Moscow / Berlin (dpa) – Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated former Kremlin boss Mikhail Gorbachev on his 90th birthday and thanked him for his political achievements.
“I am happy to use your special day as an opportunity to thank you once again for your personal commitment to the peaceful victory of the Cold War and the completion of German unity,” Merkel said congratulations to Gorbachev on Tuesday.
The ill health of the Nobel Peace Prize winner celebrated the anniversary largely isolated from the outside world due to the corona pandemic. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American colleague Joe Biden also congratulated the former Soviet head of state who initiated pioneering nuclear disarmament initiatives between Moscow and Washington in the 1980s. In a letter of congratulation published by Gorbachev’s translators, Biden said Gorbachev “made the world a safer place”.
Chancellor Merkel wrote that Gorbachev could look back on his life’s work with pride. “Your significant contribution to freedom reunification will remain unforgettable in Germany, as will your continued personal commitment to friendly relations between our two countries.” As one of the fathers of German unity, “Gorbi”, as the Germans respectfully call him, managed to secure his place in history some 30 years ago. At that time he negotiated the conditions for reunification with Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930-2017).
The former general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is considered one of the greatest reformers of the 20th century. The anniversary, who wanted to organize a video conference with close friends, said on his birthday in an interview with the state agency Tass that he was being abused in his home country. But today he sees his policy of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (transformation), which he introduced in the 1980s, as the most important achievement of his life.
“Without glasnost, nothing would have changed in the country,” said Gorbachev, who also announced a new letter book by citizens, among others. With the politics of glasnost and perestroika he delivered millions of people in Eastern Europe from communist tyranny and into freedom.
Kremlin chief Putin praised the first and last Soviet president as a world-class personality. “You are rightly one of those colorful, unusual people; outstanding state officials of the present day who have had a significant influence on the course of national and world history. “
Putin wrote that Gorbachev’s “great professional life experience, energy and creative power” would still help him “be actively involved in the necessary social, educational work.” Gorbachev continues to implement international humanitarian projects, it said in the Kremlin’s congratulatory telegram.
Many Russians blame Gorbachev for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the powerful communist empire 30 years ago. Russian state polling institute WZIOM published a poll on the day of honor, according to which 72 percent of respondents think the country has gone in the wrong direction under Gorbachev. 51 percent said their policies did more harm than good at the time.
On the other hand, for the democratically-minded part of Russian society, Gorbachev is still a symbol of freedom. With his political foundation and co-owner of the Kremlin-critical newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”, he is still considered a major voice in Russia. The politician, who today considers himself a Social Democrat, repeatedly criticized the increasing repression under Putin – and warned of a backsliding into the dictatorship.