Staunton, January 21 -- A new book on Boris Yeltsin’s time in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg) in the 1970s and 1980s show that that period there was the birthplace of the 1990s, one that involved a broad swath of the population and elites and not just the future Russian president alone.
Entitled “Messengers of the Coming Storm” and written by Sergey Plakhotkin, the head of Kommersant-Ural and tipped to become an ideological official in the region, the book is based on interviews with living people speaking on condition of anonymity and as such has generated a great deal of interest in the Urals region (ura.news/articles/1036281807).\
The author tells Ivan Nekrasov of the URA news agency that he “wanted to write a little book about the 1990s but then understood that he had to tell first about the sources of tha decade, because the storm of the 1990s was born in the 1970s and 1980s,” when Sverdlovsk was full of “passionate” people who wanted change.
According to Plakhotkin, these included “representatives of the artistic underground and rock musicians, the first cooperative workers, Komsomol officials who used the legal possibilities to earn enormous sums of money, hooligans and fraudsters who later organized one of the largest criminal communities in Russia.”
“We had out own special bandits with minds like ours, people of the Urals,” he continues. It may be stupid to be proud of that but we are.
According to the author, “there were two cities in Russia, Yekaterinburg and St. Petersburg” who played a key role in the 1980s precisely because they had well-formed and powerful “cultural waves” that originated in each. The Petersburgers proved to be “more clever” as the Yekaterinburg power elite, primarily engineers, was direct and independent.
Yekaterinburg thus ultimately lost to the lawyers and economists of Petersburg.
Only 900 copies of the book have been printed and they are certain to be snapped up quickly. But they are also likely to become important for the study of how the USSR first became Yeltsin’s Russia and then Putin’s.