May 31, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz….

Mikhail Gorbachev, the most controversial political leader of his time, breathed his last, on the 30th August 2022. He was 91. He was the last President of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). His resignation from the presidency marked the end of the economic and political system, that was enforced by Lenin and Stalin, in 1917.  Born in a family of peasants, he did have a birthmark on his forehead, that perhaps, as some people believe, brought him success in life.

However, ever since Gorbachev resigned as the last president of the USSR, in the year 1991, a section of the Russian people, consider him a traitor, whereas at the same time the west considers him a leader who brought peace to the world. Thus he still remains one of the most controversial politicians of all time.

Gorbachev swiftly kept on moving ahead in the line and file of the ruling party and became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985 at the age of 54. Over the years he had noticed that the Russian society and economy were suffering on many counts. He did have a plan in his head of reforming everything, to rebuild the Soviet Union on a stronger foundation.

Unfortunately, as he tried to put his theories into life, things did not turn out the way that he had thought. As many say that he had seriously underestimated the complexity of reforms, in then-Soviet Russia. During the reign of Brezhnev, the Soviet Union had started showing signs of weakening economy and unrest. The invasion of Afghanistan was perhaps the most unfortunate adventure that the Soviet Union had entered into. All this had burdened heavily the ailing economy.

Gorbachev had come into power, at that stage. He had thought that he would be able to end the economic and social stagnation of the USSR, to end through reforms. Through “Glasnost” and “Perestroika”, he tried to introduce a policy of democratization of the country, leading to the introduction of multiple party and non-party candidates, in elections.

Photo courtesy of Vladimir Vyatkin / Владимир Вяткин

But the democratization led to the opening of a pandora box. Nationalism surfaced quickly, which led to ethnical unrest and related political problems. Gorbachev who had started his tenure, with a dream in his mind, soon found himself helpless to stop his country from falling apart. A few years after his becoming the president of the USSR, the country started falling into chaos.

The succeeding understanding and agreements with the west paved the way for a quick fall of the USSR. The end came on 25th December 1991, when the Soviet flag with hammer and sickle lowered for the last time over the Kremlin. It was then replaced by the Russian tricolor flag. Mikhail Gorbachev resigned from his post as the last president of the USSR, on the same day. Boris Yeltsin succeeded him as the first president of the newly established Russian state.

For the west, Gorbachev was a hero, who brought the end of communism, and brought democratization to his people. But for some, he was the person who failed to do the needful, and for the betterment of his country, and ultimately lost the whole country.

Some people believe that Gorbachev did have some good cards, but he did not play them well and lost his country as the ultimate result.

Historians are going to mention him as a leader who lost his country while trying to salvage it. That’s the irony of the fate of Mikhail Gorbachev.

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