Getting drunk in public and being too ill to run the country in his second term were too much. Enter Mr Putin.
It's hard - even impossible - to contemplate Mr Putin coming out of a lunch with the German chancellor and picking up a baton and conducting an orchestra in a drunken fashion.
Or failing to get off an aeroplane to meet a foreign leader because he had imbibed too much vodka.
Mr Yeltsin had heart attacks; Mr Putin's a black belt in judo and a skilful downhill skier.