Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, died last week. During his lifetime, he characterized himself in a contradictory way, saying that “Gorbachev is a politician who lost, but whose policy won”. The assessments of him presented by others are as contradictory. For example, in the own country, the current Russian Federation, he is challenged by most of the population, while in the West he is highly honored. In the Republic of Moldova, the assessments polarize from “a man who brought us freedom” to “demolisher of the USSR”. The second assessment is usually negative in character, which is “he destroyed a country that shouldn’t have been destroyed”. The experts invited to a public debate on the issue staged by IPN News Agency discussed where this assessment comes from and, in general, to what extent “the nostalgic” are right when they attribute the role of “demolisher of the USSR” to Mikhail Gorbachev.
Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that “perestroika” is a generic name for the reform and new ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that was used to make reference to the changes in the economic and political structure of the USSR that was in decline. The “perestroika” was initiated by the then secretary general of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev. The process is considered to have started in 1987, when the “perestroika” was announced at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party as a political course of the state. The goal was to reform and democratize the sociopolitical and economic system and to contribute to developing the USSR.
“It’s true that the plans to reform the economy of the Soviet Union were launched in 1983-1984, when former KGB chief Yuri Andropov served as secretary general of the Central Committee. On March 11, 1985, after a somehow unstable period owing to the gerontocracy that governed the Soviet Union, Gorbachev became secretary general of the Central Committee. On April 23 the same year, in the plenary meeting of the Central Committee, it was announced the necessity of reforming the system under the slogan “Acceleration of social and economic development!” explained the expert. According to him, the initiated reforms hadn’t been thought out well in fact.
As to the nostalgic, Igor Boțan said these are persons who regret that the past, when they had a particular status, cannot be brought back. Therefore, the nostalgic citizens are somehow affiliated to the past times. They plead for a return to those times, but many of them or over half of them plead yet for new times when they need to make a choice.
Political commentator Anatol Țăranu, Doctor of History, said that Mikhail Gorbachev was a Communist educated in the Soviet system and since early childhood he covered all the stages of a Soviet man, starting with being a pioneer. He quickly built an exemplary career in the Communist Party and at the age of 18 already was awarded the Oder of the Red Banner of Labor. When he was 31, he managed one of the regions of the Soviet Union. But his biography is yet similar to that of many Soviet people who lived under a totalitarian regime and experienced the stigma of this regime. “Two of Gorbachev’s grandparents were deported as kulaks or were at least included in the category of kulaks. There are pieces of literature and many data, including ordinary speculations, saying that Gorbachev played the role of agent of foreign intelligence services and implemented the “perestroika” policy in an attempt to profoundly reform the Soviet system with the intention of destroying it. In all probability these are speculations,” stated Moldova’s ex-ambassador to Russia.
“It is absolutely evident that Gorbachev, if we judge by his deeds and statements after he started the “perestroika”, always had an open wish to keep the system but in a reformed way. From this viewpoint, it is hard to accuse Gorbachev or it is even impossible to accuse him of a subjective urge to destroy the Soviet system. He wanted to improve it. At least this derived from all the policies he pursued and the statements he made.”
The political commentator noted the assertion that the cause of Gorbachev triumphed, while he as a politician failed is almost true and precisely relates the drama of this politician. He launched a cardinal reform, but paid a lot for this reform, including with his own career.
University professor Grigore Belostecinic, ex-rector of the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova, said that Gorbachev himself explained why the USSR should have been reformed from all viewpoints, saying that “things could not go on like that” as the Soviet Union’s economy went into full and absolute decline. “In general, in the whole history of this country there were several moments or periods when the economy and society in general could have followed another path. I refer to the New Economic Policy of the 1920s, when very radical decisions were taken as it was clear that there was no other method of overcoming that military communism. It is also the case of the reform known as “the reform of Kosygin”, which was stopped,” stated the former rector.
“The last attempt was made by Mikhail Gorbachev. When he came to power, he laid emphasis on the economic reform by using the term “acceleration”. This term refers not only to the economic development pace, but also to all the aspects of the social and political life of the Soviet Union of that period. There was a full economic disaster. I fully agree with Mister Țăranu that Gorbachev should not be regarded as the demolisher of the Soviet Union. I support this idea as I also was a witness to those events. I would say that other factors also contributed to the fall,” said Grigore Belostecinic.
The professor noted that the very costly arms race when the economy was weak was one of the reasons for the dismemberment of the USSR. The fall was a synergetic effect and Gorbachev, by the failure of the reforms he pursued, was the catalyst of this destruction. “But the Soviet Union anyway would have disappeared from the map sooner or later. Normally, given the catastrophic reduction in the revenues in currency, it became very hard to import food products and other industrial goods. There was almost nothing in shops. Let’s remember the huge lines at all the stores. The economic situation in 1985 became catastrophic with very bad prospects for the future of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev realized this and initiated the economic and social reform of the former Soviet Union, which he later turned into “perestroika”,” said Grigore Belostecinic.
The public debate titled “Why are the nostalgic wrong when they attribute the role of demolisher of the USSR to Mikhail Gorbachev?” was the third installment of the series “100 years of the URSS and 31 years without the USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”. The project is implemented by IPN News Agency with the assistance of the German foundation Hanns Seidel.