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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK

Is Boris Yeltsin the trouble with Russia?

"I think Yeltsin is now very active...he's started a policy to change everything, to replace everybody, to show how energetic and active he is. It's his type of game... it's very important for him to show how alive he is now."
Konstantin Borovoi

"I think there's much of the time in between these sweeping changes when he's not influencing policy very much at all, it's being determined by those around him. On the whole I think they're rather desperate moves by Yeltsin to preserve his inheritance."
Archie Brown

"Click here to listen to both sides of the debate"
Listen to our debate hosted by Dan Damon.

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

The Background:

Boris Yeltsin, the man who famously stood on a tank outside the White House in Moscow as Russia's democratic fate hung in the balance eight years ago.

Talking Point - Europewide
Or is that Boris Yeltsin, the man who can't decide who he wants as Prime Minister, who sacks and reshuffles and changes policy on a whim?

Is the Russian President the country's scourge or its saviour? Is Boris Yeltsin the trouble with Russia?

Joining Dan Damon for this week's Europewide Debate are the Kremlinologist Professor Archie Brown, and from Moscow the independent Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoi.

Background ¦ Your reaction ¦ Listen to the debate

Your Reaction:

Russia's problems stem from decades of communism, where the fundamental financial foundations of the country were neglected to the point of collapse. It will take many more years to rebuild and catch up with the western world, and unfortunately, the person chosen to lead such a recovery will always have a tough job showing any results at all.
Mark Parish, USA

Sad to see Russia in this stage. India has always looked upon Russia as a close friend. I am sure Russians have the will to get back to the top position once they enjoyed. And the first step towards that should be the removal of Yeltsin!
Abu Sebastian, India

People seem to be forgetting that these power struggles went on during the communist times. The problem with Russia is the lack of any strong political party groupings. Yeltsin missed an opportunity by not tying himself to a political party such as Nash Dom Rossiya etc.
Joseph Kenneally, UK

No - the problem with Russia is the way in which the government works (or doesn't)
Sarah, England

Maybe he's not crazy at all, but he's really ill. We have less than a year to wait for his removal, but two or maybe three governments will be sacked, surely. He says something like "This will be new era for Russian government" every time he appoints a new Prime Minister. I'm afraid to think about both coming elections...
Valery Nozhin, Russia

Mr Yeltsin has proved himself once again to be a power hungry pseudo tsar. His tactics of 'beating down' his prime ministers if they become more popular than he can only be seen as a result of his fear
Paul, Ireland

Russia is going down since Yeltsin became the President. He doesn't have the ability to rule one of the World's greatest power. I think Russia needs another Lenin to bring everything back together.
Chanda, USA

The opinions in this discussion reflect how Russia is being either ridiculed or feared but not at all understood. The time when Yeltsin could enjoy vodka has long gone. His moves are not erratic. They are partly determined by an internal struggle inside his "family" circle. He is neither free for all nor fully controlled by his corrupt administration. Being ill, he is afraid of every Prime Minister gaining popularity. He strives to preserve the chosen political direction in these circumstances. He sacrifices economy development and stable governments for that. Still, he keeps the country going forward, not backward. His determination to guarantee presidential election next year is the material hope for the democracy in Russia (and for the end of his own "dictatorship"). Most of us, the Russians trust it.
Alexander Bolshakov, Russia

Russia's problem is its long history. Yeltsin is but a temporary player upon a vast stage.
Max, USA

Yeltsin's behaviour is inconsistent with the idea we westerners call 'democratic rule'.
Karl Blakely, USA

Yeltsin should have stepped down years ago. He is an incompetent dictator.
Kevin Valenti, USA

It appears that Boris Yeltsin is in political trouble in Russia. Things are not going well for many people there. And, there is a wave of nationalism that is showing itself for a return to the past. You see it in the 'anti-Semitism' and in the rise of the fascist right wing. Nationalism at its worst. You see it in the fact that Yeltsin fires one after another of his Prime Ministers. It is about the time that a new leader took over. Added to that the troubles in the Caucasus and Russia is having some genuine troubles. I think that the best thing for all of us to do is to let them resolve their domestic difficulties and help as much as possible the Russian people.
Dave Adams, USA

Yeltsin is not the problem with Russia. Historically (even as far back as the 7th Century) Russia has never had an administration that served the people, it only served itself. Not until this is addressed will there be any form of stable administration. Even then it will take a few generations of such an administration for the people to believe in it.
Adam, Europe

Russia needs a decisive leader with control over the country. Yeltsin is only concerned with securing his own position by playing all the other politician off against each other. Russia's foreign policy is all over the place as a result. I Yeltsin out and someone like Primakov in.
Matt, Ireland

