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EditorialSome words about Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

Some words about Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

Russia’s last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, was laid to rest in a ceremony in Moscow. The former leader, seen as a hero in the western world for bringing reforms of a democratic nature to Soviet Russia, was denied a full state funeral by the current Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Gorbachev was seen as a hero by many but was also categorized as a villain by many Russians, including Vladimir Putin, who failed to attend the funeral due to his busy schedule. According to Putin, the fall of the Soviet Empire was a geopolitical catastrophe and it happened because of Gorbachev’s liberal reforms.

As popularly known as ‘Gorby’ in the West, Gorbachev was responsible for easing tensions between Soviet Russia and the West. His initiative of the reunification of East and West Germany and arms control treaties allowed for the lifting of the “Iron Curtain”. Moreover, he allowed most of Eastern Europe Independence from Soviet Russia. As a consequence of his actions and the weakening Russian state, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 which ended the decades-long Cold War. For his efforts, Gorbachev was also awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Gorbachev brought about reforms such as the famous ‘perestroika’. His aim was to improve the efficiency of socialism in the USSR and make production more responsive to consumer needs. The longest period of stagnation that the Soviet political and economic system was facing was to be solved by these new reforms. However, the liberalization programme unleashed a series of independence movements which eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev opened the Russian economy to the world by working with his American counterpart Ronald Reagan in the process of reducing political and military tensions between the leaders of the then bipolar world. He effectively applied Reagan’s Washington Consensus, which held ideals like Deregulation and Privatization, to the Russian economy.

Due to his stance of opening up Russia to the world, Gorbachev was not much liked by many Russians. Until his last breath, he saw Russia transform into a more liberal state than the Soviet Union. Under Putin, he saw his policies overturn and the world becomes colder toward Russia again. When Russia attacked Ukraine, Gorbachev stated that the invasion crushed him emotionally and psychologically.

To say their final goodbye to Gorbachev many western leaders wanted to attend his non-state funeral. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Moscow to pay his respects, however, many others could not due to the rising east-west tensions. Political differences aside, Putin should have attended the final ceremony of the last of the dinosaurs. Putin’s hawkish inclination shouldn’t have taken over the best of him as a predecessor of Gorbachev’s stature at least deserved a state burial.

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