A bird named Yeltsin in a Gilded Cage

The Moscow Times reports:

President Boris Yeltsin spent his retirement in a “golden cage,” his phone tapped and the Kremlin controlling visitors, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said in excerpts from a forthcoming book.

Vladimir Putin, who replaced Yeltsin as president in 2000, forced Yeltsin to celebrate his 75th birthday in the Kremlin and controlled the guest list, Kasyanov wrote in his memoir, excerpts of which were published in the opposition weekly The New Times this week.

“Yeltsin was very upset that they forced him to celebrate his birthday in the Kremlin and not as he wanted, freely, informally,” Kasyanov wrote in the book.

“I think he then finally understood that he was living as a prisoner in a golden cage. To accept this fact was of course a tragedy for him,” he said.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had not read the excerpts and was unable to comment.

Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly on Dec. 31, 1999, making Putin acting president.

Kasyanov said he befriended Yeltsin in 2000, visiting him at his dacha and going on hunting trips. Yeltsin took an active interest in government affairs until Putin told Kasyanov to put an end to ministers’ visits because of the retired president’s “weak heart,” according to the excerpts.

“It was polite, but in essence a command: no one should visit Yeltsin any more,” Kasyanov said.

Yeltsin spent his retirement in a luxurious government-owned mansion and was often seen at major sports events. But he remained out of public politics even after Putin began to reverse his democratic reforms.

Kasyanov served as prime minister during Putin’s first term as president until he was fired in February 2004, shortly before the election in which Putin won a second term in office. Kasyanov soon entered the opposition and heads the Russian Popular Democratic Union. He was barred from running in the 2008 presidential election.

Yeltsin backed Kasyanov’s decision to go into the opposition, according to the book. While he opposed some of Putin’s decisions, such as abolishing direct gubernatorial elections, he kept quiet to protect his family, Kasyanov said.

Kasyanov’s visits ended after Putin decided to celebrate Yeltsin’s 75th birthday in the Kremlin, according to the book. Kasyanov said that when he called to offer his congratulations, Yeltsin complained that his phone was bugged.

“It’s hard to see how all this is happening around me,” Kasyanov cites Yeltsin as saying.

Yeltsin ended his life in luxury when he died in 2007 at the age of 76, but much of his political legacy had been erased.

Kasyanov said he and Yeltsin met for the final time in 2006, when Yeltsin had to intervene so that he would be allowed to visit him in the hospital with a broken hip. Kasyanov said Yeltsin advised him to buy a lot of cheap mobile phones that he could easily dispose of to avoid being bugged.

“You have to recognize that the first Russian president himself consented to this lack of freedom,” Kasyanov said. “He paid for it with a great feeling of unease.”

16 responses to “A bird named Yeltsin in a Gilded Cage

  1. Yeltsin will not be remembered well because of Putin and the the Left. Yeltsin was an effectual leader that lead his people out of the Communist malaise and towards Capitalist prosperity. There were issues in the 90’s, but they were not as bad as the Leftist media and putin make it out to be. Russia in the 1990’s is not as bad as what is going on in Venezuela and in Iran right now. Putin’s Russia will also be much worse than anything that the Yeltsin ushered in. Of course mistakes were made, the most egregious was the war in Chechenya. I think Yeltsin wanted to see Russia flourish into a Democratic Republic and a friend to Europe and America. He wanted prosperity for his people. Yeltsin’s tragedy was that he was a genius in opposing the Russian elites, but he was not a nation builder. He failed to make the road map to take the country from point A to point B. Then in the end, he gave into his ego when he named Putin as his successor. He could not have made a worse choice. Even a special election with Zyuganov as president would have been better. But that is 20/20 hindsight.

    • In the U.S. Yeltsin was perceived as a country bumpkin and a drunkard and nobody really took him seriously. I think these perceptions are not without certain foundation and Yeltsin was clearly ill equipped to lead such a large and complex country.

      Being a populist fire-breathing dragon is not enough, one also has to be able to read, write, and remain sober at least on official occasions. When you have a semi-literate president, nothing good should be expected, we learned that with our own unforgettable W.

      I think Yeltsin also let corruption take root and grow to an unprecedented degree; perhaps, he personally profited from that, hard to say if this is true.

    • I agree. I think that while Yeltsin helped to free many nations… like Polls, Estonians, Latvians… and many more. STILL too many are oppressed by KGB thugs and first and foremost stupid and helpless RUSSIANS THEMSELVES! As for the regime… he made MUCH worse! Putin is MUCH WORSE sickness than communism! It is fascism!

