October 01, 1998

Welcome to Russia! Now Pay Your Taxes!

Despite a flood of analyses inside and outside Russia, there has yet to be an adequate explanation for Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s surprise announcement this weekend, dismissing Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko and re-appointing in his place Victor Chernomyrdin. Interestingly, most analyses have sought to apply logic and reason to their explanations. Yet, as seasoned observers know, such concepts tend to be useless when analyzing Russia in general and Boris Yeltsin in particular.

The most “aktualny” question in Russia today, two days after Yeltsin’s dismissal of Kirienko (nicknamed in the press “kinder-surprise,” after a popular candy here), is whether Yeltsin can be an “adequate” president for Russia for the next 18 months. At the very least, his erratic behavior is swelling the ranks of  those calling for his dismissal.

I recall a conversation I had at the time of Yeltsin’s quintupal bypass operation with an authoritative psychotherapist and neurologist. He cited the example of a client of his who complained that her husband had become an unpredictable and scary tyrant after his bypass operation. But back then I did not take the message to heart. After all, Yeltsin had not been particularly rational in his behavior prior to the operation -- for one, he has fired and rehired reformer Anatoly Chubais almost as often as George Steinbrenner toyed with Billy Martin.

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