Book Launch: The Firebird: The Elusive Fate of Russian Democracy
In 1991, as tanks moved through Moscow to seize the Russian White House, Russia’s first Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev stood with President Boris Yeltsin and his team. Kozyrev later participated in negotiations among leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus to formally end the Soviet Union and create the newly independent Russian Federation.
To celebrate the launch of his new book The Firebird: The Elusive Fate of Russian Democracy, Kozyrev took the audience into the corridors of power to provide a startling eyewitness account of the collapse of the Soviet Union. He discussed the struggle to create a democratic Russia, as well as the nascent government’s attempts to forge a new foreign policy.
This event was followed by a reception.
“I called myself pro-Western because I wanted Russia to be a flourishing democracy just like the United States. Ordinary Russians wanted democracy, and that’s what we in the government tried to deliver.”
“It’s not America’s fault, it’s not the West’s fault that our efforts in this period failed […] America was very helpful, we wanted more help of course – needed more help – but it was ultimately on us to deliver.”
“Yeltsin had only very vague ideas about what kind of new system we should build […] People like Gaidar and myself did have an idea, but had no experience of capitalism. This was different from China, for example, where Deng Xiaoping actually lived in the States and therefore had firsthand experience of capitalism […] None of us knew what we wanted to build in a practical sense […] Our problem was that we were aware, from the very beginning […] that Yeltsin was the right person to destroy the old system, but not to build a new one.”
“I grew up in a Soviet family, and both my father and mother thought that the Soviet system was good for them […] they were of the Russian middleclass, both were members of the Communist Party, and that was their way of life, as it was mine. But the discrepancy between Soviet propaganda and reality blew up in my face when I first came to the US in 1975 to New York and there I saw that, contrary to what we were told, 90% of Americans did not live in total poverty."
The Kennan Institute is the premier U.S. center for advanced research on Russia and Eurasia and the oldest and largest regional program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Kennan Institute is committed to improving American understanding of Russia, Ukraine, and the region through research and exchange. Read more