Douglas Muir at Fistful of Euros provides a pithy, essential summary of political leadership following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. In my Davos role, I saw many of this crop and it wasn’t a pretty sight:
All across Eurasia, in the early 1990s, you had a first generation of post-Communist leaders taking power. And by and large, it wasn’t a very promising crop. You had drunks (Yeltsin), slimy connivers (Iliescu), petty, mean-spirited nationalists (Tudjman), slimy connivers pretending to be petty, mean-spirited nationalists (Milosevic), corrupt thugs (Lukashenko, Smirnov), guys who had no idea what the hell they were doing (Izetbegovic, Berisha) and just plain lunatics (Niyazov).
But in terms of sheer damage inflicted upon his hapless country, nobody — not Yeltsin, not Berisha, not even Milosevic — came close to Gamsakhurdia.
Muir isn’t just offering dispassionate history, of course. He’s trying to give some of the background to the Georgia/Russia conflict that is missing in most accounts.
Six months ago, not incidentally, I linked to Muir’s essential guide to the then “frozen conflict” of South Ossetia. Pity he didn’t have many more readers then.