Speech at the Unveiling of a Monument to First President of Russia Boris Yeltsin 2008-04-23 19:21:48 Moscow President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Dear Naina Yosifovna [Yeltsina], dear friends, A year has now gone by since the passing of Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], First President of Russia and, without any exaggeration, one of the twentieth century’s most outstanding politicians, a man who fundamentally influenced the development not only of our country but of world history. The turbulent 1990s were a time of rapid change and bold, original people, people who could swim against the stream and lead the public towards new goals. It is no exaggeration to say that Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin has his place in this outstanding constellation. His road as a politician and a citizen was not easy. More than once in his life he was faced with difficult choices, choices of principle. But his road was every bit as unique as was our country’s destiny, the destiny of a country that went through unprecedented transformation and difficult upheavals, but held firm to its statehood and to its right to free and independent development. Nothing then could stop people from pursuing their greatest desire – their desire for freedom. The monument that we are unveiling today is not just a tribute to the memory of our country’s first president: his tombstone is deservedly adorned with the Russian state flag – the tricolour national flag of Russia, which Boris Yeltsin returned to our history, our country and our people after long decades. This flag bears witness to the our people’s longstanding and hard-won democratic aspirations, and it is one of the outstanding symbols of our unwavering choice in favour of a free society and civilised development – the only choice worthy of a great country like Russia. We live today in an open and independent country, a country developing in full accordance with the spirit and the letter of the Russian Constitution. Presidential power in Russia will always be the consistent guarantee of the Constitution and our citizens’ rights, and it will continue to serve the Russian people and protect our country’s sovereign interests. We know that President Yeltsin took the full force of events upon himself, took full responsibility for what was happening in the country and showed that only in this way, boldly and decisively, was it possible to pursue the chosen strategic course while remaining open and receptive to all that was new and useful for the country. In this respect, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is an example to us all. This firm and principled position taken by our head of state will continue to form the foundation for our road ahead and for our present and future achievements. Dear friends, The departure of someone from this life does not mean that his road has ended. He lives on so long as his memory lives on, so long as his ideas and his work live on. Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, the First President of Russia and a courageous and brave leader, will always live on in our memories and in our country’s history. May his memory last forever.