Statement of Mikhail Khodorkovsky On the Passing of President Mikhail Gorbachev

August 31, 2022
© Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert (1993)

The departure of Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is undoubtedly a sad event, but it is also deeply symbolic: the relatively peaceful period of life in Russia that began during his rule came to a definitive end this year.

For the West Mikhail Sergeyevich is a man with an undeniable ‘plus sign’ – the end of the Cold War, disarmament, unification of Germany, the end of the occupation of the Baltic countries and of the semi-occupation of Eastern Europe…

In Russia his legacy is certainly ‘not without controversy’. The continuing disintegration of the great empire, started by the Bolsheviks in 1917, is for many an unpleasant but historically logical process.

In general, people often think that they can stay put forever in a beautiful, fictitious past or change their lives without changing anything. Alas…

Greatness, understood as violence, comes at a price. An economy that produces piles of weapons and keeps millions of young people ‘under arms’ loses, people’s lives deteriorate, it takes even greater violence to keep this ‘unity’ together, more weapons, more soldiers, fewer links with the rest of the world… And everything falls apart.

Gorbachev had attempted a ‘paradigm shift’. Unfortunately, he got carried away with the foreign policy sphere – it was more pleasant, things could be changed more quickly there. While the real problems remained inside the country and have been erupting in blood and pain for over 30 years.

Putin is representative of those ‘left behind’. He is not a leader, but a ‘mirror’, maybe a ‘prism’, concentrating the wishes of those who wish to “return the country to the way it used to be, but make us better off”.

It certainly doesn’t work like that.

The ambition that destroyed the USSR is destroying the country, which has shrunk to half its size, much faster. It is like an inept driver in a car that is stuck – it is sinking deeper and deeper, the radiator is boiling over, but all he knows is to keep ‘stepping on the gas’ and refuses to give up the steering wheel…

Except that it’s not mud that flies out from under the wheels, but human lives and destinies.

Mikhail Sergeyevich departs when the country he loved has entered a new round of disintegration. Perhaps it was inevitable, or perhaps someone else could have done it better. He is gone, but we have a chance – after all, this is our life and our country…

Statement of Mikhail Khodorkovsky On the Passing of President Mikhail Gorbachev (original audio in Russian)