Saturday, October 31, 2009


The last surviving Soviet leader on the fall of the Berlin wall.

I've always thought one man who's yet to be given due credit for his role in shaping history is former Soviet leader Michael Gorbachev.

Despised by the nostalgics of communism and hastily dismissed by predatory free marketers who couldn't wait an extra five minutes, I still remember the incredible way Gorbachev was made to bow out.

As the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall approach, there's a growing number of articles analysing the end of the Cold war and its significance.

The most interesting so far is published in today's Guardian and it's a piece by Gorbachev himself: The Berlin wall had to fall, but today's world is no fairer.

"[While] we can celebrate the fact that the 20th century marked the end of totalitarian ideologies", he writes, "over the last few decades, the world has not become a fairer place: disparities between the rich and the poor either remained or increased, not only between the north and the developing south but also within developed countries themselves".


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Excellent read that piece by Gorbie and I echo your sentiments regarding his standing, I have a real soft spot for him.

there is a downside said...

On January 10, Soviet Union president Mikhail Gorbachev addressed the Supreme Council, demanding restoration of the constitution of the USSR in Lithuania and the revocation of all anti-constitutional laws. He mentioned that military intervention could be possible within days. When Lithuanian officials asked for Moscow's guarantee not to send armed troops, Gorbachev did not reply.

In all, thirteen Lithuanians were killed by the Soviet army. An additional civilian died at the scene due to a heart attack, and one Soviet soldier was killed by friendly fire. All victims, except the soldier, were awarded the Order of the Cross of Vytis (the Knight) on January 15, 1991.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

No is perfect, it is a rare leader that does not have blood on his/her hands.

Charlie said...

You mean it wasn't just Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II who were solely responsible for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism?

claude said...

there is a downside,

put it within a context.

For the first time in Soviet history, Gorbachev did not allow a bloodshed in the style of Budapest (1956), Prague (1968) or Warsaw (1980).

downside said...

Claude, what are you referring to as "Warsaw (1980)"? Maybe you mean 1981 when Polish troops fired on pickets in Silesia, GdaƄsk and Katowice.

You're obviously right about the difference in scale. Same old tactics, but relatively few "special" forces to carry them out. The video I linked (as "there is a downside") is quite moving and depressing to watch.

(Of course Lithuania was part of the Soviet state, not the Warsaw Pact bloc. I'm not suggesting you didn't know, just reiterating it.)

Also I am aware that Gorbachev claimed not to have been in full control of the army, so he questioned the extent of his own leadership over the affair.

Condemn it, I say! said...

Churchill rebuked a British commander who protested about the execution of a west Berlin student caught in the east and praised the Russians for their restraint.


Some western observers agreed with Churchill's view. The Manchester Guardian's correspondent reported: "The Red Army troops evidently were given the strictest instructions to behave with restraint. There are few cases reported of their having opened fire on demonstrators even though they were stoned and insulted and their tanks and armoured cars attacked by the demonstrators."