Yeltsin Inauguration Marks New Soviet Era Ceremony Underscores Political Change Russian Has Wrought

By Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 1991 | Go to article overview

Yeltsin Inauguration Marks New Soviet Era Ceremony Underscores Political Change Russian Has Wrought


Daniel Sneider, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


'RUSSIA is reborn."

With those words, Boris Yeltsin concluded his inaugural address as the first freely elected president of Russia. The silver-haired Siberian politician took office in a ceremony full of blaring trumpets and political choreography but virtually without the symbols of Communist rule. It was a moment to recognize the change in Soviet politics wrought by this indefatigable political fighter.

"The president is not a god, not a new monarch, not a miracle worker," Mr. Yeltsin declared in his short speech. "He is an ordinary citizen, but with enormous responsibility for the destiny of Russia."

The former Siberian mining engineer and Communist Party boss referred frequently to the need to restore Russia's historical identity. "Russia is ready to get out of the crisis. Great Russia is rising from its knees and will become a prosperous, law-governed, democratic, peaceful, and sovereign state."

The hour-long morning televised event, held in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, was attended by leaders of most of the republics of the Soviet Union, including leaders of those republics, such as the Baltics, which seek independence. Their presence reflects the importance of the Russian Federation, the largest of the 15 republics with a population of 150 million.

But attention was naturally focused on the appearance of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who delivered an address greeting the election of the man who has been at different times his ally and his foe.

"Someone might say: 'So what, one more president in this country, joked Mr. Gorbachev as he opened his speech. "But," he quickly went on, "my belief is that this is a very important event, not only for Russia but ... for all our multinational motherland." Greeting from Gorbachev

Indeed, the sight of the two men clasping hands at the center of the stage fairly captures the current mood of Soviet politics. Gorbachev has yielded significant power to Yeltsin and the other republican leaders, formalized in a new draft treaty of union. But in return, Gorbachev is getting the support of these leaders, who enjoy far greater political legitimacy and popularity than the Soviet president.

On Monday, Gorbachev met with the leaders of the nine republics who have agreed to sign the union treaty and got their support for the program and stance the Soviet leader will take with him to London next week for a meeting with the leaders of the Western industrial nations. But Yeltsin added something more the next day, when he told reporters that he would back Gorbachev for election to the Soviet presidency as long as he continued on his present policy course. …

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