Gorbachev: Russia must “return to the path of true democracy”

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On August 30, 2022, Russian statesman Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who ended the Cold War without bloodshed, died at the age of 91. Commenting on his death, Russian expert Dr. Vladislav Inozemtsev, MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project Special Advisor and Founder and Scientific Director of the Center for Post-Industrial Society Studies, wrote, “Gorbachev did all he humanly could to demonstrate the illusory nature of communist ideals… I tend to put Mikhail Gorbachev on the same pedestal as the greatest idealists of the last century: Woodrow Wilson, Aristide Briand and Hjalmar Branting, who were sincere in their dreams of a united world governed by democratic international organizations, of a planetary kingdom of reason and, of course, of a united Europe.”[1]

We republish here a 2016 article by Gorbachev, published in the independent Russian bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta, titled “I’m Certain: All Is Not Lost”.[2] In this document, Gorbachev stressed that Russia needed “true democracy” to emerge from the “authoritarian tendency” of Russian domestic politics.

Gorbachev wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “managed democracy” and “verticality of power” had stabilized the country’s economic situation after the 1998 financial crisis. However, he added, the high-level system of government bottom of Russia was done “at the expense of true democracy, at the expense of the independence of parliament, courts and the media”. He concluded by saying that Russians “must find the way back to true democracy” by “not dividing our society [by] categorizing people as good and bad, red and blue, patriot and liberal” and not seeking to blame “foreign agents”, but that Russians “must unite for common goals. He concluded: “I believe it is possible. I believe in Russia.”

It should be noted that in the article Gorbachev discussed Russian-American relations. Gorbachev wrote: “In international affairs there is a breakdown of trust. I think if you ask people on all continents ‘Is the world going in the right direction?’ most will say “No.” It all started when the “victory of the West” in the Cold War was proclaimed. Our common victory in the Cold War was declared as the triumph of one side. [i.e. the West], who now thinks that “everything is permitted”. This is the root from which today’s global troubles have arisen.”

US Sovietologist and architect of Cold War politics George Kennan, who praised the Russian people for staging “the greatest bloodless revolution in history to overthrow this Soviet regime”.[3] said that Gorbachev “is indeed a remarkable man in many ways…I am sure he will go down in Russian history as one of the great liberal, and probably tragic, figures of the post-Petrine era “.[4]


(Source: Ulpravda.ru)

Here are excerpts from Gorbachev’s article:[5]

“Our common victory in the Cold War has been declared [Western] Triumph”

“The world is very turbulent, the situation in Russia is very complicated. And everything is connected.

“It has been exactly 30 years since the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).[6] From time to time, I re-read my old speeches and articles. At this moment [i.e., when he was CPSU secretary-general and president of the Soviet Union] we have recognized that we live in a global, interconnected and interdependent world, and we have drawn conclusions from this.

“Over the past two or three years, we have had many opportunities to see this interdependence for ourselves. It is getting stronger all the time and will continue to do so – but global politics is caught off guard and is increasingly lagging behind the frenetic pace The leaders of the major powers have found themselves helpless in the face of the crises and disasters of recent years.

“Instead of cooperation, ‘war and peace’ have once again taken center stage in world politics, like during the Cold War. Think tanks are building scenarios of a possible war in Europe. But it’s not just about ‘what-if scenarios’: The US plans to deploy an additional $3 billion worth of heavy weaponry and military equipment to Central and Eastern Europe, which is just one example. attesting to the fact that in international affairs there is a breakdown of trust.

“I think if you ask people on all continents ‘Is the world going in the right direction?’ most will say “No.” It all started when the “victory of the West” in the Cold War was proclaimed. Our common victory in the Cold War was declared as the triumph of one side. [i.e., the West], who now thinks that “everything is permitted”. This is the root from which today’s global troubles have arisen.

“Nearly every conflict of the past two decades, starting with Yugoslavia, has seen attempts to resolve them by force – or at least by the threat of force. What has emerged is a mentality of military force, and it is no less dangerous than the military-industrial complex, which has a powerful impact on politics and the mass media – and, through them, on the people.

“I am extremely concerned about the harsh rhetoric and mutual recriminations, which look more and more like a propaganda war between countries…

“But we have to agree. We will have to. Otherwise, we will not be able to prevent the world from sliding towards chaos, towards catastrophe. And for that, we need political will.

“I’m sure: all is not lost. Even last year, as the animosity between Russia and the West grew, there were positive changes on some issues…”

“It is impossible to isolate Russia – The world will never accept this”

“Recently, there have been early signs that world powers, particularly the United States and Russia, have decided to tackle the settlement of the conflict in Syria. We will see if a real ceasefire can be achieved. reached – maybe not immediately. But I am glad that there is a dialogue, there are talks.

