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Western Press Review: Russian Tsar To Be Laid To Rest

By Elizabeth Weinstein and Dora Slaba

Prague, 16 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Eighty years after Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks, the remains of Russia's last Tsar and his family are today on their way to a final resting place at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Western press says the burial will mean more to Russian President Boris Yeltsin than the spectators at the event will know.

The Japanese people also take center stage, as commentators address the fine-line between slow and radical change as part of Japanese political mentality. And finally, some last words are spoken on the World Cup.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Yeltsin is trying to avoid any pretext for confrontation

An editorial in the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung says that the burial of Tsar Nicholas' bones leaves Yeltsin torn between the Russian Orthodox Church, which doubts the authenticity of the remains, and researchers who have verified the remains.

It says, "It has been proved unequivocally for Russian and foreign researchers, who have been involved in the results of the gene analysis that these are the remains of the Tsar family murdered in 1918. Nevertheless the Russian Orthodox Church, who suggested canonizing the tsar, is doubting the result. President Boris Yeltsin can only be pleased at this, although he himself determined the date and place of the burial of the discovered bones at the beginning of the 90s."

It concludes, "Yeltsin is trying to avoid any pretext for confrontation. That is why he has not renewed his earlier proposals to at last bury Vladimir Lenin whose embalmed and guarded corpse is displayed for inquisitive tourists in the Mausoleum on the Red Square."

NEW YORK TIMES: Boris Yeltsin plays a curious role in the rehabilitation of the Romanovs

In a New York Times commentary, Philip Taubman writes that the tsar's remains represent part of Yeltsin's past that has come back to haunt him. He writes, "Then there is the curious role of Boris Yeltsin in the rehabilitation of the Romanovs. Long before he became president, when he was the top Communist Party executive in his hometown of Yekaterinburg, he ordered the destruction of the building where Nicholas and his family were incarcerated and executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918."

"Yeltsin later called the demolition of Ipatiev house a 'piece of barbarism,' and argued that he had had no choice but to carry out the decision of the Politburo in Moscow. Still, it was Yeltsin who sent the bulldozers out in the middle of the night. A small shrine to Nicholas now stands on the vacant lot, and Yeltsin, eager to make up for the destruction, arranged for the proper burial of Nicholas this week."

Taubman concludes by linking the past with the present: "So Nicholas re-enters St. Petersburg as a source of conflict, much as he exited eight decades ago after his abdication, when the Provisional government of Aleksandr Kerensky packed the royal family and their servants on a train headed to Siberia and an uncertain future. That he would remain the subject of contention is partly attributable to the manner in which he died and the brutal revolution in whose name he was killed. But it also testament to the political and religious divisions that continue to torment Russia."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: The true victory belongs to the Japanese people

While the Russian people bury the past, the Japanese people look to the future. A commentary in the International Herald Tribune by Patrick Smith says the real winners of the Japanese elections, which led to Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto's resignation this week, are the Japanese people themselves. Smith says their vote is an advance toward a working, responsive democracy. He writes, "But the true victory belongs to the Japanese. Long cast as pocketbook voters with no vision and an abiding attachment to the status quo, they have forced Tokyo and the rest of the world to recognize them as the only true agents of change."

"This is salutary and scary all at once. It is now evident that the Japanese seek a fundamental shift in national direction when just such a shift is essential to global economic equilibrium. As one may have suspected all along, it is the leadership in Tokyo that bridles against change - and in its own interests, not those of the electorate."

He concludes, "The majority of Japanese, safe to say, want change. But they have little enthusiasm for "globalization" and the challenges to community life that it so often represents. Left to their own devices, the Japanese would probably resemble the French more than the Americans when, many years hence, their reform agenda is completed."

KANSAS CITY STAR: Events will overtake bureaucratic inertia

Kansas City Star commentator, Jerry Heaster, agrees that the Japanese push to a more stable democracy means making changes slowly and quietly. He writes, "The election losses that led to his (Hashimoto's) departure mostly reflected a dissatisfaction by the Japanese people with economic conditions. That's not the same thing, however, as voting for radical change. The Japanese aren't into radical change any more than most members of other settled, stable societies."

But Heaster concludes by warning that political and economic change in Japan depends on bureaucracy - a force that has traditionally stymied reform. He writes, "Meaningful change in Japan depends on the bureaucracy, particularly the Ministry of Finance. There have been no indications so far that the bureaucracy is keen to embrace then sort of changes needed."

"What will change then eventually, however, will be the financial market deregulation that recently got under way in Japan. Events will overtake bureaucratic inertia and the second-largest economy on the planet will increasingly operate in response to market forces."

"All of which will take time, lots of time."

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Measures have had the effect of bringing the supply of talented foreign players more in line with the demand

Finally today, commentators take a final look at the racial mix of World Cup soccer players. They speculate that French Algerian Zinedine Zidane, who led France to victory Sunday, is representative of an overall push to recruit talented players to Europe from other countries. A commentary by Jacobo Rodriguez in the Wall Street Journal-Europe explains that marketing, television contracts and more money for the sport have lured players to Europe.

He writes, "Today, players from any European Union country can play in the league of another EU country and count as domestic players. And non-EU players who have been playing in an EU league for a number of years also count as nationals, often taking advantage of liberal naturalization laws that apply to players from former colonies of a European country."

"Finally, the maximum number of non-EU foreign players per team has been increased from two to three or four, depending on the league. All in all, those measures have had the effect of bringing the supply of talented foreign players more in line with the demand for them."

IRISH TIMES: The French football team was truly representative of France's ethnic diversity

Irish Times commentator, Lara Marlowe, hopes that international recruitment will affect racism. She uses France as an example, saying that the racial mix of France's own football team represents the racial mix of the country itself.

She writes, "So, will France's current state of World Cup grace have a lasting effect? Will France permanently shed its reputation for racism? Will Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front lose some of its 15 percent of the electorate?"

"The winning team was, in the words of President Chirac, 'tricolor and multicolor.' Others called it 'black, white, and beur.' (Beur is the term for French people of North African origin.)"

Marlowe continues, "But if France has the highest number of racists, it also has the highest percentage of citizens of foreign origin in Europe -- and the most vocal anti-racist groups. One quarter of the French population has a foreign parent or grandparent, so the French football team was truly representative of France's ethnic diversity."

She concludes with a compliment for France and its football players: "The new French epoch heralded by the World Cup victory values naturalness, simplicity, hard work, honesty, discretion and team work -- not attributes associated with the French in the past."