Un héros de son temps

Boris Eltsine était tout à fait unique. Premier chef d’État russe démocratiquement élu, il fut aussi le premier à abandonner le pouvoir volontairement, en accord avec la constitution, en faveur de son successeur. Mais c’était aussi profondément, typiquement, un dirigeant russe. Grâce à un mélange de charisme, d’habileté politique et de terreur, Pierre le grand, Catherine la Grande, Alexandre II, Piotr Stolypine (Premier ministre du dernier tsar), Lénine et Staline cherchèrent tous à faire de la Russie non seulement une grande puissance militaire, mais aussi à en faire l’égal économique et culturel de l’Occident.

Eltsine visait le même but. Mais il se distingue d’eux tous par le trait suivant : il comprenait qu’empire et démocratie étaient incompatibles, et il était donc prêt à abandonner l’Union soviétique afin de construire un ordre démocratique national.

À l’apogée de la carrière d’Eltsine, beaucoup de Russes s’identifiaient à sa brusquerie, à son impulsivité, à sa sensibilité aux affronts personnels et même à sa faiblesse pour l’alcool. Et pourtant, dans les dernières années de son mandat, sa réputation a sombré. Ce n’est qu’au cours des derniers mois de son second mandat présidentiel, après qu’il a lancé la seconde guerre en Tchétchénie en septembre 1999, que lui et ses lieutenants ont regagné un semblant de légitimité aux yeux du public russe, tout en provoquant une répulsion chez ses derniers admirateurs occidentaux.

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