Boris Yeltsin presided over the dismantling of the Soviet system, and to many Westerners he represented an icon against the communism they had grown to fear. One of the most vivid images I can remember of Boris Yeltsin is that of the Russian president on a Soviet tank, "saving" the forces of democracy from reactionary communists.
Yeltsin, however, also presided over the crooked fire-sale and fencing of state assets, leading to a golden age for a few well-placed ex-communists-turned-oligarchs in a political system that I like to describe as "gangsterocracy." For most Russians, the era of Boris Yeltsin meant a significant decline in living standards, economic opportunities, and lifespans.
We should also remember that Yeltsin's bungling led to the ill-conceived and poorly executed First Chechen War, a conflict that continues to fester nearly 13 years later. There is now an entire generation of young Chechen men who know nothing but death and a burning desire to exact revenge on what they view as an imperialist Russia.
Yeltsin also ushered in an age of managed elections and rising authoritarianism. Far from a devotee of democracy, Boris Yeltsin had one primary goal: securing and strengthening the power of the Russian presidency, while simultaneously enriching himself and his cronies.
Pray for Boris, but do not worship him. This was a flawed and corrupt politician who contributed little to the well-being of most Russians, and whose term in office is remarkable only in that he was the first Russian since Nicholas II to willingly give up power.