23 April 2007

Those Who Knew Them: Boris Yeltsin 1931-2007

Image: Boris Yeltsin   As A Dodo presents a tribute to the former Russian leader from his close friend, former governor Yuri Oligarchavich Gargleov, a Kremlin barman who became one of the most powerful men in Russia by steering billions of roubles into his personal bank account state-owned company PotatCo into the post-Soviet free market economy and by owning most of Irkutsk.

Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is dead. I raise glass to memory of greatest man I ever meet. From moment he join Communist Party in 1961 he is party animal through and through. Wherever there is party - there is Boris!

In '85 I just humble barman at Kremlin when Boris stumble out of long Politburo meeting on Afghanistan shouting, "Stuff the Taliban! What are we drinking?!" I mix him Black Russian, White Russian... then he wash down lot with quart of my dear old mother's homemade potato vodka. After that we were insepa... inspa ... you could not keep us apart. It was like love. I love his political integrity, his tireless work for Mother Russia. He love my dear old mother's homemade potato vodka. Anyway, I now personal barman to Boris and nothing separate us.

I remember one night Boris turn to me. Beautiful Black Sea night full of stars and he turn to me with that face... What handsome man...! George Clooney is pig in comparison...! And he ask me would I like to head new Soviet department researching possibility of potato-based fuels...? Me! Humble barman...! Can you believe this...?! I say yes straight away - goodbye Lada, hello Zil!

Boris was busy man. Incredible stamina. Member of Politburo. Mayor of Moscow. But he always find time to drop into offices of PotatCo to sample study new potato-based fuels. No, really. Boris was martyr to cause. He think new potato-based fuel put Russian man as high up as Mars, or at least make him unstoppable karaoke champion on trade visit to Tokyo. What night and two days that was!

But then Boris, who love Russian country and people, grow impatient with Gorbachev - that bas... is not fit for print... Gorbachev's refuse to reform glorious Soviet Union. He make example of Boris. Boris ridiculed in press as unfit for office. But I know he is not drunkard. He come to me day he lose job as Mayor of Moscow and say, "Yuri Oligarchavich, if I am drunkard, hit me in face with shovel! If I am unfit, I crumble and fall to floor! Hit me again! Like man! Square in face with shovel! Again!" And is true. He take it like man. After that, he was unconscious unstoppable.

And then Berlin Wall fall after all-night discussions with Eric Honecker get out of hand. Boris lean against wall and... Oops! Goodbye Communism! But Gorbachev still drag feet - so Boris start to work round clock for freedom of beloved Russia and become president in 1991. And when hardliners imprison Gorbachev and launch coup against Russian people what did Boris do...? He no think of self or revenge against old blotchy head? No! He mount tank in front of parliament building. He always randy as state-owned goat after a few snifters! Little joke...! Seriously, after crushing bourgeois reactionaries Boris hero of Russian people and dissolve Soviet Union - which strange as he never add water to nothing.

Boris take on more and more work on behalf of Russia. He take whole responsibility of parliament, he say, "Thank you boys! You take easy! I do job for you!". He do everything as he drag country into new era of glorious market economy. And how did parliament repay? They refuse leave building! Is Boris's building! Boris he kind, he understanding. So he send in tanks to help re-educate political dinosaurs who not see sense in handing over vouchers for share of glorious state companies like PotatCo. So-called communists! Think only of selves! Lenin would turning in grave... if not in glass-topped sarcoph... sarpho... coffin.

No, Boris strong like bear! He never give up, not even when glorious people boiling shoes for food and selling kidneys for shelter. People say he bring nothing to Russia but crime and poverty. But this not true. He bring democracy! He bring tanks! He bring in billions of dollars from IMF. He bring me and all my friends big state-owned monopolies at knock-down price, not to mention governorship of... er, where was now, Yakutsk? Irkutsk? I know on Risk board somewhere.

But work for Russia is take toll on Boris. In dying hours of New Year's Eve 1999 he pause, put down bottle of imported Chivas Regal I give him as gift on expenses and confide in me it time to hand on baton of power to younger man who could continue great work. I agree immediately. Imagine surprise when Boris give power to that bas... is not fit for print... Vladimir Putin - who give him two bottles of imported Chivas Regal.

After that, I not see much of Boris. He busy in secure dacha, or conducting Berlin Philharmonic or Znaky's Jazz AllStars, and I always out of country on business or desperately selling assets and fleeing country to avoid being lock up in jail like Khodorkovsky.

Anyway, Boris dead. Raise glass or five to him and all pray he not being cremate.

As A Dodo note: Yuri Oligarchavich Gargleov currently lives in London, New York, Paris, Milan, and Hawaii, while his heart is officially resident in the Cayman Islands for tax reasons. Russian officials wishing to visit him should note that he hates sushi.