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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 April 2007, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Russian media assess Yeltsin era
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin confronted the might of the Soviet Union
Commentators in the Russian media are assessing the controversial career and political legacy of former President Boris Yeltsin, who died on Monday.

All agree that Yeltsin was a larger-than-life figure who strode the political stage at a crucial period in the country's recent history.

They also highlight the strongly contrasting feelings Russians have about the man who presided over the demise of the Soviet Union and Russia's turbulent transition to democracy and capitalism.

CORRESPONDENT ON ROSSIYA TV

Whatever people may say or think about him, Boris Yeltsin will forever remain one of the most prominent and colourful Russian politicians of the 20th Century... The person who has just left us played an outstanding role, a colossal role that is not as yet fully understood by us, in the history of Russia. At one of the sharpest turns in Russian history, he managed to avoid bloodshed, although many predicted that blood would be shed without fail.

PRESENTER ON NTV

At the dawn of his political career, some would call him a bulldozer amiably, while others would call him the same with distaste
Channel One TV correspondent
For Russians he became a symbol of the struggle against the Soviet system for democracy and freedom. Boris Yeltsin was, perhaps, a figure who provoked the most conflicting feelings among Russians... For some he was the hope and symbol of a new, democratic Russia, a person who wasn't frightened of speaking out against what appeared to be an indestructible system. For others, it was under Yeltsin that the Soviet Union collapsed, their customary lifestyle changed forever and society was broken up and divided into rich and poor.

COMMENTARY IN GAZETA NEWSPAPER

In Russia heads of state are almost always contradictory figures, but against the background of his predecessors Boris Yeltsin was an extraordinary figure. In his beliefs he was a communist but a liberal; in style of rule - an authoritarian leader but a democrat; in the way he was perceived by the people - much-liked but also a hate figure.

COMMENTARY IN NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA NEWSPAPER

No recognition in one's lifetime is the lot of political reformers. The man who gave people a new life and new opportunities for self-realisation also - and it was important for him - removed fear from people's hearts. Citizens interpreted their own difficulties in adapting to a new way of life as the blunders of the country's leader. And as people no longer had fear, the head of state was ostracised by just about everyone. Yeltsin 'undemocratically' took unpopular decisions. Still it was Yeltsin who saved democracy, which is now ready to fall victim to a Soviet restoration.

CORRESPONDENT ON CHANNEL ONE TV

A huge and decisive person with the grip of a peasant. Later he would be called the first muzhik [ordinary bloke] in power. But at the dawn of his political career, some would call him a bulldozer amiably, while others would call him the same with distaste... History again and again made people understand that someone like Yeltsin, with his bulldozer character, was precisely what Russia needed.

CORRESPONDENT ON REN TV

No-one knows in which country we would now be living if at the time Boris Yeltsin didn't front the public resistance and, climbing onto a tank, read the text of his decree on the illegality of the putsch. However, the nationwide support and love for Yeltsin did not last long. In December of that year [1991], along with the leaders of the Ukrainian and Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republics, Yeltsin disbanded the Soviet Union. It's one of the decisions for which millions of people, especially from the older generation, still can't forgive him.

DMITRY KAMYSHEV IN KOMMERSANT NEWSPAPER

Boris Yeltsin said that he was leaving Russia to 'a new generation of politicians', under whom the country 'will never go back to the past'. But over seven years of his presidency Vladimir Putin has proved that a return to the past is possible... Many members of the opposition believe that the 'appointment' of Vladimir Putin as successor was the biggest mistake of the first president of Russia. But Boris Yeltsin himself never admitted that. At least publicly.

ANTON OREKH ON EKHO MOSKVY RADIO

A historical personality, the leader of an era in history. It's been a long time since the death of one specific individual had a link to so many, virtually everyone, in our country ... But Yeltsin did something that no-one had ever done before him, and he did the main thing - he buried communism as the ruling idea in Russia... It's just a shame that no people could be found around him, younger and healthier people who could have continued all the good things that existed under him.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.




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