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The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us - all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all  faiths - must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.

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30 October 2014

Mikhail Gorbachev: I am against all walls

As the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall approached, Maxim Korshunov of RBTH sat down with Mikhail Gorbachev, the first and last president of the Soviet Union, to discuss the historic rapprochement between East and West and the prospects for a new Cold War.

Russia Beyond the Headlines: 1989 is the year that the Berlin Wall fell. But that only happened in November. In the summer of that same year, at a press conference following your negotiations in Bonn with Chancellor [Helmut] Kohl, you were asked, “And what about the wall?” You answered, “Nothing under the sun is eternal. […] The wall can disappear as soon as the conditions that gave birth to it no longer exist. I don’t see a big problem here.” How did you assume events would unfold back then?

Mikhail Gorbachev: In the summer of 1989, neither Helmut Kohl nor I anticipated, of course, that everything would happen so fast. We didn’t expect the wall to come down in November. And by the way, we both admitted that later. I don’t claim to be a prophet.

This happens in history: it accelerates its progress. It punishes those who are late. But it has an even harsher punishment for those who try to stand in its way. It would have been a big mistake to hold onto the Iron Curtain. That is why we didn’t put any pressure on the government of the GDR [German Democratic Republic – East Germany].

When events started to develop at a speed that no one expected, the Soviet leadership unanimously – and I want to stress “unanimously” – decided not to interfere in the internal processes that were under way in the GDR, not to let our troops leave their garrisons under any circumstances. I am confident to this day that it was the right decision.

Go to a full version of the interview

Russia Beyond the Headlines, 16.10.2014