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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

METRO DEARY: Get Better Boris, Then Quit




The media's most fashionable little catch phrase these past few years has been "old songs about the main things in life." (It was taken from "I Believe," the hit song by the group Bravo that was written by Garik Sukachov and sung by the band's former singer Zhanna Aguzarova.) In Russian, if you capitalize the word "main," this refers to the ruler of the country. And so you'd get a "Song about Yeltsin." One song I remember from last autumn was titled "Get Better Boris Nikolayevich!" by the group Megapolis. Many people sing another song to themselves to various melodies or no melody at all, but this song won't be heard at the finale of the televised year-end pop horror show, Songs '97. The song is called "Resign Boris Nikolayevich." Everything that follows is directly addressed to President Boris Yeltsin, and I hope that he will read it. Perhaps he will be helped by his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, and chief of staff Valentin Yumashev, both of whom I once knew somewhat and seemed to get along fairly with me, as I with them.


Dear Boris Nikolayevich! Please get better -- and then hand in your resignation. This is not because we are down on you but because things would be better that way. You don't believe me? Of course, people from your inner circle will try to convince you that you are irreplaceable and in control of the situation. But in fact, it is they who are doing the controlling through you, and this is for them irreplaceable. Without you, their careers would be damaged, perhaps along with certain body parts.


You are also a convenient person for foreign "friends." Although you are not predictable in all matters, on the whole you can be persuaded. And the main thing is that you're well known. Because you are good for Helmut and Jacques, and your domestic friends Tolya and Borya, Vitya and Yura, this in no way means, however, that you are good for the country.


Unfortunately, you are incapable of governing the Russian Federation. The Constitution gives you far more power than you, in your own words, are capable of eating. You are grasping at more threads of power than you can hold on to. Therefore, some of these threads are being pulled by others who as a rule do not coordinate their activities and pursue their personal rather than social or state interests. And a part of the threads are simply loosely strung out.


There is a huge deficit of constructive authority in the country. And this is because of you, because you were not able to cope with your direct constitutional obligations. Isn't this so? Do you think that under a strong and active president his close subordinates could publicly fight and smear each other with manure as they have been doing? Would provincial administrators like Yevgeny Nazdratenko or Eduard Rossel be permitted to exercise such petty tyranny? Would officials be so insolent as to circulate state money through their banks and hold off paying wages for months and years at a time? Doesn't this situation remind you of the early '80s in which there were fights for power at the top, and runaway corruption, apathy and alienation among the citizens of the country. At the center of this picture was the butt of popular anecdotes, Leonid Brezhnev: This is you, Boris Nikolayevich.


I understand, of course that it's painful and inconvenient to give up such a high position. Russian tradition in this respect is not favorable. The successors of those who have left the heights of power while still alive did not take much pity on them: The tsar was shot; Khrushchev was isolated; and Gorbachev was humiliated. But there are still ways of protecting yourself. Not every loves Pinochet in Chile, to put it mildly, but he resigned voluntarily and made sure he would enjoy a lifelong position as a senator, and therefore immunity. It would probably be worth it for you to think about something similar -- and your friends Bill and Jacques could be your guarantors. (By the way, if it weren't for Gorbachev's world fame, no one in the former Soviet leader's native land would remember him.) Have I convinced you Boris Nikolayevich?


There's is yet another way to end the shame of the president's current sluggishness: Change the Constitution of the country immediately, give the main presidential powers to other institutions and let the president himself carry out representative functions -- if you, Boris Nikolayevich, want this. You are a handsome and big man and the people generally have decent relations with you.


If you get well, you could spend lots of time with your family and grandchildren. They are the ones who really need you. And the country needs something, or someone else. Don't be offended, please. Don't get sick!