December 31, 1999, 9:35am EST
The full text of outgoing Russian President Boris Yeltsin's resignation speech.
A very short time remains before a magical dfate in our history. The year 2000 is approaching. A new century, a new millennium. We have all tried on this date. We have pondered, beginning in childhood, then having grown up, how old we would be in 2000, and how old our mothers would be, and how old our children would be. At some point, this unusual New Year seemed so far away.
Now this day is upon us.
Dear friends! My dear ones!
Today I am turning to you for the last time with New Year's greetings. But that's not all. Today I am turning to you for the last time as president of Russia.
I have made a decision.
I thought long and hard over it. Today, on the last day of the departing century, I am resigning.
I have heard many times that "Yeltsin will hang onto power by any means, he won't give it to anyone." That's a lie.
But that's not the point. I have always said that I would not depart one bit from the constitution. That Duma (parliamentary) elections should take place in the constitutionally established terms. That was done. And I also wanted presidential elections to take place on time -- in June 2000. This was very important for Russia. We are creating a very important precedent of a civilized, voluntary transfer of power, power from one president of Russia to another, newly elected one.
And still, I made a different decision. I am leaving. I am leaving earlier than the set term.
I have understood that it was necessary for me to do this. Russia must enter the new millennium with new politicians, with new faces, with new, smart, strong, energetic people.
And we who have been in power for many years already, we must go.
Seeing with what hope and faith people voted in the Duma elections for a new generation of politicians, I understood that I have completed the main thing of my life. Already, Russia will never return to the past. Now, Russia will always move only forward.
And I should not interfere with this natural march of history. To hold onto power for another half-year, when the country has a strong man who is worthy of being president and with whom practically every Russian today ties his hopes for the future? Why should I interfere with him? Why wait still another half-year? No, that's not for me! It's simply not in my character!
Today, on this day that is so extraordinarily important for me, I want to say just a few more personal words than usual.
I want to ask for your forgiveness.
For the fact that many of the dreams we shared did not come true. And for the fact that what seemed simple to us turned out to be tormentingly difficult. I ask forgiveness for not justifying some hopes of those people who believed that at one stroke, in one spurt, we could leap from the gray, stagnant, totalitarian past into the light, rich, civilized future. I myself believed in this, that we could overcome everything in one spurt.
I turned out to be too naive in something. In some places, problems seemed to be too complicated. We forced our way forward through mistakes, through failures. Many people in this hard time experienced shock.
But I want you to know. I have never said this. Today it's important for me to tell you. The pain of each of you has called forth pain in me, in my heart. Sleepless nights, tormenting worries -- about what needed to be done, so that people could live more easily and better. I did not have any more important task.
I am leaving. I did all I could -- not according to my health, but on the basis of all the problems. A new generation is relieving me, a generation of those who can do more and better.
In accordance with the constitution, as I resign, I have signed a decree placing the duties of the president of Russia on the head of government, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. For three months, again in accordance with the constitution, he will be the head of state. And in three months, presidential elections will take place.
I have always been certain of the surprising wisdom of Russians. That's why I don't doubt what choice you will make at the end of March 2000.
Bidding farewell, I want to tell each of you: Be happy. You deserve happiness. You deserve happiness and calm.
Happy New Year! Happy new century, my dear ones!