Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#15 - JRL 2007-96 - JRL Home
Speech at Reception in Memory of First President of Russia Boris Yeltsin
April 25, 2007
The Kremlin, Moscow


Dear members of the Yeltsin family,

Dear friends,

We have just paid our last farewell to Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, a man of true Russian expanse and generosity of spirit. We have paid farewell to a man of resolute will and authentic determination.

I am certain that only such a leader, a leader raised and nurtured by all the energy of our great Russia, could arouse a country such as ours and lead it to such fundamental change.

He became President through the support of millions of our citizens, changed the face of power and broke down the thick wall between the public and the state. He was devoted to his people and served them with courage.

He knew how to and loved speaking with people frankly and openly. He never remained in the shadows or hid behind the backs of others. There were times when he consciously chose to take all the fire on himself, accepting personal responsibility for very tough but necessary decisions. He bravely took upon himself the most difficult role in creating the most important democratic institutions.

President Yeltsin understood that most important of all was the irreversibility of the changes that had taken place and steadfast resolution in pursuing his strategic course.

This kind of political style and instinct distinguishes national leaders who do not think only of the present moment but look far ahead into the future.

At a time when the old mechanisms of power had collapsed and Russias statehood was weakened, Boris Yeltsin made the difficult achievement of giving the country a new constitution. He put his health and even perhaps his life on the line during the election of 1996, and he emerged victorious.

Looking back at Boris Nikolayevich, one cannot but remember his openness and love of life. It is not by chance that his amazing ability to build relations of genuine friendship became a real foreign policy advantage for Russia.

Dear friends and colleagues,

It is the destiny of a rare few to have found their own freedom and been followed by millions, to have led their country to truly historical transformation and in so doing change the world itself.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was able to do this, not once retreating or bowing under the weight of his task, not once betraying the peoples choice and his own conscience.

He will always remain a shining symbol of change, a symbol of the fight against decrepit dogmas and prohibitions.

Figures of this dimension never leave us. They live on in peoples ideas and aspirations, in the achievements and successes of their Motherland.

No matter how difficult it was for him, and no matter how great the challenges facing our country, Boris Nikolayevich always believed in the renaissance and transformation of Russia. He respected the talent and strength of the Russian people and sincerely tried to do all he could to improve the lives of millions of Russians (and he always said this word in his own distinctive way, with that particular Yeltsin intonation).

This was his dream, his goal. And Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin will not just live on in our memories we will work towards this goal.

May his memory live forever!