April 23, 2007
Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin has died.
Boris Yeltsin was the first democratically elected leader in modern Russian history. He provided his country with a new constitution that guaranteed private property, a free press and human rights. But he could not provide an easy transition from communism to Democracy.
Necessary economic reforms made life even more difficult for many Russians than it had been under communism. As impatience and dissent grew, Yeltsin ordered a crushing assault against his political opponent's in Moscow's White House.
Later Yeltsin, a man who had been a rebel himself, ordered army guns fired against ordinary Russian citizens in the rebellious Chechen Republic.
Though Yeltsin could project a robust image, rumors of his heavy drinking and health problems persisted. His erratic public behavior, once viewed as endearing, became a source of national embarrassment, like Yeltsin pinching a secretary at a nationally televised news conference.
Yeltsin operated from a weaker position in world affairs than his Soviet predecessors. While the United States sent economic support to its former enemy and rooted for the success of the Russian democracy, the growing pains themselves had to be suffered by the Russian people.
Yeltsin's political authority and popularity shrank as the Russian economy withered.