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Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected Russian president, died today of heart failure. Mr. Yeltsin played a crucial role in the demise of the Soviet empire and ended decades of totalitarian rule. As the wall came down and the iron curtain was lifted, the television cameras went in, and the collapse of one of the most secretive governments in history became one of the most documented shifts in power.
Mr. Yeltsin leaves behind him a legacy as a defender of democracy in the history books. Meanwhile, on the intertubes, Mr. Yeltsin can still be seen rallying the masses from atop tanks, laughing with world leaders, and reading less-than-sober speeches.
Standing astride the tanks sent by political hardliners, at a critical point Mr. Yeltsin’s courage and words marked the end of the Soviet-era and solidified his own place in the post-communist Russia. See video here (not embeddable).
Keep reading below the jump for the context behind the Presidential cachinnation embedded above:.
President Yeltsin: And this is all due to you because, coming from my statement yesterday in the United Nations, and if you looked at the press reports, one could see that what you were writing was that today’s meeting with President Bill Clinton was going to be a disaster. [Laughter] Well, now for the first time, I can tell you that you’re a disaster.
President Clinton: Be sure you get the right attribution there.
Sometimes it really is the name of a viral video that makes you laugh. You can’t really beat “Dancing with the Czars.”
A huge number of video obituaries are already circulating. Here is the BBC version, with excellent commentary over many of the videos linked to above. While his on-camera image was not the most groomed, Mr. Yeltsin’s cinemagenic persona seemed far more human than nearly any other world leader.