Last modified on 26 August 2014, at 00:20

Boris Yeltsin

A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can. In the end he burns out. But this is far better than a mean little flame.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin [Бори́с Никола́евич Е́льцин] (1 February 193123 April 2007) was the first president of the Russian Federation.

QuotesEdit

1980sEdit

  • Let's not talk about Communism. Communism was just an idea, just pie in the sky.
    • Comment during a visit to the United States, as quoted in The Independent [London] (12 September 1989)

1990sEdit

  • A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can. In the end he burns out. But this is far better than a mean little flame.
    • Statement to a TImes reporter in 1990, as quoted in "The wit and wisdom of Boris" in Guardian Unlimited (23 April 2007)
I as the elected President of Russia give you the order to turn your tanks and not to fight against your own people.
  • Storm clouds of terror and dictatorship are gathering over the whole country... They must not be allowed to bring eternal night.
    • Appeal to citizens of Russia to oppose the 1991 coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev. (19 August 1991)
  • Your commanders have ordered you to storm the White House and to arrest me. But I as the elected President of Russia give you the order to turn your tanks and not to fight against your own people.
    • Appeal to the military to not participate in the coup attempt, while standing on a tank during troop movements against the Russian White House. (19 August 1991)
  • I believe in this tragic hour you can make the right choice. The honor and glory of Russian men of arms shall not be stained with the blood of the people.
    • Appeal to the military to not participate in the coup attempt. (19 August 1991)
You can build a throne with bayonets, but it's difficult to sit on it.
  • You can build a throne with bayonets, but it's difficult to sit on it.
    • Televised speech (4 October 1993), as quoted in A Democracy of Despots (1995) by Donald Murray. p. 8
    • Variant translations: You can make a throne of bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long.
      You can build a throne with bayonets, but you can't sit on it for long.
Liberty sets the mind free, fosters independence and unorthodox thinking and ideas...
  • Liberty sets the mind free, fosters independence and unorthodox thinking and ideas. But it does not offer instant prosperity or happiness and wealth to everyone. This is something that politicians in particular must keep in mind.
    • As quoted in Russia and the Independent States (1993) by Daniel C. Diller, p. 446
  • There are numerous bugbears in the profession of a politician. First, ordinary life suffers. Second, there are many temptations to ruin you and those around you. And I suppose third, and this is rarely discussed, people at the top generally have no friends.
    • The Struggle for Russia (1994)
  • Today is the last day of an era past.
    • Speech at a Berlin ceremony to end the Russian military presence in Germany (1 September 1994)
  • A sense of proportion and humanitarian action are not issues for terrorists. Their aim is that of killing and destroying.
    • Speech at a summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Istanbul, Turkey, as quoted in BBC World Service (19 November 1999)

Against the Grain (1990)Edit

Against the Grain : An Autobiography (1990)
It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts.
  • Dissidents should be paid 13 months' salary for a year, otherwise our mindless unanimity will bring us to an even more hopeless state of stagnation. It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived of the right to think their own thoughts.
    • p. 172
  • I am convinced that the moment is coming when, with its message of eternal, universal values, it will come to the aid of our society. For in these words: "Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," lie those very moral principles that will enable us to survive even the most critical situations.
    • On the renewal of the Christian church in Russia, p. 251

Farewell speech (1999)Edit

Resignation speech (31 December 1999)
I am leaving. I did all I could.
  • Today I am turning to you for the last time with New Year's greetings. But that's not all. Today I am turning to you for the last time as president of Russia.
    I have made a decision.
    I thought long and hard over it. Today, on the last day of the departing century, I am resigning.
    I have heard many times that "Yeltsin will hang onto power by any means, he won't give it to anyone." That's a lie.
    But that's not the point. I have always said that I would not depart one bit from the constitution. That Duma elections should take place in the constitutionally established terms. That was done. And I also wanted presidential elections to take place on time — in June 2000. This was very important for Russia. We are creating a very important precedent of a civilized, voluntary transfer of power, power from one president of Russia to another, newly elected one.
    And still, I made a different decision. I am leaving. I am leaving earlier than the set term.
    I have understood that it was necessary for me to do this. Russia must enter the new millennium with new politicians, with new faces, with new, smart, strong, energetic people.
    And we who have been in power for many years already, we must go.

    Seeing with what hope and faith people voted in the Duma elections for a new generation of politicians, I understood that I have completed the main thing of my life. Already, Russia will never return to the past. Now, Russia will always move only forward.
    • Variant translation: Russian must enter the new millennium with new politicians, new faces, new intelligent and energetic people...
      • As quoted in The 100 Greatest Heroes (2003) p. 60 by Harry Paul Jeffers
  • I should not interfere with this natural march of history. To hold onto power for another half-year, when the country has a strong man who is worthy of being president and with whom practically every Russian today ties his hopes for the future? Why should I interfere with him? Why wait still another half-year? No, that's not for me! It's simply not in my character!
  • Today, on this day that is so extraordinarily important for me, I want to say just a few more personal words than usual.
    I want to ask for your forgiveness.
    For the fact that many of the dreams we shared did not come true. And for the fact that what seemed simple to us turned out to be tormentingly difficult.
    I ask forgiveness for not justifying some hopes of those people who believed that at one stroke, in one spurt, we could leap from the gray, stagnant, totalitarian past into the light, rich, civilized future. I myself believed in this, that we could overcome everything in one spurt.
    I turned out to be too naive in something. In some places, problems seemed to be too complicated. We forced our way forward through mistakes, through failures. Many people in this hard time experienced shock.
  • Today it's important for me to tell you. The pain of each of you has called forth pain in me, in my heart. Sleepless nights, tormenting worries — about what needed to be done, so that people could live more easily and better. I did not have any more important task.
    I am leaving. I did all I could — not according to my health, but on the basis of all the problems. A new generation is relieving me, a generation of those who can do more and better.
    In accordance with the constitution, as I resign, I have signed a decree placing the duties of the president of Russia on the head of government, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. For three months, again in accordance with the constitution, he will be the head of state. And in three months, presidential elections will take place.

2000sEdit

  • I cannot shift the blame for Chechnya, for the sorrow of numerous mothers and fathers. I made the decision, therefore I am responsible.
  • It looks as if some people either have a short memory and are forgetting about that time and the events that occurred then ... Let us recall the putsch of August 19, 1991. It was after the putsch that the republics began, one after another, to declare their independence.
    Russia also declared its independence. This was approved by the Supreme Soviet, and you know and remember that there was the Declaration on the Independence of Russia. So, the entire course of history was leading to a point when the regime, the political regime in the country had to be changed. It demonstrated that the Union was not as strong as this was loudly preached by mass media and the propaganda in general. The republics wished to become independent. This must only be welcomed... We have good peaceful relations and there were no military clashes. None of these countries had revolutions with bloody casualties and there was no civil war in any of the republics... Russia had to chance and it did change.
  • We don't appreciate what we have until it's gone. Freedom is like that. It's like air. When you have it, you don't notice it.
    • As quoted in The 100 Greatest Heroes (2003) p. 60 by Harry Paul Jeffers

Quotes about YeltsinEdit

  • He's been on the verge of death so many times. ... His doctors themselves are in shock that he's still alive. Half the blood vessels in his brain are about to burst after his strokes, his intestines are spotted all over with holes, he has giant ulcers in his stomach, his heart is in absolutely disgusting condition, he is literally rotting ... He could die from any one of dozens of physical problems that he has, but contrary to all laws of nature — he lives.

External linksEdit

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