YEKATERINBURG, Russia — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has reviled these years as a interval of chaos, crime and “whole poverty” that “no one needs to ever see return.”
Kremlin-controlled information media retailers usually lambast what they name “the wild 90s” as a time of private humiliation and shameful nationwide weak spot.
All of the abuse, nonetheless, has been an sudden boon to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Middle, a shimmering shrine on the sting of Siberia to Mr. Putin’s reviled predecessor and his turbulent years in energy, from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union to the tip of 1999.
“I’m glad they’re consistently criticizing the ’90s,” stated Alexandr Drozdov, the manager director of a non-public basis that oversees the Yeltsin heart, a museum and archive advanced devoted to Russia’s first elected and, no less than in accordance with opinion polls, broadly loathed late president. “I inform them, ‘Preserve criticizing, please don’t cease.’”
The torrents of scorn poured on Mr. Yeltsin and his period by the Kremlin’s cheerleaders have given the advanced an edgy attraction, serving to it entice greater than 700,000 guests because it opened three winters in the past.
It has turn into maybe Russia’s hottest and positively its most lavishly geared up outpost of different historical past and against-the-grain considering.
On the floor, the advanced — set subsequent to a lake within the heart of Yekaterinburg, the economic metropolis the place Mr. Yeltsin lived for a lot of his life and the place Czar Nicholas II and his household had been murdered by the Bolsheviks — is a showcase for a way Russia has modified for the higher beneath Mr. Putin.
It’s shiny and fashionable, effectively run and brimming with high-tech thrives.
However at its core, the advanced is a mournful requiem for the various issues misplaced since Mr. Yeltsin stepped down on Dec. 31, 1999, and handed energy to his chosen successor, Mr. Putin, with the phrases: “Deal with Russia.”
Mr. Yeltsin, stated Mr. Drozdov, “could be very dissatisfied” had he lived to see the place Mr. Putin has taken the nation. “He would cry.”
One exhibit options puppets from a satirical tv present that, within the 1990s, skewered Mr. Yeltsin and his officers mercilessly. The present was canceled by Mr. Putin, who took umbrage at his illustration by an unpleasant, dwarfish puppet.
The as soon as non-public tv station that broadcast the weekly present, NTV, is now managed by the state and serves as a bullhorn for Kremlin propaganda.
Western-oriented liberals largely view Mr. Yeltsin as a courageous, if deeply flawed, hero who rallied resistance to an August 1991 putsch by Communist Occasion hard-liners, broke the again of the Soviet Union, launched capitalism and gave beginning to Russia as a free and democratic nation.
Nationalists and leftists, although, keep in mind him as at finest a vodka-soaked buffoon and at worst a traitor working for the West.
They need the advanced shut down, or no less than altered to create what Ilya Belous, a loud native critic, thinks needs to be “a museum of Yeltsin’s crimes.” (A Muslim cleric near the Kremlin has recommended that it’s merely blown up.)
“Putin’s P.R. staff has lowered every little thing to the distinction between photos of a younger, dynamic Putin and an outdated, alcoholic Yeltsin,” stated Yevgeny V. Roizman, a Kremlin critic who resigned final summer season because the elected mayor of Yekaterinburg in protest on the abolition of mayoral elections within the metropolis.
“Many individuals don’t actually know what occurred within the 1990s,” the previous mayor stated. “They merely don’t perceive what Yeltsin did and why.”
“They blame Yeltsin for destroying the Soviet Union,” he continued, “however no one destroyed it. The Soviet Union fell aside of its personal accord as a result of it couldn’t help itself ideologically or economically. It merely collapsed.”
The middle’s aim, stated Dina Sorokina, the museum director who’s a graduate of New York College, is to not whitewash Mr. Yeltsin, although it does largely ignore a few of the extra odious options of his rule, notably the emergence of so-called oligarchs by means of corrupt privatization offers.
“The aim shouldn’t be hagiography however an try to know that point and in addition the place we are actually,” she stated.
