Monday, April 23, 2007

Yeltsin Dies; felled By The Booze?

Much of Yeltsin's tumultuous life was lived within the intoxicatingly hazy nimbus of distilled spirits. Let's face it, a Yeltsin Vodka fart could clear the Politburo. He was luscious. But Fortuna smiled upon his winsome gin-blossoms. Whether bestriding Russian tanks, fortified with a liter of "Dutch Courage," or staring down the hard-hitting journo Leslie Stahl on "60 Minutes" after a particularly tough round of questioning, he was our Yeltsie. From Time Magazine (May 4, 1991):

"There is an air of semipermanent melodrama to Yeltsin's life and career that his own actions sometimes do little to quell. During a 10-day visit to the U.S. in 1989, Yeltsin marred an otherwise impressive performance with a gauche display of his erratic nature: his speech was badly slurred at a breakfast meeting in Baltimore, the combined result of Jack Daniel's and jet lag. That episode prompted Soviet analysts at the White House to dismiss Yeltsin as a lightweight and to underrate his political skills.

"U.S. officials today say Yeltsin has matured, though they wonder whether he has a serious strategy for building a political opposition to Gorbachev."

Whether he did or not, his timing -- and Luck -- allowed him to ascend to the heights of Russia, starting the next revolutionary phase of the disintegration of the Soviet Empire (Begun, in Perestoika and Glasnost, by Gorbachev). RIP, Yeltsin (And please don't cremate the boozy former Russian President; the resulting explosion could dwarf Chernobyl).

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