Friday, March 03, 2006

Gorbachev Celebrates 75th Birthday by Attack on Yeltsin

Yesterday, former soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachec celebrated his 75th birthday in a circle of friends that could be described as the "Who’s Who" of Western and Soviet politicians bringing down the Iron Curtain, The Times reports.

In the moderate company of some 200 people, among whom were former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl as well as many old Politburo members, one person was lacking - Gorbachev's successor, Boris Yeltsin. As became painstakingly clear to the many guests, one reason was that Gorbachev used this opportunity for a gruesome attack on Yeltsin, blaming him for the demise of the Soviet Union.

That Yeltsin was not present is perhaps not very strange, as it appears that they have not met each other since they administered the dissolution of the union back in Christmas 1991. “I have never met him [since], and I don’t want to. He feels the same," The Times quotes. Regrettfully, the last remaining witness of these proceeding, Aleksandr Yakovlev, passed away in October (cf. my account of this).

By signing the agreement that dissolved the Soviet Union, Yeltsin "betrayed not only myself, but the nation," Gorbachev said. "It is an unforgivable act of treason."

It is apparent that Gorbachev now deems the moment ripe to rewrite history and his own role in it, by passing the blame on Yeltsin. As history revision has become a popular theme in the Kremlin, Gorbachev's standing in the political élite has improved as of lately - not least in comparison to Yeltsin. Thus, Gorbachev is trying to "set the record straight" e.g. by publishing his new book To Understand Restructuring . . . Why it is Vital Now.

As Gorbachev remains a widely popular figure in the West, his reputation in Russia is, however, tarred. Still, more than half the people blames him for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent crisis and chaos of the 1990's. His attempts at a return to politics have also ended ingloriously: In the 1996 presidential elections he got a mere 1% of the votes. Changing one's reputation is far from easy - especially if carrying such a heavy burden as Gorbachev is. Eventually, however, history might put him somewhere in between western and Russian perceptions, where he rightfully belongs: A great reformer but also a tremendous failure.

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