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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: For Yeltsin, The Struggle Is Everything




I have fully recovered, I am in marvelous form and ready for battle," President Boris Yeltsin proudly announced during a meeting with Russia's regional governors. The word "battle" refers not only to the single possible form of Yeltsin's political life but also to the perpetual state of his soul. The entire history of Russia in the last decade is the history of his struggle.


Only with each passing year, it becomes harder and harder to understand whom Yeltsin is battling against and for what - which ideals, views, principles - he is fighting. When, in August 1991, a tall, powerful, grey-haired man fearlessly challenged the GKChP, or the State Committee on the State of Emergency, from atop a tank, 100,000 people who had come to defend the White House and millions of people throughout Russia were convinced that he was fighting against a totalitarian communist dictatorship that was blocking Russia's way to democracy and freedom.


When, just two years later, in October 1993, a very flabby and heavy-drinking person spent a whole night in the Kremlin persuading his defense minister to send four tanks to the White House to drive out his former comrades-in-arms, Vice President Alexander Rutskoi and leader of the Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov, it was already much more difficult to understand with whom and for what Yeltsin was fighting. The roughly 10,000 people who gathered that night in front of the Muscovite believed that Yeltsin was fighting against a Communist revenge. And the roughly 10,000 who had gathered around the White House believed that Yeltsin was fighting against the Constitution and the legally elected parliament. Both groups were prepared to die in the fight for or against Boris Yeltsin.


Another six years have passed. Yeltsin is again raising the battle cry. But now not even one person will take to the streets to fight - not to mention die - either for or against Boris Yeltsin. During these years, even the most naive people have come to understand that in 1991 and 1993, as now, he fought and is fighting for one and the same goal - power.


He hates, of course, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, but not as people who hold alien views on how to organize society's economic life or on man's spiritual nature. He hates them the same way that, when he was the first secretary of the regional Communist Party committee, he hated with every fiber of his being the second and third secretaries, who were plotting against him and trying to take his place.


"The communist Primakov-Maslyukov government will be immediately removed if the [State] Duma votes for impeachment," the president's close aides threaten openly. All the same, let us try to parse this. If the communist government is good for the country, then why will it be removed? And if the communist government is bad, then how come it has not been removed already?


This paradox is easily solved if it is remembered that the government is in no way communist, but simply lobbyist. Then the "message" of the president is completely logical - If you don't pull us away from the state feeding trough, then we will allow you to continue feeding there. This, apparently, is the Russian idea of the division of powers.