Hrdina své doby

Boris Jelcin byl naprosto jedinečný. Byl prvním demokraticky zvoleným lídrem Ruska a také prvním ruským vůdcem, který dobrovolně a v souladu s ústavou předal moc svému nástupci. Byl ale rovněž veskrze typickým ruským lídrem. Pomocí rozličných směsí charismatu, státnictví a teroru se Petr Veliký, Kateřina Veliká, Alexandr II., Petr Stolypin (poslední carův ministerský předseda), Lenin i Stalin snažili proměnit Rusko nejen ve vojenskou velmoc, ale také v hospodářsky a kulturně rovnocenného partnera Západu.

Jelcin směřoval k témuž cíli. V jistém ohledu se ale od nich lišil: chápal, že říše je neslučitelná s demokracií, a proto byl ochoten opustit Sovětský svaz, aby se doma pokusil vybudovat demokratický řád.

Na vrcholu Jelcinovy kariéry se mnozí Rusové identifikovali s jeho otevřeností, impulzivností, citlivostí vůči osobnímu znevažování, ba i s jeho slabostí pro alkohol. A přesto se jeho reputace v posledních letech jeho vlády propadla. Až během posledních několika měsíců svého druhého funkčního období, poté co v září 1999 zahájil druhou válku v Čečensku, si Jelcin se svými důstojníky znovu získal v očích ruské veřejnosti jistou legitimitu, zatímco u zbývajících západních obdivovatelů vzbudil odpor.

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