Moscow (dpa) – Mikhail Gorbachev does not settle down even at the age of 90. Despite being hospitalized and largely isolated as a result of the corona pandemic, the Nobel Peace Prize winner often speaks out – with his concerns about the state of the world.
“Just don’t allow war,” said the former Soviet president in a recent interview on his website gorby.ru. “Keep the peace and strive to improve people’s lives!” What would he wish for his birthday on March 2? “Friendship and support.”
“Gorbi”, as the Germans respectfully call him, is relieved, not least because US President Joe Biden and Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin barely sign the last major nuclear disarmament treaty – New Start – between the two greatest nuclear powers. have saved. After coming to power in 1985 as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev launched extensive disarmament initiatives with the United States in the 1980s.
Washington recently ended some of this. Gorbachev regrets this and calls for new, large-scale disarmament initiatives. A face-to-face meeting between Putin and Biden is necessary, he says. “To make progress, you have to approach each other openly.” Despite all the conflicts, the presidents could do a lot for global security if they wanted to.
On his birthday, the first and last Soviet president looks back on many geopolitical achievements: for example, on German unity, which he negotiated with Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930-2017). With that he ended the Cold War. His policy of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (transformation), with which he once liberated people from communist tyranny, is also unforgettable.
To this day, Gorbachev is considered a symbol of freedom, as the leader of the Kremlin who enabled not only the end of the GDR and German reunification. He also left other Eastern bloc states visited by Moscow to their self-determined fate. But he also had to watch as the Baltic states finally broke away from the Soviet Union at the turn of the century – and how eventually the entire communist empire, which occupied Moscow by force, collapsed.
While the Germans received him in 1989 with “Gorbi !, Gorbi” shouts and he is generally gaining popularity abroad, he is losing more and more authority in his own country and is “driven by someone who had lost his creative role” . This is what the author Ignaz Lozo writes in the new great biography for his 90th birthday entitled «Gorbachev. Der Weltveränderer »(Scientific Book Association wbg). “His mistake was that he was still betting on the Communist Party (…).”
To this day, many Russians despise Gorbachev as the Soviet Union’s “gravedigger” who humiliated and ultimately destroyed the proud world power that defeated Hitler’s fascism in World War II. That was 30 years ago this year. And it was also the end of Gorbachev as the most powerful man in Moscow when Boris Yeltsin took power after a 1991 coup.
In his biography of Gorbachev, Lozo describes the political and personal life of the politician, including the role of his wife Raissa, who died of cancer at a young age. The author, who met the politician several times as a journalist, draws a personal portrait of the man: he tells how Gorbachev, from a loyal party official with many privileges in his home region of Stavropol, where he was born in the village of Privolnoye in 1931, to a of the greatest reformers of the 20th century.
“Gorbachev released more than 164 million people: 38 million Poles, nearly 16 million Czechs and Slovaks, 23 million Romanians, nearly nine million Bulgarians and Hungarians each, and about 16 million Germans in the GDR,” he writes. But he failed to maintain the Soviet Union.
The desperate economic situation eventually brought the communist power bloc to its knees, also because the Soviet Union, which depended on its raw material sales, hardly generated any income from the low oil price. Gorbachev, Lozo sums up, understood little about economic issues and was therefore fickle and hesitant.
However, Lozo contradicts the image of the weak leader Gorbachev that is widespread in Russia. In his book, he examines the power struggles and intrigues in the Kremlin – and comes to the conclusion that despite all the troubles – such as the Soviet war in Afghanistan and the nuclear disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – Gorbachev conquered his opponents. “If Gorbachev had been a weak leader, he would have given in to hard-liners’ resistance in Soviet politics.”
After meeting Gorbachev, Lozo reports that he responded confidently, calmly and at best a little melancholy to the accusations that he had destroyed the Soviet Empire: “Oh, I know myself what I did right.”
For the democratically-minded section of Russian society, Gorbachev remains an important voice with his political base and as a co-owner of the Kremlin-critical newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”. He has repeatedly praised Putin, head of the Kremlin, for his foreign policy, including the creation of the Ukrainian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in 2014. But the politician, who today sees himself as a social democrat, also criticizes the increasing repression under Putin. – and warns of a relapse into dictatorship.