It was reported this morning that Mikhail Gorbachev planned to spend his 80th birthday, which is today, quietly with family at home. It seems Mr Gorbachev has received an unexpected visitor in the shape of President Medvedev, who has reportedly appeared at the last Soviet leader’s Gorki residence to present him with the country’s top award, the order of St. Andrew for ‘the proper recognition of your enormous work as head of state’. Gorbachev also received a personal telegram from Vladimir Putin calling him ‘one of the eminent statesmen of modernity who made a telling impact on the course of world history and did much to strengthen the authority of Russia’.
A rather surprising move, some would say, given that just last week the octogenarian statesman was fervently lambasting United Russia and the ‘incredible conceit’ of the ruling tandem. Deeper analysis will undoubtedly follow, for the moment here’s a pithy comment from the BBC:
[…] by conferring the Order of St Andrew, President Medvedev may be trying to show how different he is from Prime Minister Putin. After all, it was Mr Putin who once described the collapse of the USSR as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century”. When Putin was president, there were no medals for Gorbachev. In contrast, President Medvedev today acknowledged the “huge” contribution Gorbachev had made as Soviet leader.
By honouring Mr Gorbachev, President Medvedev is also burnishing hisown democratic credentials, reinforcing the message he has been tryingto convey that he is determined to reform Russia, to fight corruption,clean up the judiciary and introduce more pluralism in the politicalsystem.
It may also be an acknowledgement that without Gorbachev’sdemocratic reforms, Dmitry Medvedev wouldn’t be where he is today -president of Russia.