“I hope our Western partners have understood that they must abandon the policy of isolating Russia. It is impossible to isolate Russia, the world will never accept it. The world needs Russia. Its role in solving all major problems is indispensable.

“Right now, global politics badly needs a positive agenda – first of all on security. I would cite two issues as top priorities – the fight against terrorism and European security.

“In the fight against terrorism, there must no longer be double standards, and the fight must be firmly anchored in international law. That is why I proposed to start preparations for a pact or a counter-terrorism convention, under the auspices of the UN.Such a pact must not only include specific commitments regarding cooperation between states, the exchange of information and the taking of preventive measures, but must also establish important laws First, there must be a ban on supplying arms to illegal armed groups, wherever they are. Second, there must be a refusal to support – materially or through propaganda – any force or movement whose purpose is the armed struggle against any state or government.

“It is no less important to prevent a further deterioration of the situation in Europe and to reverse the negative processes. We need a major agreement to modernize the European security system. Such an agreement should be formulated and adopted by national leaders and governments… [They] must agree on conflict prevention mechanisms; mandatory consultation mechanisms, including escalating issues, to prevent issues from becoming crises, disagreements from becoming conflicts and conflicts from becoming military confrontations. We need “early warning” mechanisms for new threats such as “non-state actors” and failed states. Finally, we need clear rules of conduct, binding on all, at a time of internal conflicts that could threaten international security.

“What we are talking about is the need for a new security architecture for Europe – but not only for Europe. Creating it will be a difficult and large-scale task…”

“We must overcome the authoritarian tendency of our domestic politics… [And] Returning to a Path of True Democracy”

“Clearing the international atmosphere will undoubtedly help us deal with the current Russian socio-economic crisis. We must not delude ourselves – the crisis is obvious. We must not look only for external causes. The primary responsibility lies with us We have to look for an exit.

“But Russia has everything it needs to overcome this crisis. It has been through worse times. Although we should not prophesy ruin and disaster, we must face reality. We must not restrict our research. [for a solution to the economic problems] solely to the economic aspect and ignore the political side of the problem. After all, the solution is a matter of politics.

“What we miss today [in Russia] is the most important thing of all – democracy. I am sure: without a democratic process, without broad popular participation in the search for solutions, we will not be able to break the vicious circle of problems in which we have sunk ourselves. Our own experience, as well as the worldwide experience of past decades, is proof of this.

“We must overcome the authoritarian tendency in our domestic politics. This did not appear yesterday – indeed, as early as the 1990s, a regime of individual government emerged, and the constitution adopted [in 1993] is heavily skewed in favor of executive and presidential powers – including an option for more than two terms, or as many as you like. There were various excuses for this at first – for example, the need to pass reform quickly “with a firm hand”. And what did we get as a result? The [Russian] stock market crash of 1998.

“It was then that ‘directed democracy’ and the ‘power vertical’ emerged aimed, ostensibly, at stabilizing and reviving the Russian economy. It did indeed stabilize, but at the expense of real democracy, at the detriment to the independence of parliament, the courts and the media… [Furthermore]this recovery was mainly the result of high oil and gas prices on the world market.

“It is obvious now that the current model of governance is not working, whether in politics or in economics. There are no alternative ideas in Russia, and no influx of new people. The process of taking of decision should not depend on only one man No one can claim to have the monopoly of the absolute truth.

“We must return to the path of true democracy. In one of my recent interviews, I urged all our forces to mobilize to overcome the crisis. What does this mean? First and foremost , it means not dividing our society! Not categorizing people as good and bad, red and blue, patriotic and liberal. Not looking for…a fifth column or foreign agents. It means we must come together for common goals.

“I believe it is possible. I believe in Russia…”


[1] Theins.ru/en/opinion/vladislav-inozemtsev/254630?fbclid=IwAR2Culn2LxyQIhKQTJdFCjnYPm37-L3GP-enGaVoe6bg9OKWRPcXtuK_43o, September 1, 2022.

[3] Nytimes.com/1998/05/02/opinion/foreign-affairs-now-a-word-from-x.html, May 2, 1998.

[4] Through Cold War History, The Correspondence of George F. Kennan and John Lukacs, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Oxford, 2010, p. 149.

[5] Novayagazeta.ru, February 29, 2016.

[6] The 27th Congress of the CPSU, held from February 25 to March 6, 1986, was the first congress chaired by Gorbachev.

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