Today and indeed for the past week the press has been awash with articles reflecting on the fall of the Berlin Wall, from the issue of who got the ball rolling, how Eastern Europe and Russia have fared post-Soviet collapse, the question of nostalgia among the populations of former Iron Curtain territories, and so on. Is is interesting to see that out of the plethora of articles and perspectives, Mikhael Gorbachev is being treated very sympathetically. Last week an article in the Economist described Gorbachev’s reformatory pushes as the actions of a man inspired by a genuine values system: “It was his faith in socialism, his human instincts and legitimacy within the system that set eastern Europe free.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised him at today’s commemoration celebrations in Berlin: “You made this possible — you courageously let things happen, and that was much more than we could expect”. This article in the Guardian also sees him as the unsung hero of 1989.
If a sense of his importance to the events of 1989 is required, it was supplied last week by Timothy Garton Ash, the British historian, who described Gorbachev’s “breathtaking renunciation of the use of force” while Soviet leader as “a luminous example of the importance of the individual in history”.
Garton Ash’s reminder feels long overdue. For there is a conundrum concerning Gorbachev: it is why a living figure of such historic moment appears to have receded so far in our memory in comparison with contemporaries such as Nelson Mandela or Ronald Reagan.
Is it, perhaps, because his momentous experiment ended soinauspiciously with a failed coup, the implosion of the Soviet Union ona wave of nationalist sentiment in the republics and Russia itself, anda resignation that effectively finished his political career? Eventsthat preceded the rise of a voraciously destructive klepto-politics inRussia, so venal that people would come to yearn for the certaintieseven of Stalin’s rule.
Read the whole piece here on the Guardian.