Yeltsin knows only one thing. How to fire people! He fires everybody and then when no one is left, he should fire himself! He will loose election and he days are just numbered! Yeltsin stands as a good example of a failed politician in his career.
Srinivasu Vallabhapurapu, Japan

My media generated impression of Boris is of someone who wakes up on a Monday morning, says "Damn! It's Monday I'm going to sack everyone." (And then the vodka wears off...) Obviously, this is a media fuelled misinterpretation of a man who has led his country through this very difficult time.
Daren, UK

Russia is the most potentially dangerous country in the world, and is lead by an alcoholic, paranoid man who is presently not totally 'all there' The problem is that in the past he was Russia's saviour and as a result has an aura surrounding him, coupled with the rigidity of the Russian system it seems he is untouchable until he goes. Russia will never be settled and always needs strong leaders. Its a sad affair but certain countries cannot survive with a democracy because the people are not democratic.
Jonathan Harford, Belgium

No, I'm sure Russia's problems are far more complex than that, but having a mad and drunk leader isn't helping!
Wendy, UK

Russia has been on decline since Boris Yeltsin was in power. There's not enough food, fuel, not enough anything, the population is decreasing, the country can't even afford to give maintenance to it's atomic plants, it's pathetic. I think this is more moved by personal pride than by a real idea of how to transform Russia for better. Changing things just for the sake of doing it won't work, because maybe there were good things during the communist rule, maybe the country was not ready for his reforms that the western world applauded but are just causing even more suffering now. Civil liberties are good, sure, but people also need to work to put food on the table, to have medical care and education. Russia needs somebody that can bring peace, tolerance and stability, not somebody that wants to make history by ruining what once was a great country.
Alejandra Moreno, Mexico

Boris Yeltsin should have stepped down years ago. Russia is devolving into states and there are no policies to govern this, their economy, etc, etc, etc. I've always thought that Mikhail Gorbachev would have made a better leader for Russia, before he was ousted by Yeltsin. So what for Russia now? Throwing money from the IMF will be helpful_ provided it used to feed people and build an infrastructure. But if money disappears to ministers, KGB or the Mafia then Russia is going to continue to disintegrate.
Colin, England

Yeltsin is a truly irresponsible and foolish leader. How can such a man lead one of the greatest powers in the World successfully? I sometimes think Russia would be better with Gorbachev, before the 1991 coup!
Simon Black, UK

I think that Mr. Yeltsin is desperately trying to salvage his country by way of selecting the sort of leadership that can do just that--what I admire about him is his courage to keep changing "heads" when he sees that the individuals he has selected are not capable of providing the leadership his country needs--even at the expense of looking foolish and unstable to the rest of the world!
Lorraine J. Thiesen, U.S.A.

Boris Yeltsin as leader of Russia has become Stalinist in style with his Government, although he doesn't kill his problems, he destroys their political careers and simply puts in a replacement and says fix it! And of course the problems cannot be fixed in a matter of months. So, the process is just a continuing cycle. As for who controls Russia, that's a split between the Mafia, and probably the Generals. As Yeltsin to appease them gave them powers to even declare war in regional areas. The army itself is ripe for revolution, it is about as well supplied and fed as it was in 1917.
Dustin, USA

Good old Boris has done his duty. When he was standing on a tank to save Russia from falling back into the communist era he was a hero. But now he is a liability to his own country. What Russia would need most at the present moment is stability, stability and more stability. On the other hand it seems that the good old Russian tradition of keeping the boss alive and kicking, even when he isn't, is hard to eradicate.
Jonathan McAndrew, Zimbabwe

Yes, he is part of Russia's problems. His rule of that country has been reduced to publicity stunts (tell me that sacking the gov't isn't a publicity stunt) and ill health. Under his rule, the USSR was dissolved so quickly that the Soviet legacy of outdated nuclear reactors and radioactive waste (e.g. in the Aral Sea, in Siberia) has been left up to these very poor newly minted countries to clean up themselves. Capitalism and living large were what the Russian people wanted though, and Yeltsin helped them reap such, in spades. Look at the poverty level of older folk who worked for the state in factories for years. Yes, in the Soviet years there were lines for toilet paper and bread, but at least people could obtain these items. Yeltsin has unwittingly reinstated the conditions of pre-Bolshevik Russia; there is class struggle and those in government live as well as they ever did while the population gets jerked around like it always was. Any Russian president could have ruled in this way, doing what the ignorant populace wanted in order to stay in power, but Yeltsin has been the catalyst, and now Yeltsin is the one left holding the bag and therefore the responsible party.
Sara, USA

Is Boris Yeltsin the trouble with Russia?

Final Votes:


Yes: 82% No: 18%

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