      • Actually Yeltsin did it for himself. Say, why did he suddenly disband the Soviet Union? To free the “Soviet nations” – even those who did not really want to go? No, to get rid of Gorbachev/Soviet KGB (as opposed to the Russian Republic KGB) and grab all the power in Moscow (some time later he also had to shoot up the parliament).

  2. Yeltsin resigned unexpectedly on Dec. 31, 1999, making Putin acting president.

    And therein is where the Yeltsin legacy fell apart. That said, he tried to bring the horrible fossilized communist swamp into the modern western world. Another decade of a free press most likely would have made a difference.

    Brain dead risk averse pensioner babushkas missed that point, they are happy with Pootie. Uncurious sheeple Ivan Ivanovich just wants the state to provide his basics plus cheap vodka. And, the chattering elite literati class can be bought by any one.

    Yelstin for all of his faults was too good for Russia where kicking pacified dependant zoo animals post-Communism out of their cages we now know wouldn’t work.

    Yeltsin dismantled the bogus Russian empire, he’ll always be vilified.

    Without the oil and gas revenues and their proximity to the EU and China Russia would be Zimbabwe with bad weather.

    You can’t cure stupidity. Pootie understands that too.

  3. Yeltsin a genius? Yeltsin & co destroyed what remained of Russian economy in worst possible manner possible, stole tons (for himself and via his “family”, look up Tatiana Dyachenko for example), and of course started Chechen wars; 90ies were time of rampant corruption (laid foundation to present one), unemployment, hyperinflation, crime, destruction of whatever welfare system remained, rotting of the army. Also since about 1996-7 he was more of an acting zombie than acting president… Oh and of course he created Russia a presidential republic where parliament doesn’t really mean much (over parliament resisting his gross mismanagement of reforms, and himself breaching the constitution in process) and then gave it over to Putin.
    I don’t know what good Yeltsin ever did since the dissolution of the USSR.
    Someone should have shot him off that tank, as a “martyr for freedom” he would be much more useful.

    • Actually Sergey, corruption was already rampant in Soviet Russia (its a cultural thing with you guys it seems, along with being opressive imperialists).

      However, corruption has become much more endemic under Putin, as Russia continues to fall in the world ratings for transparency and good governance and business environment.

      When it comes to corruption, Putin is far far worse than Yeltsin.

    • @Also since about 1996-7 he was more of an acting zombie than acting president…

      Yeah, I wanted to write something about him being a zombie-like (like some of the Soviet leaders), too.

      @I don’t know what good Yeltsin ever did since the dissolution of the USSR.

      It was good? There were no referendums in the republics, they were just all given independence all of sudden (even his Russia “got independent”) – while the Chechens wanted to secede (they actually already did this, like the Baltic Republics), yet they were not allowed (btw their enthusiasm was nearly gone by 1994, it was only the Russian invasion on the 50th anniversary of the Soviet deportations that fired them up again into a nationalist frenzy).

      @Someone should have shot him off that tank, as a “martyr for freedom” he would be much more useful.

      I also think Basayev should have died on this minefield in 2000. People for sure would remember him differently now.

  4. Sergey, if only one Yeltsin legacy, the free and uncensored press/media that he encouraged, hadn’t been immediately dismantled by Putin Russia would have sorted out a lot of their problems over the past decade.

    There is simply no possible way that Russia can ever become a democratic society with Putin’s censorship of the airwaves and most of the print media.

    America has had periods of political corruption in its history and in every case a free press alerting the public is what facilitated change.

    Censorship robs people of information, the ability to publically debate solutions and vote as informed citizens.

    Yeltsin for all of his faults never attempted to take that basic right away from Russians.

    You seem to ignore that Yeltsin did not create the economic mess that Russia was in in the early 90’s.

    • @Sergey, if only one Yeltsin legacy, the free and uncensored press/media that he encouraged,

      Rather that he couldn’t control.

      More than 20 journalists were killed in Chechnya 1994-96 only (and many more in Russia). Some of them were kidnapped, TORTURED and executed. His defense minister had a guy who had investigated his corruption blown-up on a railway station by his paratroopers. Gusinsky’s Media-Most’s (NTV) office was raided by Korzhakov’s heavily armed Presidential Security Service goons (“the faces in the snow” incident) and he fled the country. And so on.

    • Sergey Shelukhin

      Yeltsin not only did create the mess with absolutely insane handling of reforms, he broke constitution and shelled white house (Russian one) with tanks to make sure he can continue to do that after the parliament got pissed off at him.

      Of course he was not the one inventing the reforms, not the only one mis-directing them and not the only one stealing, but he was the main guarantee of them being shoved thru.

  5. US had a secret plant to invade Russia after bombing and dismemberment of Serbia. Yeltsin had no choice but to appoint Putin.

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