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The special relationship between Queen Sonja and Boris Yeltsin

Oskar Aanmoen/Royal Central

The fact that Europe’s queens and princesses have good relationships with each other is well known. But it’s more perhaps more unusual to hear about friendships between Europe’s royals and Russian politicians. et this was exactly what happened when Queen Sonja first met the first democratically elected leader of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. The free-spirited former Communist managed to charm the Norwegian Queen and created a lot of fun scenes with her in the 1990s.

Russia’s former president Boris Yeltsin was widely known to try to charm those he met. When he was on a State Visit to Norway in 1996, it was Queen Sonja who got to experience the so called “charm” of Yeltsin. On his way to an official lunch in Oslo, Yeltsin was photographed standing between Queen Sonja and Norway’s Prime Minister Gro Bruntland. Suddenly he smiled at the two women, grabbed them both under their arm`s and said “Malina so slivkami” as he licked around his mouth.

The Russian term means “raspberry with cream”. It was not at all difficult to see that the President was drunk, which he often was even during the day. Although both the queen and the prime minister appeared to laugh off the incident, the president received strong criticism for this inappropriate statement.

The picture of the three, where Yeltsin holds the queen in one arm and the prime minister in the other, was quickly broadcast around the world, and the picture is one of those one remembered best from Yeltsin’s visit to Norway that year.

In Per Hegge`s biography on King Harald, the king himself tells about his and the queen relationship to Boris Yeltsin. King Harald says in the book that when he and the queen was on a return state visit to Russia two years later in 1998, the Russian president was very proud of his orchestra.

The king then tells a funny story about when Yeltsin put the big dinner on hold just to dance with the Norwegian queen. His Majesty King Harald says in the book: “When the president heard that the queen was fond of dancing, he took command, ordered a waltz and then they danced alone, the two, in the middle of the main course.”

Queen Sonja herself adds: “We danced alone under the dome of the Katarina Hall in the Kremlin. It was quite fun.”

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written five books on historical subjects and more than 700 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.