Letter: Boris Yeltsin, the latter-day Lincoln

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your denunciation of President Yeltsin's policy towards the Chechen secessionists ("Reaction at war with progress"; leading article, 10 January) closely parallels the criticism of Abraham Lincoln by the British press at the time of the American civil war.

Why, it was asked at the time, shouldn't southerners in the United States be allowed self-government? True, there were aspects of their behaviour of which it was hard to approve, but that did not affect the basic issue.

Blood was being spilt unnecessarily. Total war of a kind unacceptable to civilised society was being waged. Northern generalship was inept and desertion from the Union army rife. No good would come of it.

And yet President Lincoln is now remembered as the man who prevented the state over which he presided from disintegrating and made it the great liberal nation it is today.

Is it not conceivable that this is how President Yeltsin will one day be remembered?

Yours sincerely, HOWARD TEMPERLEY Norwich 10 January