The only Russian leader since the fall of the emperial family in 1918 that gained great popularity abroad was Boris Yeltsin. Not in the last place because he had the reputation of a happy drunk. His public appearances while highly intoxicated were simply disarming. Even to the most hardcore Yankees that were still clinging on to the Cold War long after the perestroika. While his politics were often criticized, nobody can deny that this happy drunkard brought East and West a lot closer after decades of distrust.
The examples of Yeltsin’s escapades are numerous. But the best story was revealed in 2009 (2 years after Yeltsin died at the age of 76) as former American president Bill Clinton had his memoires published. Clinton described how his Russian colleague and friend in 1995 got completely wasted when visiting the White House. Apparently he was found outside in his underpants trying to catch a cab because he was in the mood for pizza. You thought a world leader would be so ashamed he’d stay of the booze the next day? Wrong! Not president Yeltsin. The next day he got completely shitfaced again. As he was stumbling in the basement of his guest house the following night, Secret Service agents thought he was a drunken intruder.
A memorable drunken moment in the career of the man who was president of Russia from 1991 till 1999, but for sure not the only one. In 1992 Yeltsin was invited for a state banquet in Kyrgyzstan, that just broke away from the Soviet Union. As usual the Russian president didn’t hold back on the vodka and ended up playing the Kyrgyz president Askar Akayev‘s bald head as a drum, while using spoons as his drumsticks.
A compilation of Boris Yeltsin’s finest moments.
In 1994 Yeltsin went to Germany to see the last Russian troups leave the country after the Cold War. In the presence of the German chancellor Helmut Kohl he got quite drunk at lunch and started his own show. First he took on the role of conductor of the band. A little later he started dancing fanatically in between the thunderstruck German dancers. He blew some kisses to his audience and with a muddled speech he finished this epic appearance. Germany was in shock.
Although Yeltsin is known in Russia as the person who demolished the Soviet Union, who started two wars in Chechnya, who sold huge state owned companies to private parties way too cheap and lost all control over both the Russian mafia and the growing corruption in his country. At least he also made a lot of people smile. In these modern times where politicians are boring nobodies, he was an exception. Yeltsin – as a true Russian – was a big fan of vodka, but also no stranger to beer and champagne. We will always remember him as the happy drunkard.