Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Country's First President Deserves More

To Our Readers

The Moscow Times welcomes letters to the editor. Letters for publication should be signed and bear the signatory's address and telephone number.
Letters to the editor should be sent by fax to (7-495) 232-6529, by e-mail to oped@imedia.ru, or by post. The Moscow Times reserves the right to edit letters.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

Although Boris Yeltsin is a historic figure who ushered in democracy and a free market, he is being laid to rest rather quickly and quietly. Yeltsin, who died of heart failure Monday, will be buried Wednesday in the Novodevichye Cemetery. The funeral is closed to the general public.

Granted, the decision to bury Yeltsin on the third day after his death is in line with Russian Orthodox practice. But that does not explain why the first Russian leader to die in more than two decades seems to be getting little of the honor afforded other world leaders after their deaths.

On Tuesday, Yeltsin's body lay in state in the Christ the Savior Cathedral all night, from 4:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. The public was given little notice that they could pay their last respects. The ceremony was not announced until hours before the cathedral opened its doors, so no newspapers could carry the news in their Tuesday editions. State television only mentioned the event Tuesday afternoon. Still, thousands of people gathered at the cathedral.

When news of Yeltsin's death broke on Monday afternoon, Rossia state television stuck to its scheduled programming, showing the "Kamenskaya" crime show, Gazeta.ru reported. BBC and CNN, in comparison, interrupted their afternoon broadcasts to offer nonstop coverage of Yeltsin and his legacy.

The Kremlin has declared one day of national mourning, Wednesday. Many senior government officials will not even leave work to attend the funeral. It took until late Tuesday for the Kremlin-controlled State Duma to realize that it should at least adjorn its scheduled session for a few hours to allow deputies to attend the funeral.

President Vladimir Putin did delay his state of the nation address -- by one day -- and the speech is now scheduled for Thursday.

Yeltsin deserves better. For all his faults -- and there were many -- he did manage to institutionalize the democratic rights and freedoms the country enjoys today, even if some have been curtailed since he left office. Yeltsin averted what could have been massive bloodshed in the waning days of the Soviet Union and the early years of the new Russia. He also oversaw free market reforms that brought the economy past the point of no return. While the changes were painful, and many ordinary people resent Yeltsin as a result, the country is unquestionably enjoying the fruits of those reforms now.

Another Yeltsin-era reform -- greater openness in government -- was very visible Monday. In 1982, it took the Kremlin more than 24 hours to announce that Leonid Brezhnev had died. Yeltsin's death was announced within minutes.