Mikhail Gorbachev – A Statesman

As the world marks the passing of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, VOAâ€...

As the world marks the passing of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh shares the thoughts of international journalists and his own memories of what it was like to report on the international statesman.

Mikhail Gorbachev passed away 30 August 2022 after a long illness. He was buried on Saturday without state honours or the presence of Vladimir Putin. “He was a peacemaker, he was one of God’s sons,” said Tatiana, 80, who said she had come to the ceremony despite poor health.

MOSCOW SEPTEMBER 3: Mikhail Gorbachev was born in Russia on March 2, 1931, in the district of Privopole, Stavropol Krai. His parents were Russian-Ukrainian peasants. When he was born, Joseph Stalin was in power in Russia. As a young man, he lived and worked on a collective farm, where he operated combines. He joined the Communist Party as a young man. At that time, the Party was dominated by the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State University. There he met Raisa Titarenko, who he married in 1953.

Gorbachev earned his law degree in 1955. He then began working with the Komsomol youth organization, where he gained a reputation for his leadership. After Stalin died, Gorbachev became a supporter of Nikita Khrushchev’s efforts to abolish Stalin’s policies. Gorbachev was named to the Stavropol Regional Committee, commissioned to construct the Great Stavropol Canal. In 1978, he moved to Moscow to become part of the Communist party’s Central Committee. By 1979, his efforts were recognized, and he was appointed to be part of the Politburo (the Russian ruling body.) In 1985, Gorbachev was elected as General Secretary of this ruling body. This election made him the leader of the ruling body.

As the Russian leader, Gorbachev favored continuing the Party’s Socialist ideals, but he also realized it needed some modernization. He was especially concerned after the Chornobyl disaster in 1986. Gorbachev withdrew troops from the Soviet-Afghan war and approached US President Ronald Reagan to join him at a Summit. There they held extensive discussions and attempted to come to an agreement about reducing nuclear power and ending the Cold War. Gorbachev is known for having promoted a policy called “glasnost”.

Glasnost was a radically controversial policy due to its attempts to increase freedom of the press and freedom of speech. It advocated openness of government policy and recommended a reduction of secrecy by government officials. Glasnost was in opposition to former governmental censorship of those rights. Gorbachev also began a restructuring of the Party, which he called “perestroika”.

Perestroika became another revolutionary agenda. Gorbachev believed the country’s economic decisions should be made at the local level instead of by the national government, so he advocated a significant restructuring of political power and influence. He believed this would allow socialism to be more prevalent in its efforts to provide benefits to the working and middle classes. This provided freedom and autonomy to local leaders, but removing the central government from these economic decisions angered some Politburo politicians who had enjoyed their previous influence on local economics. Unlike previous Russian political leaders, Gorbachev did not object when some of the countries in the Eastern Bloc ( Soviet-influenced countries including Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania) chose to put aside their Marxist-Leninist philosophies in 1989-1990. This was seen as passivity and was considered “the last straw” for Gorbachev’s opponents, and some leaders within the Party then formed a coup against Gorbachev in 1991.

In the aftermath of that coup, the Soviet Union began to dissolve and was eventually disbanded. Gorbachev realized his reign was no longer effective and resigned from the presidency.

Mikhail Gorbachev
On September 3, 2022, in Moscow, in the Hall of Columns, a civil memorial service was held for Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the last General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, the first and last President of the USSR.

Gorbachev then founded the Gorbachev foundation. This non-profit organization conducted research and provided public advocacy for Gorbachev’s “perestroika” philosophy. After Gorbachev’s resignation, Boris Yeltsin was elected President. Gorbachev and the foundation maintained a vocal opposition to Yeltsin’s policies and later also opposed the policies of Vladimir Putin. Gorbachev passed away 30 August 2022 after a long illness.

Gorbachev’s leadership made an indelible impact on Russia – as well as throughout the world. He is recognized as one of the most influential leaders of the second half of the 20th Century. His legacy is considered controversial. He received many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been praised for his role in ending the Cold War, improving the political and economic conditions of the Soviet Union, and in not opposing the freedom of the Eastern Bloc countries. He was also instrumental in helping the proponents of the reunification of Germany. Some Russian leaders remain critical of Gorbachev since the dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in economic upheaval in Russia. But, on the whole, his legacy is that of a great leader who was respected by most of those who objectively evaluate his contributions to Russia and to the world.

Russia laid to rest the last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev in a Moscow ceremony but without the fanfare of a state funeral. He was buried on Saturday without state honours or the presence of Vladimir Putin. Putin said he was too busy to attend. And it was just as well. Mikhail Gorbachev was a man of great dignity. Putin’s presence would have polluted an otherwise dignified ceremony.

Thousands of Russians filed past the open casket of Mikhail Gorbachev on Saturday with many saying they wanted to honour his memory as “a peacemaker” who dismantled totalitarianism and gave them their freedom. Gorbachev was buried at Moscow’s famous Novodevichy cemetery alongside his wife Raisa, who died in 1999.

“He was a peacemaker, he was one of God’s sons,” said Tatiana, 80, who said she had come to the ceremony despite poor health.

Image: SergioOren

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