All posts tagged: Mikhail Gorbachev

GORBACHEV His Life and Times By William Taubman

GORBACHEV His Life and Times By William Taubman Illustrated. 852 pp. W. W. Norton & Company. $39.95. When my wife and I arrived in Moscow as journalists early in the reign of Vladimir V. Putin, the first person we interviewed was the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail S. Gorbachev. He told us he had recently visited Putin at the Kremlin and asked the question many around the world were asking: Did Putin plan to return Russia to authoritarianism? “His answer,” Gorbachev told us, “was a very definite no.” With the benefit of hindsight, Putin’s answer of course looks disingenuous. To Putin, Gorbachev was an intermediary to the West, sending a reassuring if deceptive message. Westerners like us flocked to see Gorbachev as an oracle of democracy. But what Putin knew was that Gorbachev was no hero to his own people. Russians despised Gorbachev as the destroyer of their empire and supported Putin as its restorer. Gorbachev lived then, as now, in a dual reality — admired and feted in Washington, London and Berlin, …