1) By 1998 "Democracy" in Russia, perversely, had zero democratic legitimacy. Not only did many Russians miss the heady days of the USSR, but the Russian state had clearly failed to generate or even maintain any standard of living. So while Russians today regularly say they support "democracy", they really have no love for what democracy did and how it performed.
2) The illusion that Yeltsin's rule was democratic really needs to be squashed once and for all. Here, Stephen Cohen writes excellently in the Nation:
As for Yeltsin's role, even the most event-making leaders need supporters in order to carry out historic acts. Yeltsin abolished the Soviet Union in December 1991 with the backing of a self-interested alliance. All of its groups called themselves "democrats" and "reformers," but the two most important were unlikely allies: the nomenklatura elites that were pursuing the "smell of property like a beast after prey," in the revealing metaphor of Yeltsin's own chief minister, and wanted property much more than any kind of democracy or free-market competition; and an avowedly prodemocracy wing of the intelligentsia. Traditional enemies in the pre-Gorbachev Soviet system, they colluded in 1991 largely because the intelligentsia's radical market ideas seemed to justify nomenklatura privatization.I'm listening to Cohen now on the podcast for Open Source (an excellent NPR program) and one of the things he points out is that when Gorbachev agreed without complaint to the reunification of Germany, and the inclusion of that reunified Germany within NATO, the US in the person of James Baker promised that NATO would not move a single inch closer to the USSR.
But the most influential pro-Yeltsin intellectuals, who played leading roles in his post-Soviet government, were neither coincidental fellow travelers nor real democrats. Since the late 1980s, they had insisted that free-market economics and large-scale private property would have to be imposed on a recalcitrant Russian society by an "iron hand" regime. This "great leap," as they extolled it, would entail "tough and unpopular" policies resulting in "mass dissatisfaction" and thus would necessitate "anti-democratic measures." Like the property-seeking elites, they saw Russia's newly elected legislatures as an obstacle. Admirers of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who had brutally imposed economic change on Chile, they said of Yeltsin, now their leader, "Let him be a dictator!" Not surprisingly, they cheered (along with the US government and mainstream media) when he used tanks to destroy Russia's popularly elected Parliament in 1993.
The constant drumbeat of the American press - wailing constantly about Russia's reversals, but unwilling to admit to any of America's broken promises - puts me in a pretty foul mood some days.