One woman promised to knit him a pair of socks with Boris written on the left and Nikolayevich on the right. Who knows, maybe he'll wear them some day," Dyatlov said.

No need to stint. Unlike other 20th-century Russian leaders, Yeltsin will probably never have his own museum, nor will he end up in the Kremlin wall, unless his friends manage to insert his coffin into an empty niche under cover of darkness.

Dyatlov asks that all gifts for Boris Nikolayevich be sent to the Museum of Gifts to President Yeltsin at the following address: 125866, GSP, Moskva, A-137, Ulitsa Pravdy 24, 6th Floor, Offices of Komsomolskaya Pravda. Tel. 257-5139.