April 25, 2007
Dear Family, friends and colleagues,
Last night I was invited to attend the beginning of the public funeral for President
Yeltsin in Moscow. Here are some pictures of those who stood in line for many hours to say farewell to him and pay their respects to the Yeltsin family at the cathedral. People were quietly talking as we waited in the long line of allages. Few young children were in attendance. Security existed but was not pervasive. Identifications were not checked.
The line continued to grow for many blocks towards the Kremlin after midnight when we paid our final respects.
We stood inside the cathedral as long as we wished while many placed flowers on tables and lit orthodox candles in full view.
This is considered the first funeral of a high state official in a church here. The first democratically elected
President lay in an open casket in the center of the cathedral. Several men in a small choir sang next to him in this structure of nearly perfect acoustics. The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was rebuilt during his tenure. People are still living who saw the first cathedral destroyed in 1933. Yesterday, respect was demonstrated for the man in the country that continues to experience significant historic change and growth.
In August 1991 Boris Yeltsin stood on the tank in defiance of an attempted coup. While opinions still vary with respect to this larger than life man, it is difficult to ignore his destiny for the country, democracy and the world at large.
I share this with you as the world arrives today including former US Presidents and other leaders, and in the spirit of the Fulbright Program, building further mutual understanding. There are a number of things which we are witnessing to pass on to our children.
Fulbright Scholar, USSR 1991, Russia 1995, 2006-7; Visiting Professor, British Higher School of Art and Design, Moscow; Curator of Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; Associate Adjunct Professor, Art and Art History Department, University of New Mexico, USA.
Postscript: In 1995 the US President and major leaders of countries in Europe came to Moscow to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. They came to show respect to the Russian people who paid dearly with their lives thus helping to win that war. President Clinton asked the US Embassy to extend his invitation to Fulbright Scholars and one guest to hear his lecture at the oldest university in Russia, Moscow State University. I invited Dr. Elena Burasovsky, a graduate of the department of economics. We sat and listened with university faculty, staff and students - another important moment in history. The US President then stayed to talk with students afterwards outside in the rain.
When President Yeltsin passed, Dr. Burasovsky sadly informed me of his death. We were looking at history again and we spent time thoughtfully thinking about the changes since 1991. I had first arrived in Moscow as a Fulbright Scholar to the USSR just a month after the August putsch when Yeltsin stood on the tank. History would have been different without these events.
This time, I told Dr. Burasovsky, you came to see my President, let’s go to see yours. She hesitated and then moments later, came back and said we would go with her daughter, Masha, about to graduate in journalism from the same university. Thus we paid our last respects as we witnessed history's continuation and change in Russia and the world.