Boris Yeltsin: Dear Russians,
In a few hours we will see a magical date on our calendars, the year 2000, a new century, a new millennium.
All of you tried to figure out, first as children and then as young people, how old you would be in the year 2000, and how old your mum and then your children would be. We thought that unique New Year was still very far in the future. But here it is.
Dear friends, my dear friends.
Today I am sending you my last New Year’s greetings. But that’s not all: this is the last time I am addressing you as president of Russia.
I have taken a decision, one which I pondered long and painfully. I am resigning today, the last day of the departing century.
I have heard people say more than once that Yeltsin would cling to power as long as possible, that he would never let go. That is a lie. I have always said that I would never violate the Constitution, that the parliamentary elections must be held in the timeframe stipulated by the Constitution, and this is exactly how we acted. I also wanted the presidential election to be held as planned, in June 2000. This is very important for Russia. We are creating a vital precedent of a civilized and voluntary transfer of presidential power to a newly elected president. And yet, I have taken a different decision: I am leaving before the end of my term.
I saw that I had to do this. Russia should enter the new millennium with new politicians, new faces, new people who are intelligent, strong and energetic, while we, those who have been in power for many years, must leave.
When I saw the hope with which the people voted for a new generation of politicians in the parliamentary elections, I knew that my life’s work was done. Russia will never retrace its steps; it will keep moving into the future. And I must not stand in the way of that logical progression. Why cling to power for six more months when the country has a strong leader who can be its president, a man on whom nearly all Russians are pinning their hopes for the future? Why stand in his way? Why wait another half year? That is not for me.
Today, on this extremely important day for me, I want to say a few more personal words than I usually do. I want to ask your forgiveness – for the dreams that have not come true, and for the things that seemed easy but turned out to be so excruciatingly difficult. I am asking your forgiveness for failing to justify the hopes of those who believed me when I said that we would leap from the grey, stagnating totalitarian past into a bright, prosperous and civilized future. I believed in that dream, I believed that we would cover the distance in one leap.
We didn’t. I was too naive in some things, and the problems turned out to be bigger than expected in other things. We ploughed ahead through mistakes and failures. Many people were traumatised by that time of upheavals.
I want you to know – I have never said this before, and I want to say it now – that the pain of every one of you was my pain, the pain of my heart. I spent sleepless nights, agonised thinking about what could be done to make life easier, if only a bit, for the people. It was my highest goal.
I am leaving now. I have done everything I could. I am not leaving for health reasons, but for a multitude of reasons. A new generation is taking my place, a generation of people who can do more and better.
In accordance with the Constitution, I have signed a decree giving the powers of president of Russia to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He will be the head of state for three months, after which presidential elections will be held, also in accordance with the Constitution.
I have always believed in the tremendous wisdom of the Russian people, and therefore I have no doubt about the choice you will make in late March 2000.
We are parting now, and I want to wish happiness to every one of you. You deserve it; you deserve happiness and peace of mind.
Happy New Year! Happy New Millennium!