Boris Yeltsin dies

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin dies April 23 at the age of 76. James V. Wertsch, Ph.D., the Marshall S. Snow Professor in Arts & Sciences and expert on Russia’s transition from the Soviet to post-Soviet era, says that Yeltsin will be remembered for his important role in Russian history.

“Boris Yeltsin occupied a special place in Soviet and Russian history, but much in his actions reflect deeper, longer-term patterns of Russian cultural history,” Wertsch said. “Many of his tactics for gaining power have parallels from previous times, and his biggest accomplishments as well as greatest failings reflect longstanding Russian patterns of thought and action.

“It is no accident that Yeltsin was able to mobilize Russian opinion around populist appeals and get re-elected on the basis of the fear of communism. But it is also no accident that he came to be viewed as an incompetent president and was succeeded by a successful Vladimir Putin, someone whose image of being able to exert a strong, disciplined hand continues to make him very popular in Russia.”

Wertsch’s most recent book is “Voices of Collective Remembering,” in which he examines national collective memory. He focuses in particular on collective memory in Russia as that country continues to undergo the transition from the Soviet to the post-Soviet era.

He can be reached for comment at (314) 935-9015 or at