Friday, April 27, 2007

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin

This week Russia said a controversial farewell to one of his most controversial figures. Boris Yeltsin the first elected President of Russia who helped to bring down the soviet system. In State Duma, Russian version of lower house, communist representatives refused to join in the moment of silence calling him the man who betrayed the fatherland. President Putin was full of praise for the man who “sincerely tried to do everything possible to make the lives of millions of Russians better.”

Good or Bad, Yeltsin’s legacy is not limited to Russia. Russian government handling of foreign aids during his tenure has encouraged debating governance and has highlighted the dramatic way that corruption derails growth and development. It also has motivated many to study the role of institutions in transition economies. It also emphasized that a country could move toward free market in ways different than what other imagines. Peter Boettke (1999) studying Post Soviet Russia found out that the reality of Russian economy has diverged at “rules of the game” level as well as “policy within rules” level from what others had expected at first place. Still we are astonished by Russian economy and there is so much to learn about it.

Historically there is one ironic point about Boris Nikolayevich. Building Soviet system Stalin ensured that no one could ever become a threat to its existence. In his paranoia Stalin murdered opposition intellectuals and Communist party ideologists alike. At the end that robustly built system with KGB in charge of its checks and controls, with so many bright minds in its service and so much influence over sources of power was brought down partially by a drunkard. If that is not ironic I do not know what it is. It sure is very Russian.

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