very little time remains to a momentous date
in our history. The year 2000 is upon us, a
new century, a new millennium.
We have all measured this date against
ourselves, working out — first in childhood,
then after we grew up — how old we would be
in the year 2000, how old our mothers would
be, and our children. Back then it seemed
such a long way off to the extraordinary New
Year. So now the day has come.
Dear friends, my dears, today I am wishing
you New Year greetings for the last time.
But that is not all. Today I am addressing
you for the last time as Russian president.
I have made a decision. I have contemplated
this long and hard. Today, on the last day
of the outgoing century, I am retiring.
Many times I have heard it said: Yeltsin
will try to hold on to power by any means,
he won't hand it over to anyone. That is all
lies. That is not the case. I have always
said that I would not take a single step
away from the constitution, that the Duma
elections should take place within the
constitutional timescale. This has happened.
And likewise, I would have liked the
presidential elections to have taken place
on schedule in June 2000. That was very
important for Russia. We were creating a
vital precedent of a civilized, voluntary
hand over of power, power from one president
of Russia to another, newly elected one.
And yet, I have taken a different decision.
I am standing down. I am standing down
earlier than scheduled. I have realized that
I have to do this. Russia must enter the new
millennium with new politicians, new faces,
new intelligent, strong and energetic
people. As for those of us who have been in
power for many years, we must go.
Seeing with what hope and belief people
voted during the Duma elections for a new
generation of politicians, I understood that
I had done the main job of my life. Russia
will never return to the past. Russia will
now always be moving forward.
I must not stand in its way, in the way of
the natural progress of history.
Why holding on to power for another six
months, when the country has a strong
person, fit to be president, with whom
practically all Russians link their hopes
for the future today? Why should I stand in
his way? Why wait for another six months?
No, this is not me, this is not in my
Today, on this incredibly important day for
me, I want to say more personal words than I
usually do. I want to ask you for
forgiveness, because many of our hopes have
not come true, because what we thought would
be easy turned out to be painfully
I ask to forgive me for not fulfilling some
hopes of those people who believed that we
would be able to jump from the grey,
stagnating, totalitarian past into a bright,
rich and civilized future in one go.
I myself believed in this. But it could not
be done in one fell swoop. In some respects
I was too naive. Some of the problems were
too complex. We struggled on through
mistakes and failures. At this complex time
many people experienced upheavals in their
lives. But I want you to know that I never
said this would be easy.
Today it is important for me to tell you the
following. I also experienced the pain which
each of you experienced. I experienced it in
my heart, with sleepless nights, agonizing
over what needed to be done to ensure that
people lived more easily and better, if only
a little. I did not have any objective more
important than that.
I am leaving. I have done everything I
could. I am not leaving because of my
health, but because of all the problems
A new generation is taking my place, the
generation of those who can do more and do
it better. In accordance with the
constitution, as I go into retirement, I
have signed a decree entrusting the duties
of the president of Russia to Prime Minister
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.
For the next three months, again in
accordance with the constitution, he will be
head of state. Presidential elections will
be held in three months time.
I have always had confidence in the amazing
wisdom of Russian citizens. Therefore, I
have no doubt what choice you will make at
the end of March 2000.
In saying farewell, I wish to say to each of
you the following. Be happy. You deserve
happiness. You deserve happiness and peace.
Happy new year, happy new century, my dear
Announcing His Retirement via TV
December 31, 1999