29 November 2013
Recent articles in the Russian media about Mikhail Gorbachev and Perestroika
Rodric Braithwaite’s interview to Colta.ru, published on 17 June 2013
Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a British Ambassador in Moscow from 1988 to 1992, who has recently his new book Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan published in Russian talks about the Soviet war in Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of Soviet political leaders and ordinary Russians soldiers; what the war meant for Russians and what were its causes; gives his assessment of the Soviet decision-making on Afghanistan and the government policies in general; presents his view on the Soviet system and argues that “calling a country the ‘evil empire’ was a real provocation”; compares the situation of Afghans’ under the Soviets, the Taliban, and the Americans; praises Gorbachev for averting nuclear catastrophe and talks about the guarantees against NATO expansion provided to the Soviet President by Western leaders.
Article “Gorbachev’s Anti-drinking Campaign was a Great Success” by Sergei Guriev and Oleg Tsyvinsky published in Vedomosti on 9 April 2013
The authors look at the controversial 1985-1988 anti-drinking campaign launched by Mikhail Gorbachev and cite some of the more recent research to show that it helped greatly reduce the annual death toll from alcohol in Russia and was a general success in terms of health benefits to the population. Research findings suggest that alcohol (and low prices on alcohol) largely account for a sharp rise in deaths observed in Russia during the 1990s. Demographers started saying that Gorbachev’s “anti-alcohol” campaign resulted in declining death rates in the 1980s and explained their growth a decade later back in the late 1990s. However, long-term regional trend data became available only recently and show the actual numbers of lives saved (400,000 per annum) and the health impacts achieved through Gorbachev’s efforts. The authors extensively cite a raft of the most recently published studies to convincingly prove that the Soviet President’s anti-drinking campaign was really a huge success and the current efforts by Russian authorities to tackle drinking are a worthy initiative.
Sergey Mitrofanov’s article “Leave Gorbachev Alone!” published in The Russian Journal on 4 June 2013
The author defends the “progressive General Secretary” against the recently launched notorious populist campaign to strip him of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called, the first and the highest order of chivalry of the Russian Empire abolished under the USSR and re-established as the top Russian Order in 1998. The then President Medvedev gave the award to Gorbachev in 2011 to mark his 80th birthday. The author argues that the attack is being launched to weaken the “liberal link” between Gorbachev and Medvedev, capitalise on the population’s patriotic feelings and prevent “Glasnost 2” or “Perestroika 2” so feared by the authorities from happening. He gives a detailed explanation of why the accusations of destroying the Soviet Union made against Gorbachev by the campaign activists are unfair and untrue. The author goes further suggesting that the emergence of Gorbachev as a political leader set to transform the country to help it “overcome self-imposed isolation and move forward” was a real miracle for Russia and that Gorbachev, who fulfilled that historical task, is more than worthy of the award; another thing is that there seem to be no people in today’s Russia worthy of the right to choose its recipients.
Olga Bakushinskaya’s article “Rejected by own people. Some public activists seek to strip Gorbachev of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called” published on Lenta.ru on 28 May 2013
The author looks at the deeper reasons of the recently launched notorious populist campaign to strip Gorbachev of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called and laments the fact that, according to recent public opinion polls, people favour authoritarian political leaders and stability over reformers and freedom. The award was the first and the highest order of chivalry of the Russian Empire abolished under the USSR and re-established as the top Russian Order in 1998. The then President Medvedev gave it to Gorbachev in 2011 to mark his 80th birthday. Olga Bakushinskaya argues that the last Soviet leader could have reigned till now had he not chosen the path of reform to give people glasnost and freedoms and transform the country. However, people were not ready to take responsibility for their own future and the collapse of the Soviet Union could not be blamed on just one person. Russians still enjoy what is left of the freedoms introduced by Gorbachev and there is a generation of people who see themselves as “children of the Gorbachev era” and will pass on his heritage to other generations.