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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Will Burial Be Only Sign of Repentance?




President Boris Yeltsin's last minute decision to go to St. Petersburg for theburial of the remains of the imperial family was very characteristic of the president, who is known for his contradictoriness and unpredictability.


His entire biography, way of life and cast of mind are those of a dyed-in-the-wool regional Communist Party secretary. But he differs from all other such secretaries, which is precisely why Yeltsin became what he is, in that every so often something humane unexpectedly breaks through from him.


The president's original decision not to attend the funeral -- made immediately after the Moscow Patriarchate's conclusions on the bones -- was politically shameful and cowardly. It kept exactly with the standard model of behavior of a Soviet regional party leader. These old communist atheists have come in their declining years to think to themselves: "The devil only knows, maybe there really is a God," and have begun, just in case, to stand with candles before television cameras in cathedrals and fawn on the church hierarchs. Therefore, no matter what uneducated nonsense the hierarchs spout, our secular authorities, from Yeltsin to Gennady Zyuganov, heed them with invariable deference.


The comrades in the Patriarchate doubt, you see, the results of the expert genetic examination. Indeed, more than half of them probably still doubt Copernicus' theory. These chubby ignorant old men, who were assigned to their cozy positions by the KGB back when it was still in place, would do better to spend less time speculating on vodka and tobacco and devote more to self-education.


Yeltsin's final decision to go put practically the entire Russian political establishment in a silly position. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov fiercely fought for the right to bury the tsar's remains in Moscow. He had not the slightest doubt about the authenticity of the remains, about which he personally wrote in a letter to the president. When he lost out to his St. Petersburg colleague, he suddenly remembered that he is Orthodox and that he had his doubts. The fledgling, smooth Komsomol functionary Sergei Kiriyenko darted off somewhere in order not to be in St. Petersburg on that day, and his mature predecessor simply stupidly snarled into the television camera that there was nothing for him to do there.


One must even wonder whether Yeltsin thought up this combination of refusing, and then agreeing, to go in order to again demonstrate that his comrades-in-arm's successors and rivals are nobodies.


The president's speech was short and dignified. He pronounced the word "repentance" over the graves of the bestially murdered members of the imperial family and their retinue because "We all bear responsibility for that evil act."


These were necessary words, although they came with an 80-year delay. I hope that the words repentance "from us all," and from the president above all, will be pronounced far sooner than 80 years hence for the death of tens of thousands of people in Chechnya.


P.S. Having read Yulia Latynina's Tuesday column, I can't help but say that at the burial last Friday, the issue was not how many lovers Catherine the Great had or how competent Tsar Nicholas II was. The issue was whether armed men may murder helpless women, girls and an invalid boy and throw their bodies into a ditch and whether the nation's leaders may encourage and praise such behavior for 80 years.