Gorbachev on Gorbachev: the last Soviet leader in his own words

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 (Reuters) – Following are some notable quotes from Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

On meeting his wife Raisa (from interview with U.S. Vogue, 2013):

“One day we took each other by the hand and went for a walk in the evening. And we walked like that for our whole life.”

First public remarks on the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster, delivered on Russian television, May 14, 1986, 18 days after the explosion:

“This is one more tolling of the bell, and a new terrible warning, that in the nuclear age what is needed is new political thinking and new policies.”

Announcing the need for deep Soviet reform in speech to the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee, January 1987:

“At some point, the country began to lose momentum, difficulties and unresolved problems started to pile up, and there appeared elements of stagnation and other phenomena alien to socialism. All this badly affected the economy and social, cultural and intellectual life …

“A need for change was evidently overdue in the economy and other fields, but it was not realized in the political and practical work of the party and the state.”

Remarks on the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the landmark arms control pact of the Reagan-Gorbachev era, Dec. 8, 1987 in Washington:

“For everyone, and above all for our two great powers, the treaty whose text is on this table offers a big chance, at last, to get onto the road leading away from the threat of catastrophe.

“It is our duty to take full advantage of that chance and move together toward a nuclear free world, which holds out for our children and grandchildren, and for their children and grandchildren, the promise of a fulfilling and happy life, without fear and without a senseless waste of resources on weapons of destruction.”

On his decision not to order Soviet troops to halt the fall of the Berlin Wall (from 2009 interview with Canada’s CBC television):

“We had half-a-million people stationed there, armed to [the] teeth. The biggest concentration of weapons, well-trained military force, tanks, nuclear weapons. Had we given such [an] order, it would have been a mistake, which could have led to a catastrophe, which could have ended in a Third World War.”

Interview with foreign journalists after being named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oct. 15, 1990:

“First of all, I am very deeply moved, as a man, by this decision, and I shall not hide it. But I accept this … not in the personal sense, but as an acknowledgement of the great value and the enormous meaning of the important mission we call perestroika for the fate of the whole world.”

Final televised address as Soviet leader at the dissolution of the union, Dec. 25, 1991:

“Fate had decided that when I became head of state, it was already obvious that there was something wrong in this country. We had plenty of everything: land, oil, gas and other natural resources, and God has also endowed us with intellect and talent – yet we lived much worse than people in other industrialised countries and the gap was constantly widening.

“The reason was apparent even then – our society was stifled in the grip of a bureaucratic command system. Doomed to serve ideology and bear the heavy burden of the arms race, it was strained to the utmost. All attempts at implementing half-hearted reforms – and there have been many – failed, one after the other. The country was losing hope. We could not go on living like this. We had to change everything radically.

“For this reason, I never regretted that I did not use my position as General Secretary merely to ‘reign’ for a few years …”

“I leave my post with concern – but also with hope, with faith in you, your wisdom and spiritual strength. We are the heirs of a great civilization, and its revival and transformation to a modern and dignified life depend on all and everyone.”

From “Perestroika and New Thinking,” Gorbachev’s final published essay, in the journal “Russia in Global Affairs,” August 2021:

“We were searching, we had our illusions, we made mistakes, and we had our achievements. If given a chance to start anew, I would have done many things differently, but I am confident that historically perestroika was a just cause.”

“… Perestroika was a wide-ranging humanist project. It was a break with the past, with the centuries when the state – autocratic and then totalitarian – dominated over the human being. It was a breakthrough into the future. This is what makes perestroika relevant today; any other choice can only lead our country down a dead-end road.”

Gorbachev Foundation statement, Feb. 26, 2022:

“In connection with Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, begun on February 24, we affirm the need for an early cessation of hostilities and immediate start of peace negotiations. There is nothing more precious in the world than human lives.”

Compiled by Peter Graff Editing by Matthew Lewis

Photo: Former Soviet leader Mikhail GORBACHEV attends a ceremony on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall during a ceremony of the land Berlin in the concert hall at the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin on November 09, 2014. European Union 2014 – Source : EP

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