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Cablegate: Putin Pays Homage to Yeltsin

VZCZCXRO9598
PP RUEHBW RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1180 1191109
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281109Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7817
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS MOSCOW 001180

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR SOCI RS
SUBJECT: PUTIN PAYS HOMAGE TO YELTSIN

1. (U) Summary: In what may be the continuation of a
reconsideration of first Russian President Boris Yeltsin's
legacy that began with Yeltsin's death last year, President
Putin and president-elect Medvedev joined family members,
several government ministers, Patriarch Aleksiy II and
hundreds of other guests April 23 at a commemoration of the
first anniversary of Yeltsin's death at Moscow's historic
Novodevichiy Monastery. Speaking at a grave newly-adorned
with a monument depicting the Russian tri-color, Putin
softened his standard critique of the '90s and emotionally
praised Yeltsin for his leadership, in addition to using the
occasion to underline the continued importance of a strong
presidency for Russia. The GOR announced that Yeltsin's alma
mater, Urals State Technical University in Yekaterinburg,
will soon bear his name. End summary.

2. (U) On April 23, Russia's elite gathered at the
Novodevichiy Monastery cemetery to pay homage to the first
President of the independent Russian Federation, Boris
Yeltsin, on the first anniversary of his death. Putin,
president-elect Medvedev, Yeltsin's family, Patriarch
Aleksiy, and a number of government ministers were the most
prominent of the several hundred guests present at a ceremony
that featured prominently on the national news that evening.

3. (SBU) The ceremony was solemn and brief. Yeltsin remains
unpopular with many Russians, who associate his time in power
with the wrenching economic transition of the 1990s, and
Putin in his standard stump speech has relentlessly
criticized the period as a time of chaos. This time around,
however, the President chose to praise Yeltsin as someone who
"swam against the stream and led the public toward new goals"
during that same turbulent period, and as "one of the
twentieth century's most outstanding politicians."

4. (SBU) Putin also used his remarks to underline the
importance of the power of the presidency, which he described
as the one "consistent guarantee of the Constitution and our
citizens' rights." He promised that the presidency would
"continue to serve the Russian people and protect (Russia's)
sovereign interests."

5. (SBU) The large, yet simple memorial is a stone
representation of the Russian tri-color flag. Putin said
that the flag "is proof of the long struggles for democracy
that our people have suffered." The President, fighting
tears, praised Yeltsin for returning the flag to "Russia's
history, our country and our people."

6. (U) Many commentators noted a softening of the tone used
by Putin to describe Yeltsin's tenure as President. In an
April 25 editorial, the Moscow daily "Nezavisimaya Gazeta"
thought that Putin's apparent change of heart was more than
just the Russian cultural reluctance to speak ill of the
dead, and welcomed the more positive tone, noting that "life,
like Yeltsin's own personality," is complex.

7. (U) Yeltsin's grave and that of cellist Mstislav
Rostropovich, who also died last year, occupy space in
Novodevichiy that previously was a pedestrian thoroughfare.
(The cemetery, a coveted burial place for both Russian
cultural luminaries and members of the political elite, is
filled to capacity.)

8. (SBU) Comment: Putin's gentler treatment of the '90s and
decision to disassociate Yeltsin from them may have been made
with an eye to his own legacy as he prepares to leave the
presidency. A bill passed by the Duma the same week will
authorize the funding and building of a presidential library
for Putin, no doubt part of the process of cementing that
legacy as the President enters the more turbulent waters of
the prime ministership.
RUSSELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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