Throwback Thursday: How Boris Yeltsin's resignation indirectly shaped Bleeding Heartland

On December 31, 1999, Boris Yeltsin resigned the Russian presidency six months before the end of his term, making Prime Minister Vladimir Putin acting president and forcing an early presidential election. I was in graduate school, working on a dissertation about corporate and state power over the Russian media during the post-Soviet period. I had recently spent eight weeks in Moscow reporting on the parliamentary election campaign for my former full-time employer, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I didn’t realize those would be the last Russian elections in which the outcome was not a foregone conclusion.

As soon as I heard Yeltsin had stepped down, I knew I would be returning to Moscow sooner than planned to help cover the presidential campaign for RFE/RL. I didn’t realize that someday I would look back on the sequence of events from Putin becoming prime minister in August 1999 to his first presidential election as the beginning of the end for what was supposed to be my life’s work.

I continued to freelance for RFE/RL for five more years, occasionally writing up daily news and producing in-depth reports on Russia’s 2003 parliamentary elections and 2004 presidential race. But over time, most of my favorite beats became irrelevant or much less interesting. The way Putin’s rise to power affected me can’t compare to the consequences for 100 million plus Russian citizens and many people in countries neighboring the Russian Federation. The fact remains: had Yeltsin chosen a different kind of successor, I probably would not have immersed myself in Iowa politics later.

Drew Miller didn’t know any of this when he invited me to start writing for Bleeding Heartland’s front page in early 2007. We’d never met in person or talked offline. Soon after creating this website with Chris Woods, Drew landed a new job that was incompatible with blogging. He knew “desmoinesdem” only as one of the earliest registered users at Bleeding Heartland and a regular commenter at other Iowa sites. I hadn’t put much thought into my alter ego’s name; desmoinesdem was just a handle for posting at American political blogs, beginning in 2003 when I was still publishing regularly about Russia under my own byline.

I have become attached to Bleeding Heartland as a vehicle for digging into the same topics I loved covering in Russia during the 1990s: campaigns and elections, legislative work, corporate influence over public policy, and media bias.

Thank you to everyone who has in any way supported my ongoing effort to reinvent myself as a writer.

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  • Nice

    Comment Keep up the good work. I have enjoyed this site for years. I check it every day. Feel the Bern.

  • Nice

    Keep up the good work. I have enjoyed this site for years. I check it every day. Feel the Bern.

  • Thank you

    I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate Bleeding Heartland for the in-depth coverage and great analysis. Keep up the great work. 2016 will be very interesting year for Iowa politics.

  • Good going, Drew!

    Drew was a great blogger. He also chose a great successor. You have made Bleeding Heartland into the heavyweight of Iowa blogs. Thanks for telling us how it happened.

  • Thank you Bleeding Heartland

    Because of Bleeding Heartland, I can act as an expert on Iowa politics. Thanks.

  • Thank you for an incredible effort

    The amount of time Desmoinesdem dedicates to this blog is simply astounding. Without Bleeding Heartland, I would know very little about political happenings in my former home state. But it’s not only the Iowa news that keep me coming back more or less daily. I really enjoy the intellectually honest and balanced view on national politics and candidates. With great admiration, thank you!

  • Thanks for the rest of the story

    Laurie, I faithfully followed your Russia reports in those days and had no idea you were also a commentator on Iowa politics. Now I am your fan both times! ~Dan Clark (Muscatine)