Monday, June 11, 2007

Hero of his Time, but an Inconsistent Reformer

A smooth operator, but Yelstin lacked the vision to steady a teetering nation!
Boris Yeltsin was utterly unique. Russia’s first democratically elected leader, he was also the first Russian leader to give up power voluntarily, and constitutionally, to a successor. But he was also profoundly characteristic of Russian leaders. Using various mixtures of charisma, statecraft , and terror, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Lenin, and Stalin all sought to make Russia a great military power and an economic and cultural equal of the West

Yeltsin aimed for the same goal. But he stands out from them in this respect: he understood that empire was incompatible with democracy, and so was willing to abandon the Soviet Union in order to try to build a democratic order at home. At the height of Yeltsin’s career, many Russians identify ed with his bluntness, impulsiveness, sensitivity to personal slight, even with his weakness for alcohol. And yet in the final years of his rule, his reputation plunged. Only in the last few months of his second presidential term, after he launched the second war in Chechnya in September 1999, did he and his lieutenants regain some legitimacy in the eyes of the Russian public. Despite his caprices, Yeltsin kept Russia on a course of broad strategic co-operation with America and its allies. Although he opposed America’s use of force against Iraq and Serbia in the 1990s his government never formally abandoned the sanctions regime against either country.

Moreover, no nuclear weapons were unleashed, deliberately or accidentally, and no full-scale war of the kind that ravaged post-communist Yugoslavia broke out between Russia and any of its neighbors, although several of them were locked in internal or regional conflict in which Russia’s hand was visible. The tasks that faced Yeltsin when he attained power in 1991 were monumental. At several crucial moments, he established himself as a person who could rise to the challenges of transforming Russia from a dictatorship into a democracy, from a planned economy into a free market, and from an empire into a medium ranked power. In 1992, as the emerging Russian Federation teetered on the brink of economic and monetary collapse, he opted for radical reform, prompting a backlash from vested interest groups. In the years that followed, he would tilt toward liberal economics whenever he felt powerful enough to do so.

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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2007

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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