Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Yelstin's legacy.

The state funeral today of Boris Yeltsin. Inevitably, several myths are being propagated:

• He was the liberator of his people from Communism. Actually he was not some persecuted dissident under the Soviet regime, but an unquestioning career bureaucrat with an eye for the main chance when the regime started to fall apart under Gorbachev.

• He was the father of modern democratic Russia. Really he was an expert in political brinkmanship who used any means necessary to ensure popular support. When it suited his own purposes he was quite prepared in 1993 to (literally) turn the tanks on his own parliament.

• He was a strong charismatic leader in times of crisis. But his only consistent ideology was nationalism, he is on record as saying that democracry is alien to Russia. This is the same nationalism that took his country into a brutal war of repression in Chechnya.

• He saved the faltering economy. The Soviet system was falling apart under the crushing weight of bureaucracy, what has replaced it though is a bizarre quasi-medieval mess throughout Eastern Europe. Coca-Cola and McDonalds might now be in the shops but corruption is institutionalised and forms a new kind of bureaucracy, organised crime is ingrained into the economy and in some parts of the region warlords make up a de-facto alternative government.

• He was a lovable rogue with a human side . A euphimism. He was a chronic alcoholic given to buffonery unfit to have his finger on the button of one of the world's superpowers.

Why are these myths being propagated in the West?

Modern Russia by most standards would be considered a 'pariah state' - imagine if an Islamic country had assassinated one of their dissidents in London, had the same record on human rights as Russia does in Chechnya, or so brazenly displayed weapons of mass destruction.

The fact is the new order in the East gives the promise of a new lease of life for the older Western economies. Markets and resources denied to the West by the cold war are now open more or less for exploitation and development. There is a clear parallel with the scramble for empire at the end of the nineteenth century.

No comments: