Opinion: Mikhail Gorbachev has failed and made the world a better place | TBEN | 31.08.2022


The communist utopia has never materialized – neither through kind words and promises, nor through mass executions and gulags.

In 1985, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union made a last-ditch effort to preserve its empire. The then relatively young leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, had to bridge a widening gap and catch up with the West. But, like all his predecessors, he struggled.

His failure didn’t just end the Cold War. By loosening the shackles of repression that held the communist empire together, he gave millions back their freedom and with it their dignity – including Russians, Ukrainians and other people in the Soviet Union.

They regained their national identity as Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Latvians and so on, becoming citizens with civil rights. They were no longer expected to see themselves as the proletariat standing in front of empty supermarket shelves and at the same time pretending to live in some kind of paradise.

‘A common European home’

Tragically, Gorbachev is now dead, all the time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the people of the Baltic states – Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, East Germans, Romanians and others – joined what Gorbachev once called the “common European home.”

But his own Russian compatriots still cannot decide to do the same. Russia is a late country. Even worse, the current Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin also wants to prevent Ukrainians and Belarusians from walking the road to freedom and democracy.

Putin wants a return to pathos, utopia and slavery. He wants people to serve the state, not the other way around, as in communist times. As in the communist dictatorship, any public disagreement is dangerous in today’s Russia, where citizens are lied to through the state-controlled media. Like the members of the former Politburo, Putin suffers from the delusion that Moscow is surrounded by enemies. As in the days of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, today’s Nomenklatura is filling its pockets at the expense of the public, with corruption and mismanagement everywhere.

Gorbachev promoted transparency by opening the Soviet archives so that the Russians could see for themselves how many millions of their own people had killed Stalin and Lenin for no reason. Putin did the opposite: closing the archives, censoring history books, reenacting the state dogma of infallibility, and resorting to lies to promote the patriotic education of the masses.

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Putin, a political dinosaur

During his time, Gorbachev withdrew troops from the invincible war in Afghanistan. Putin, on the other hand, has sent troops in a “special military operation” to fight the nonexistent fascism in Ukraine. Putin is a political dinosaur, inspired by 19th century ideas. He is a leader who is fighting for the creation of global ‘spheres of interest’ because he is unable to modernize Russia’s economy and infrastructure.

He doesn’t understand that today’s young Russians will choose material prosperity – like the latest iPhone – over national greatness (whatever that is). This is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of highly educated Russians who have left the country since the invasion of Ukraine began in February.

Admittedly, Gorbachev was a party official with little economic expertise. East Germany’s command economy, supposedly one of the most advanced systems out there, was impossible to reform, as became apparent after 1990. Most likely, a Kremlin leader would have failed to quickly rebuild Moscow’s planned economy. reform.

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Putin’s alleged economic performance 20 years ago was entirely due to high commodity prices. Or are there any products that Russia has developed and produced that are in demand all over the world – apart from weapons?

Language of the pariah

Gorbachev secured a place in the history books. No other politician changed the world for the better in the second half of the 20th century. Millions of people around the world started learning the Russian language thanks to Gorbachev, this new, humane politician.

Putin, on the other hand, has made Russian the language of the pariah. Even many Ukrainians don’t speak it anymore. And in the West, cultural managers feel they have to answer for performing a Tchaikovsky ballet, or a Dostoevsky lecture, and instead perform something else.

Yes, Gorbachev’s life was tragic at times, he failed all too often. But his intention was to change the world for the better. At least he tried.

This article was originally published in German