We wouldn't be here today (by "we" I mean people who are not me still living in Crapistan) if it wasn't for you standing on that tank. You were a bold, deeply flawed, highly entertaining human being. We spill sto gram on the pavement for our dead homie.
It's a little known fact that Carpetblogger and the Producer were in Moscow the weekend of Boris' First Stand on August 19, 1991. We had gone to Moscow -- the first and only time I have been there -- on a weekend jaunt from Warsaw.
We were traveling back to Warsaw on expired visas because, as everyone who has adapted to Soviet mentality already knows, just because you have a return train ticket doesn't mean you have a seat, so we overstayed our visa one day because our original train was booked. We left Moscow the night of August 18th.
The train passed silently through unlit places like Minsk -- places that were completely inscrutable at the time but now, just make me tired thinking about them. We shared a compartment with a young guy who whipped out a knife the size of my forearm to exuberantly give a melon the what-for. I remember that being the best melon I had ever tasted, but also convinced the young man was going to eviscerate us in our sleep. It wasn't until almost 15 years later that I figured out that the kid had to have been Uzbek and only wanted to share his melon with a couple of English speakers.
We arrived at the Belorussian border town of Brest in mid-morning to huge crowds of expressionless people standing around watching the black and white TV. Soccer, soap -- I could have cared less. We had huge problems with our expired visas. Amid all the recriminations, tears and bribery, I never once looked to see what the fuss was about.
We arrived back to our Warsaw apartment to a ringing phone. Of course, it was my mother, who knew we'd been in Moscow and were a day late coming home. Fortunately, a transcript of the conversation still exists. Let's take a look.
Carpetmother: Where have you been!?
Carpetblogger: We just got back. We had this huge ordeal on the border..."
Carpetmother: What's happening there!? What are the people doing?!
Carpetblogger: Um. Well, they're standing in line for McDonalds. They're doing what normal people do, I guess.
Carpetmother: You don't know, do you?!!
So, we missed the big event by a couple hours.
But thanks, Boris. You created a full-employment act for a generation of consultants holding the firm conviction that if you can't solve the problem, there's money to be made in prolonging it. Just like 9/11.
Anne Applebaum, a writer who actually "gets" this part of the world, wrote about all the ways the West was wrong about Yeltsin. Just like Lenin, he was a transitional figure, native to Russia, seizing power from one dictator and handing it over to another.