Gorbachev’s orphans | International
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Mikhail Gorbachev steadfastly refused to be pessimistic, even as the spaces of freedom he opened up more than 40 years ago, in the mid-1980s, were relentlessly closed one after another. Plagued with death and frivolous boasting, the last few months have destroyed his life’s work, but they do not destroy his message to mankind and to those who have the capacity to cause even more massive death than the one Russia has brought to the territory of Ukraine. .
“Don’t let the future slip away,” Mikhail Sergeivich told me in November 2019 when I asked him what advice he would give to young people. “The future is yours,” added the father of the perestroika and the glasnostwho by then for health reasons did not travel and limited his public interventions, although he went regularly to his foundation, where he was surrounded by the small team of faithful collaborators who have accompanied him for decades.
These last few years, and especially these last few months, must have been very hard for Mikhail Sergeyevich, because in a violent and furious way the leaders of today’s Russia (and not only them) have been getting rid of all of Gorbachev’s inheritance, one of whose great merits were the disarmament agreements that it signed with the United States. The reduction of nuclear arsenals and the will to reach a denuclearized world are even more valuable when compared to the current reality in which the threat of nuclear weapons irresponsibly repeated. The disarmament that Gorbachev preached was the result of a global view of the world, a look towards the future and a warning about the dangers of imperial visions.
Gorbachev believed in politics with a human face and wanted the planet to be safer. Nothing more alien to him than violence. For this reason, in December 1991, the then president of the Soviet Union refused to use the army to maintain the unity of that State-Empire that was crumbling. On many occasions, Gorbachev warned about the threats that hang over today’s world, but in Russia very few people heard his voice, because the country was (and is) led in other directions and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, considers the disintegration of the USSR as the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century, without this preventing him from working for what could be the greatest catastrophe of the 21st century.
Every time he was too critical of the Kremlin’s policy, Gorbachev received warnings that jeopardized the continuity and work of his foundation. They were veiled, indirect warnings, but clear enough. When legislation limiting the activities of so-called “foreign agents” came into force, the foundation had to radically restrict its activities because it renounced receiving grants and financial resources for international seminars and conferences. However, despite these limitations, the Gorbachev Foundation has remained an island of democratic thought, tolerance and openness to the world in an increasingly authoritarian and hostile country.
“No no and no”. In that 2019 conversation, Mikhail Sergeyevich refuted my comment about the world’s suicidal course, although he admitted that “authoritarianism is smelling again” in the air. “Don’t get carried away by the old schemes. Be young”, he advised me. Gorbachev instilled optimism and showed that politics can be exercised in another way, with another vision of reality. Today those who think so have been orphaned.
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