Monday, April 23, 2007

Death Watch: Boris Yeltsin

Boris Yeltsin died today at the age of 76. Yeltsin was the first elected president in Russian history. A populist, above all else, Yeltsin led a life filled with street fights, finger-severing grenade incidents and mysterious falls into river banks, all of which appealed to the common Russian, who also enjoys the "occasional" beverage

In August of 1991 Yeltsin gained international prominence by defying a hard line communist coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (Russia was still part of the Soviet Union back then.) While Gorbachev sulked, house arrested, in his vacation home in the Crimea, Yeltsin, probably sauced after his typical breakfast of potato vodka, commandeered a tank and a megaphone and denounced the "junta" to a crowd of sympathetic protesters.

Thus began the legend of President Boris Yeltsin. One that ended in 1999 with a 2 percent approval rating and a 50 percent decline in overall GDP. According to Guinness, Yeltsin holds the world record for being the most hospitalized political figure.

In Yeltsin's death we can take the same lesson as we could from his life: You can preside over the most precipitous fall of a "superpower" in human history, but as long as you are a white haired man with a ruddy complexion and a penchant for odd behavior and slurred speech you will be remembered, first and foremost, as a spectacular drunk.

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