Mesezhnikov: Gorbachev remained a Soviet man. He moved people in the USSR from the beginning with the fight against alcoholism – Denník N

Grigory Mesezhnikov (64) is a political scientist and analyst. He was born in the city of Oryol in the former Soviet Union, and moved to Czechoslovakia in 1981. In an interview about Mikhail Gorbachev, he says: did the Soviet leadership count on the fact that Gorbachev was a reformist; why is it not positively evaluated in the Baltic states; why it was not later popular in Russia; what his visit to Czechoslovakia meant; and what his relations with Putin were like. Let’s try to go back to the early 80s. That was the time when you were still living in the Soviet Union; you moved to Czechoslovakia in 1981. At that time, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev’s government was coming to an end. What was the country like? I was a much younger person then, I was a student. A young person perceives life through a slightly different lens than the one used today ex post when evaluating those years. But it was a period when development seemed to be going nowhere. Power was absolute. It was a time of international tension; the war in Afghanistan has already started, the Olympic Games organized by the Soviet Union have already been boycotted. There was a confrontation with the West, big differences in life in big and smaller cities, especially in Moscow. The entire political development, which the citizen had the opportunity to observe, was propagandistically justified by the decisions of the central committee of the party. There was a group of leaders who seemed destined to rule forever. There were no changes. Between Brezhnev and Gorbachev, two General Secretaries of the Communist Party ruled briefly, each for just over a year. The first was Yuri Andropov, then Konstantin Chernenko. If I’m not mistaken, they were both members of the Communist Party born before 1917, that is, before the so-called Great October Socialist Revolution. What was the evidence that this type of leader was still coming to power, and what was the concern that the Soviet Union witnessed three major state funerals in three years? The biggest fear was that the development would not be enough for the then Soviet Union to compete with its main enemy, the USA. Even though the propaganda was all-encompassing, ordinary people could see that the state of society was not good. There was a shortage of goods, in some cities there was no food. The representatives of the top management had to know this as well. Grigory Mesezhnikov: Gorbachev was a Soviet man
(authors: Eva Štefanková, Dušan Mikušovič) What was the situation in the world? In the 1960s, a group around Brezhnev took over and ruled for quite a long time. These people were open or covert Stalinists. By the way, as it turned out later, Gorbachev himself had great support among them. On the other hand, they were quite cautious in competing and confronting the West. They directed their aggressive attacks mainly to countries they considered allies, satellites: Hungary under Khrushchev, then Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan under Brezhnev. So they were cautious when confronting the West – based on the fact that they had experienced World War II. Someone on the battlefield, someone maybe in the background, but still: they tried it. They were set up for negotiations and agreements. It was not the type of imperial aggressive anti-Western policy that today’s Russia is implementing, already outside the communist regime, under the leadership of Vladimir Putin. Apparently, there were concerns from the time of the Cuban crisis, when they saw that the situation could reach the edge and the world could be one step away from a nuclear disaster. This was primarily the responsibility of Khrushchev, who, paradoxically, was supposed to distance the country from Stalinism, although in reality he was responsible for incredible atrocities. In foreign policy, he was characterized by aggressive steps. The Caribbean crisis was perhaps the greatest peak of the Soviet-American confrontation, as Khrushchev decided that missiles would be installed in Cuba. In the end, he withdrew them, which made it difficult for him, since it was perceived in the top Soviet leadership that the Soviet Union had lost. It was the main reason why he was removed from power. Let’s go to Gorbachev. He became the head of the party relatively young, as 54 years old. Was it simply because the people of the Soviet Union had previously witnessed three state funerals of general secretaries between 1982 and 1985? Or did he have other qualities? It cannot be ruled out, the entire party leadership was too old. But I think it was important that he managed to build good positions in the previous years. He became a Soviet politician of greater importance in the early 1970s. He gradually gained the post of member and secretary of the Central Committee, and later became a member of the Politburo. As I said before, he did not have support only in the reform wing, which was also relatively weak. He was supported by people who were clearly staunch Stalinists. For example, he had the support of Gromyk or Andropov. He knew how to apply for support and used it to his own advantage. How did he do it? The important thing was that he became the regional secretary of the party committee in Stavropol. That’s where it is This article is exclusive content for Denník N subscribers. Are you a subscriber? Log in