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Your e-mails: 'Yeltsin was my personal hero'

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(CNN) -- Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin has died at the age of 76, a Kremlin spokesman confirmed today. Yeltsin had rarely been seen in public since resigning from office on December 31, 1999. He became the first democratically elected president of Russia in 1991.

We asked readers to share their thoughts on Yeltsin's death, and tell us what his legacy will be. Below is a selection of their responses, some of which have been edited for length and clarity.

Nolan Craber of Berkeley, California
President Yeltsin will go down in history as the leader of a nation in an age where there was hope. The image that rest is him standing on a tank, rallying the fragile seed of democracy to make its way. Paradoxically, he both opened up the window to a free Russia and closed it, by choosing a KGB-man as his successor. There are obvious similarities between him and [Aleksandr Fedorovic] Kerenskij, the leader in between the last tsar and the Bolshevik revolution. Both represent an orientation towards the West. Sadly, Russia turned authoritarian after their departure.

Victor of Patterson of Marsh Harbour, Bahamas
Boris N. Yeltsin was the man who -- more so than anybody else -- ended the cold war with his bravery. He had many fine moments, but few leaders in history have had one as magnificent as when he got up and stood on that tank, facing down decades of history with just his will. Boris Yeltsin was my personal hero.

Yuliya M. of Chicago, Illinois
I grew up during Yeltsin era -- time of the exciting change that shook up the whole Russia. I was 12 when he was standing on a tank talking to the crowds (in 1991). As a teenager, I was impressed with his charisma, decisiveness and urge for democracy. To me, he will always be the president who was backing up democracy at any cost: on a tank, dancing with the rock band, talking to the youth, pushing for reforms, letting the free press say and write whatever they want... Of course, he had few weaknesses that allowed those under him to use him and to 'steal from the state', but his accomplishments in making Russia a better and freer country overshadow everything else. I am deeply saddened that he is now gone, with him the crazy '90's in Russia are also over. I can only pray for Russia and hope that Yeltsin's legacy will stand up to Putin's lack of democracy.

George Skirkanich of Denver, Colorado
Boris Yeltsin was an amiable enough man, but not the right leader for Russia at the time. He had none of the stature of his predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, or the will to make Russia self sufficient again that his successor, Vladimir Putin, did. Mr. Yeltsin's tenure was an exercise in blindness to the needs of his people and his nation. He seemed to care more for his bottle of vodka than he did for the plight of the future of Russia or for the difficult transition it was enduring after the fall of the Soviet Union. There was economic chaos, massive corruption, organized crime and ballooning alcoholism, as I recall. He was quite popular with Russians who wanted to escape from their misery with delusions of better days to come.

I have nothing personal against Mr. Yeltsin, for he never intentionally did anything to harm Russia's reputation around the world. He had good intentions, but never really made any substantive progress in transforming Russia to a successful market economy. He was a nice man, but not a very capable leader for such an important nation.

Erik Lauritzen of Mansfield, Ohio
I have studied Russian as a language and from a historical standpoint, and from what I have yet experienced, Boris Yeltsin is a modern Lenin. He was a leader after yet another change in the regime. He made many political advances and helped Russia "come out in the open" and ease fears of the Cold War. He will be remembered by many Russians and American-Russians.

Guy Kirby of Beltsville, Maryland
I'll always remember Boris Yeltsin as the man who stood on that tank and faced down the Red Army. That was the moment that changed Russia and had a profound effect on the whole world.

V.K. Pai of Mangalore, India
Yeltsin will be known as the man of the hour and buffoon of the century. [The] U.S. will however love him, for he was a fool who could be manipulated easily. Well, he played his part the way he saw it.

Datril Andre Ward of Owings Mills, Maryland
Two things. I remember Boris Yeltsin for laughing with Pres Clinton ... that was truly funny -- an American pres and Russian pres laughing together -- who would ever thought that would happen?

And also when he had an interview with an American reporter. The reporter asked him a questions, Yeltsin looked at the reporter and said, "either you are an idiot or the translator is" -- but his facial expression was to die for! RIP Yeltsin!

Charlie Hicks of Manchester, Maine
It all depends on what Vladamir Putin does. If he follows Yeltsin's example and leaves at the end of his term, Yeltsin's example will appear Washingtonian. If Putin becomes just another dictator the Russians will look back on Yeltsin as a failure who gave up on power that he could have kept by force.

Jon Spencer of Bloomington, Indiana
As a child who grew up during the cold-war and came of age as it was ending Yeltsin will always have a sort of mythic legacy in my mind ... facing down the Soviet Tanks and fighting for a free Russia. It's truly tragic that he was never able to parlay that charisma into being an effective statesman.

Kurt Vella Fonde of Swieqi, Malta
Yelstin's legacy will long be remembered and political scientists surely have much to study on. He engineered the democratic process in Russia following the demise of the USSR. Closer and more friendly relations were build with the west after nearly half a century of cold war. Thanks to this Europe today is much more safer, states behind the iron curtain today form part of the EU, with the respect of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Yelstin contributed to all this in his own way.


Scott Burke sent this photo of Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday, greeting people outside the 1995 G7 Summit in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


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