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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Farewell Yeltsin




This is my last column before Vladimir Putin officially becomes Russia's next President, so it is only appropriate that I write about the end of the Boris Yeltsin epic, or at least the latest - and, perhaps, final - round of books devoted to his presidency. Is this really the final round on Yeltsin?


Several of my colleagues in the publishing world paid fat advances to well-known authors for manuscripts on Yeltsin to be completed by late spring - just in time to hit the book stands for June's presidential elections. Included among these pre-paid authors was Vitaly Tretyakov, editor of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, who publicly promised a political and psychological profile of our beloved Boris Nikolayevich that was sure to be a bestseller.


Early presidential elections killed these projects. But at least two authors were lucky or farsighted enough to beat the deadline.


Oleg Poptsov's "Trevozhniye Sny Tsarskoi Svity" ("Troubled Dreams of the Tsar's Retinue") is a well-written and highly informative account of Yeltsin's second term, and deserves to be read by every student of modern Russian life in and around the Kremlin. A successful writer and editor in the '80s, Poptsov later was among those who organized the Russia TV channel. Before he got his current job as head of TV Center, he spent some time as president of Pushkinskaya Ploschad, a publishing house for newspapers and magazines. A devoted liberal, Poptsov is a keen observer of post-Soviet bureaucracy. His present tome is equal in quality the hefty bestseller he produced several years ago, "Khronika Vremyon Tsarya Borisa", ("Chronicles of the Times of Tsar Boris.")


"The Yeltsin epoch is an epoch of unrealized democratic hopes and economic prosperity, an epoch of two wars and two coups," writes the author. "[Yeltsin's] presidency was teeming with revolt, drama, pain, despair and hope. He lost his power, and it was picked up by others who were not worthy of it. His diminishing strength was not enough to reclaim it. Had he been younger, he would have been able to get his power back. He was persuaded and forced to give up his power peacefully. And as his last protest - a final whim - he named his inheritor. His body became heavy and weak, but his obstinacy remained, as before, that of a tsar."


These words are from the final pages of Poptsov's manuscript, which went to press Feb. 29 - a month before Putin won the presidential elections. Looking to the future, Poptsov wrote, "The nation again talks deliriously about dictatorship, and the future president looks in turn as a savior and a thunderer."


Published by Sovershenno Sekretno, the 700-page tome costs 100 rubles and is available at most bookstores.