The silence about Russia’s oligarchs is maybe defined by an inventory of donors on the entrance. It contains billionaire tycoons like Oleg Deripaska and Roman Abramovich, each of whom made their fortunes within the 1990s.
Additionally named as a donor, curiously, is Mr. Putin, who attended the opening of the museum, together with Mr. Yeltsin’s widow, Naina.
In a stiff speech, Mr. Putin stated the museum instructed “the trustworthy story of what was accomplished in a troublesome time.”
Mr. Drozdov recalled that the president strolled by means of exhibit halls celebrating misplaced freedoms “and not using a trace of emotion on his face.”
“He was like a mummy,” Mr. Drozdov stated.
The Kremlin’s blessing for the mission, stated Mr. Roizman, the previous mayor, flowed from a contradiction on the coronary heart of Mr. Putin’s rule. Whereas he has undone a lot of Mr. Yeltsin’s legacy, significantly in politics, he got here to energy due to Mr. Yeltsin.
“Putin owes Yeltsin every little thing,” Mr. Roizman stated.
Mr. Putin, who has at all times positioned a premium on loyalty, by no means assaults Mr. Yeltsin personally. However he has given state information media retailers free rein to assault his predecessor’s legacy with gusto.
Mr. Yeltsin, who was born close to Yekaterinburg and ruled the town as Communist Occasion boss within the 1970s, died in 2007 at age 76.
However he nonetheless looms giant in Russia, even when largely as a punching bag for Mr. Putin’s cheerleaders on state TV and as a hate determine for a lot of bizarre Russians, who blame him for the demise of the Soviet empire and for plunging the nation into poverty and dysfunction.
Mr. Putin usually performs on public nostalgia for the Soviet Union and usually boasts of ending the financial distress and political chaos of the 1990s. The middle, although, provides a starkly totally different view of the previous.
It greets guests with an animated movie celebrating Mr. Yeltsin as Russia’s first chief in additional than a millennium to interrupt a grim cycle of bloody tyranny punctuated by transient spurts of failed reform.
Along with the everlasting exhibition feting Mr. Yeltsin and the freedoms he launched, it additionally hosts seminars, debates and cultural occasions that stray removed from the monochrome, muscular patriotism promoted by the Ministry of Tradition in Moscow.
As Mr. Putin’s rule, now already twice so long as Mr. Yeltsin’s, drags on, grim recollections of the 1990s are maybe brightening a bit as religion in Russia’s present course dips.
Nikita Shitov, a Yekaterinburg resident who arrange a small enterprise within the Yeltsin years after which watched rapacious officers destroy it after Mr. Putin got here to energy, stated the 1990s had been usually chaotic “however the state didn’t crawl into our lives prefer it does now.”
That the general public shouldn’t be fully satisfied by the picture on state tv of Mr. Putin as Russia’s savior is obvious within the usually empty halls at a rival museum in Yekaterinburg, the place an exhibition on “Russia: My Historical past” offers a extremely nationalistic recounting of the previous.
It presents the 1990s as a interval of unrelieved distress and Mr. Putin’s time in workplace as an period of prosperity and nationwide rebirth.
Regardless of being closely promoted by state media retailers, the museum was empty of holiday makers final week aside from schoolchildren on a subject journey.
Probably the most virulent critics of the Yeltsin advanced have been grandstanding celebrities like Nikita Mikhalkov, a filmmaker who thrived beneath Mr. Yeltsin’s presidency however has since recast himself as an incredible Russian patriot and Putin loyalist.
He has repeatedly demanded, to date with out success, that the middle, and a second Yeltsin museum beneath development in central Moscow, be closed down in order to guard Russia from the previous president’s “poison.”
The denunciations have solely helped sustain public curiosity.
Andrei Pirashkov, a 23-year-old communist who was elected final 12 months to the Metropolis Council in Yekaterinburg, stated he was no fan of Mr. Yeltsin however usually visited the middle for its energetic seminars and public debates.
“I’m in opposition to making a character cult round Yeltsin,” Mr. Pirashkov stated, “However the true situation now could be Putin.”