Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Revisited Yeltsin Praises Friends, Blames Enemies

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Revisited Yeltsin Praises Friends, Blames Enemies

Article excerpt

THE STRUGGLE FOR RUSSIA BY Boris Yeltsin Translated by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 316 pages, Random House, $25.

BORIS YELTSIN thought politicians had no business writing their memoirs before they began drawing their pensions. The coup attempt of October 1993 changed his mind.

This is his personal account of those fateful days of death and armed clashes in downtown Moscow, and of the long and bitter confrontation between president and parliament that inevitably led to them. It recounts his conversations and decisions for a two-year period, and is based on memory, appointments books, a habit of late-night scribbling and the collaboration and corroboration of aides.

The undisguised purpose is to discredit Yeltsin's foes. Ruslan Khasbulatov, head of the parliament, for example, is obnoxious, brutish, despotic, and "born to jerk the strings" of decent people. The institution he headed was no forum for public debate and legislating, but "an arena of ruthless political swapping." Valery Zorkin was chosen head of Russia's supreme constitutional court because he was a "professor and legal scholar: A quiet decent member of the intelligentsia." Once on the bench, he became guided by an "insane drive for power."

The book focuses on October, so his most infamous opponent of recent days, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, is mentioned only in passing, and does not appear in the biographical glossary. Brief notice, however, is not indifference: Russia's most visible nationalist is typified directly as tough, determined, aggressive, angry and "most important, dangerous" because of his "black obscurantism." More veiled sobriquets for his ilk include "neo-Nazis, bandits, and outright fascists (who idolize) Hitler and his ideas."

The Boris Yeltsin visible here is, in sharp contrast, an honest and devoted family-man who begged and pleaded with delegates to keep Russian reforms alive. …

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