In This Review

Midnight Diaries
Midnight Diaries
By Boris Yeltsin
PublicAffairs, 2000, 398 pp.

One comes away from this memoir of Yeltsin's last three years in power wondering whether he was this cunning or simply naive. At times he is startlingly frank, as when he confesses how close he came to sabotaging the 1996 elections or how baldly he and his team covered up his heart condition during the elections. At other times he appears to be either entirely out of touch or dissembling -- for example, when discussing his erratic sacking of prime ministers or his strange view of their governments as entities divorced from his presidency. Sometimes he simply seems to be in denial -- for example, when it comes to the corruption of those around him -- or conveniently forgetful, especially when it comes to his own celebrated personal lapses. The book is still worth reading, not only because it adds useful information (a good deal of which need not be discounted) but because it yields further insight into the man, however distorted.