Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Guess who WON'T be giving a eulogy at Yeltsin's funeral?

Matt Taibbi, that's who!
Finally, let's not forget perhaps the most ironic victims of Yeltsin's reign. Few today remember that the make-or-break moment for Yeltsin as a "democratic" leader came when coal miners in places like Cherepovets and Vorkuta went on strike in support of the revolution. Yeltsin rewarded those same miners by telling them to go fuck themselves when ruthless mine owners in his newly capitalist "reform Russia" turned them into slave laborers and left them unpaid for months and years on end. I visited Vorkuta in 1998 and found the same people who had protested in favor of Yeltsin's "democratic" revolt years before now living off tiny daily rations of rotten eggs and bacon fat. I was with one miner who brought home a single package of a boiled egg, a piece of sausage and a hunk of cheese given to him in lieu of salary at the mine, and solemnly divided it up with his wife and his two kids at dinner. The food came from past-due stocks of old food that the mine owners had traded for with a local store in exchange for coal.

Those same steam-boiler-bellied mine executives -- Yeltsin lookalikes -- proudly showed me a new slate pool table they had had imported from St. Petersburg that day and which they kept in the mine's newly-furnished executive lounge, where they hung out boozing all day while everybody else worked in dangerous prehistoric conditions. I visited that mine in June of 1998; 37 people had already died in mines in Vorkuta that year.

That was Boris Yeltsin's Russia. It was a place where pigs got fat and everyone else sucked eggs.



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