Celebrating Boris Yeltsin’s 80th birthday
A monument to Russia’s first president Boris Yeltsin will be unveiled in Yekaterinburg on February 1 as part of the city’s big celebration of the 80th anniversary of his birth, said Tatiana Yumasheva, Yeltsin’s daughter, on Tuesday. President Dmitry Medvedev will attend the ceremony, after which he will chair a meeting of the Council for Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights.
The unveiling of a monument to Boris Yeltsin in his hometown will be one of the highlights of the celebrations. Georgy Frangulyan, the sculptor, described the 10-meter-high marble obelisk as “a massive figure in motion, just how I remember Boris Yeltsin.” This is the sculptor’s second work dedicated to the first president; the first one was Yeltsin’s gravestone.
The new monument will be erected next to a presidential center currently under construction in the city. “We are planning to complete the center together with our partners by Yeltsin’s birthday in 2013,” Yumasheva said. Aside from a library and a museum, the presidential center will have an Internet café and a bookstore. There is also the idea of building a replica of Yeltsin’s Kremlin office so that “visitors could have their photos taken in the presidential armchair.”
Other celebration events include a rock concert on February 11 and an international children’s tennis tournament in Kazan between February 28 and March 6.
Top state officials will also participate in the event. Dmitry Medvedev is expected to arrive in Yekaterinburg to attend the unveiling ceremony. In Moscow, a gala concert will be held at the Bolshoi Theater, to be attended by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said his adviser Vladimir Shevchenko.
Experts are not surprised that the country’s leaders will pay their respects to Yeltsin. Stanislav Belkovsky, president of the National Strategy Institute, said that Vladimir Putin, despite his scathing comments on the “turbulent 1990s,” has never been openly critical of the first president. “For Medvedev it is politically advantageous to consolidate the liberal elite for his reelection campaign.”
Georgy Satarov, president of the Indem Foundation, refuses to politicize the fact that the president and the prime minister are to participate in the celebration. “I think this kind of event just cannot be bypassed,” he said.
Opposition parties, however, plan to ignore Yeltsin’s birthday. “We do not see this event as any reason to celebrate,” said Igor Lebedev, head of the LDPR parliamentary party in the State Duma.
Sergei Obukhov, central committee secretary of the Russian Communist Party, said: “We will be holding a counter-event – to mark the 20th anniversary of the March 17, 1991 referendum on the preservation of the USSR.”
“The polls all show that Russians view Boris Yeltsin negatively,” Yumasheva said. “Perhaps it will take more time before people come to understand what was happening in the country at the time.”
The Golden Ball rolls into Grozny
Football club Terek Grozny has announced the appointment of its new head coach, the legendary Dutchman Ruud Gullit. The news caused a sensation, since this humble Russian Premier League team, which came 12th in the last Russian championship, is now to be coached by one of the most famous football players of all time; however, Gullit's coaching successes are much more modest than his performance on the field.
Terek Grozny's vice president, Haidar Alkhanov, confirmed that Gullit signed a contract for 18 months, which is how long the next Russian championship will last, having made the transition from a spring-fall season of to a fall-spring season.
Finding a new coach for Terek in such a short time was an unexpected development. This past weekend, Spaniard Victor Munoz, who replaced retiring coach Anatoly Baidachny at the end of last season and had started training the team for the season, refused to sign a contract. Alkhanov said that Gullit's appointment was decided within three days after Munoz left the team. Gullit immediately agreed to the terms that Munoz had turned down.
Gullit's appointment, which Alkhanov said that Chechnya's leader Ramzan Kadyrov personally approved, is certainly a landmark event. Indeed, the local clubs have never seen such a famous individual, either as a player or coach. Gullit's popularity surpasses even that of Spartak, CSKA and Moskva coaches Michael Laudrup, Zico and Oleg Blokhin, who, like Gullit, is a winner of football’s most prestigious individual prize, the Golden Ball.
Gullit won his Golden Ball award in 1987. His track record includes two FIFA World Player of the Year awards for 1987 and 1989, European Championship gold in 1988 and many other trophies. He played brilliantly for Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, AC Milan, Sampdoria and Chelsea.
However, it cannot be said that Gullit the coach has been as successful as Gullit the football player. By and large, Gullit’s most notable achievements are confined to the beginning of his coaching career. In 1986, he became player-coach at Chelsea, which won the FA Cup in its first season and subsequently won silver in the national championship.
Gullit has not won a single prestigious award since leaving Chelsea, whether at Newcastle, Feyenoord or with his last employer Los Angeles Galaxy. Gullit left Los Angeles in 2008 and has not coached since.
Meanwhile, Terek players and supporters hope that he will lead the club to a much higher level, which means succeeding where three other football legends who came to work in Russia failed. Blokhin, who coached Moskva in late 2007, lasted only one season. Laudrup and Zico lasted even less at Spartak and CSKA. Laudrup coached Spartak for seven months – from September 2008 to April 2009 and Zico coached CSKA for eight months – from January to September 2009. All three were dismissed due to their teams’ unsatisfactory performance.
Chaplin versus Chapman
Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin has reiterated his uptight views on appropriate attire in an article written in response to an open letter from Russian women’s rights activists to Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Russia abounds in lively, energetic people who seem to have difficulty finding a proper outlet for their potential. Father Vsevolod, head of the Church's social affairs department, who caused an uproar in December by claiming that women in mini-skirts were to blame if they got raped, is certainly one of them.
These people have no hope of tackling the very real challenges Russia faces, for fear of reprisals. A national dress code, however, is not anywhere near so daunting a challenge. In fact, the vast majority of Russians do not even see it as a problem.
Although he denied he sought to "justify rape," Chaplin told the outraged activists that a woman wearing a skimpy dress and tons of makeup “like a clown” is simply asking for trouble and proposed enforcing a national dress code for both men and women like those applied by companies and schools.
"I think the day will come when someone dressed indecently will be escorted out of a decent establishment," he wrote.
In fact several American states such as Florida have laws banning very low rise jeans for both men and women for health reasons. But Chaplin, who raised the issue of acceptable clothing, has certainly overstepped his remit, as health issues fall within the purview of Gennady Onishchenko, Russia’s chief sanitary officer. But Onishchenko seems to have overlooked this burning issue.
Since Russia is not a church-governed state, people’s clothes and hairstyles are not things the church need, officially, concern itself with. If it was, we wouldn’t need him to remind us about the dress code anyway – we would all, without exception, be swathed in floor-length robes. Father Vsevolod understands all this, he just can’t contain himself.
We live in a world where there are many famous, successful and happy women who seem to disprove his theory.
Take, for instance, Anna Chapman, former “sleeper agent” turned successful TV host, whose considerable assets have been on full display in several men’s magazines. She rightfully enjoys respect, state awards, a high income and popularity. Where’s all that trouble the archpriest was on about? When will the “loneness and madness” and “catastrophes” hit?
Looking at Anna Chapman, Chaplin’s dress code ideas seem even more pathetic, and his admonitions medieval.
The idea might make some kind of sense if national health champion Onishchenko had put it forward, arguing that skimpy shorts and tops encourage colds or can affect women’s hygiene or fertility. That might be seen as a danger to national security and lead to a dress code being proposed which could, for example, ban shorts in winter and require everyone to wear woolen underwear. A policy like this could have been enforced by docking the pay for anyone found to be wearing shorts to the office.
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