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Gorbachev Truly changed his mind

YYW
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12/11/2012 12:10:55 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
Most historians argue that Gorbachev, when he came to power in 1985, was a true believer in socialism and soviet rule. While there is a lot of evidence to support that, what there isn't is a lot of indication that Gorbachev wanted to make real waves before he got into power. He wasn't a middle-man, per se, but it seems that he straddled the line and moved not to the left or right, but foreword. That said, I think he's the Soviet equivalent of the Third Way.

I personally think that Gorbachev knew what he was doing when he started to erode the political power of the Communist party (often undercutting the influence of his own positions and those of his advisors, particularly on the Central Committee and in the Politiburo). To me, that's just profound -but the beginning of a trend.

Most western and many eastern historians argue that Gorbachev just wanted to reform (with glasnost and perestroika) a system he knew was broken, but that he fundamentally wanted to preserve the structure of the Soviet government. Did he want to preserve the soviet borders? Perhaps. But he wanted to rebalance the centers of power from party members to elected officials. He opened markets and tore down travel barriers. He made peace with the west and ended the arms race by essentially laying down nukes of his own accord (the most anti-realist move, perhaps, in all recorded history) during the anti-proliferation talks with Reagan and treaties with Bush the first.

His rule ended an empire in effect, and his reforms upset MANY loyal communists when they saw what he was doing -and that's what (imo) lead to his coup. August 18-20 1991 was a transformative moment in Soviet-Russian history. Gorbachev was "sick" and there was a coup staged. Now, there is evidence from KGB files that -at least the KGB, and presumably Gorby also- knew that the coup was coming. He also knew what a coup would mean for the USSR.

Gorbachev made Boris Yeltsin's career, but yet Yeltsin had called for Gorbachev's resignation in February of that same year. Why? Was Yeltsin turing his back on the man to whom he owed his success? It sure looked like it. I think the story is deeper. I think Gorbachev knew that in order for the democratic reforms he led into the USSR to stick, to develop, to fundamentally change the lives of russians for the better, and soviet society, he knew that there had to be a change of power -but it had to be big (that is, after all, the trend throughout the history of the Rus).

I think when Gorbachev learned of the coup, he called Yeltsin and they hashed a plan. The public reaction to the coup by communist leaders would enable Yeltsin to emerge the new strong-man political hero (which he absolutely did) and would effectively facilitate the end of Gorbachev's power. Bear in mind, Gorbachev could have had Yeltsin killed -but he didn't. The fact that he just 'let' all of this happen tells me that he approved of it, that he wanted it, that most of all he couldn't be the one to see things through. It would have to be someone the public loved (Gorbachev's memory isn't an especially fond one, and his popularity had fallen precipitously at this point) that could show the soviet people to a better tomorrow. Boris Yeltsin would be the Shepard, but only because -I think- Gorbachev wanted it that way.

After the Coup, Yeltsin started breaking apart the political power structure of what was a shadow of an empire in decline. I think also that without Gorbachev's approval, Yeltsin would have never had the courage to initiate the Minsk pact on December 8, which was basically an agreement to dissolve the USSR by the three presidents of the most powerful republics within the USSR. Gorbachev was rendered a lame duck as such, and would come to resign on December 25 1991. The text of his resignation speech is what tells me that he wanted this all along. He blames external events, but his speech is... for lack of any other way of putting it... too amicable not to imply approval.

Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin took over. The USSR became no more.
Tsar of DDO
YYW
Posts: 36,289
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12/11/2012 12:12:58 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
So what does this mean?

Gorbachev is one of the most noble political figures I have ever studied, and perhaps also the most visionary. His vision was for Russia, and he knew that his legacy would be the price -and he willingly made his legacy a sacrifice for the future of the Soviet people.

He might also have been the most brilliant political tactician in Russian History.
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malcolmxy
Posts: 2,855
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12/11/2012 4:22:03 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 12/11/2012 12:12:58 AM, YYW wrote:
So what does this mean?

Gorbachev is one of the most noble political figures I have ever studied, and perhaps also the most visionary. His vision was for Russia, and he knew that his legacy would be the price -and he willingly made his legacy a sacrifice for the future of the Soviet people.

He might also have been the most brilliant political tactician in Russian History.

I actually think this is one of the very few good things about the Reagan presidency as well.

Sure, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear-down-that-wall" and all that, yada, yada, yada, but it was obvious that they privately shared a strong relationship, and that relationship, coupled with Reagan's outward support of Glasnost, the obvious gravitas that Reagan carried and his fervent anti-Communist rhetoric (which made his desire to be the president who "won" The Cold War all the more obvious) may have prevented some sort of direct conflict with The USSR, and thus may have prevented WWIII.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part, and I think Reagan was a pretty dogsh!t president otherwise, but his relationship with Gorbachev may be the thing which justifies the God-like legacy that he is otherwise completely undeserving of.
War is over, if you want it.

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