Soviet leader Gorbachev’s passing sparks legacy debate

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses a group of 150 business executives in San Francisco, Monday, June 5, 1990. (AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses a group of 150 business executives in San Francisco, Monday, June 5, 1990. (AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 7:33 PM PT – Thursday, September 1, 2022

The passing of former USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev has started a debate over his legacy amid the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. 

The death of Mikhail Gorbachev, which was reported on the Russian Newswires on Wednesday evening, sparked a renewed debate of Russia’s past and future. The former President remained a polarizing figure in Russian society over his role in the demise of the Soviet Empire. His passing at the age of 91 marked the end of an era that changed the history of Russia and the world. 

“We need more enterprise, more democracy, more organization and discipline, then we will be able to bring Perestroika up to full speed and give new impetus to developing socialism,” Gorbachev said.

Upon his appointment as the CPSU General-Secretary in 1985, Gorbachev became the youngest official to lead the Communist Party and the Country. At the time he was only 54-years-old and his promise of accelerating the economy, de-escalating international tensions and cracking down on alcohol consumption laid the foundation for a new course for Russia known as Perestroika.

“I’ll tell you this, nowadays there are no firing cannons, and bombs are not exploding, but we live in very important times,” Gorbachev remarked.

Just six-years later, the Soviet economy grounded to a halt. The country disassembled into 16-separate-republics and the Red Empire was no more. It was an experience that is still seen as traumatizing in Russian society. 

In international affairs, Gorbachev, along with President Ronald Reagan achieved what seemed impossible only a few years prior. During the Perestroika, the Soviet Union and the United States struck a number of arms-control treaties along with mutual agreements to improve relations and reduce tensions. 

The Accords were seen as gestures of goodwill at the time. However, they have since be proven to disrupt the balance of power in the world leading to the expansion of NATO in Europe and arguably the current crisis in Ukraine. The economic and social turmoil resulting from Perestroika largely subsided by the year 2000. 

Presidential terms of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev marked a rebound of the Russian economy. The nation was globally recognized as the successor of the Soviet Union and it began to restore its international influence. It was an effort that was met with stiff resistance from the Western World.

 “The NATO documents it officially we are declared the main threat… and we don’t want to believe that, but this is so,” Putin said.

Despite Gorbachev’s best efforts to preserve the Soviet Union by reforming it, his methods of diplomacy and economic-and-political-compromise did not work to the country’s benefit. 

Today, the Russian government says it’s working to restore what was lost in the Perestroika turmoil with methods different than Gorbachev’s.

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Sophia Flores
Author: Sophia Flores

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