Merkel, Biden and Putin praise Gorbachev

Former Kremlin President Gorbachev

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Pariser Square, with the Brandenburg Gate in the background. Photo: Jens Kalaene / dpa-Zentralbild / dpa

(Photo: dpa)

“I would like to use your special day as an opportunity to thank you once again for your personal commitment to peacefully overcoming the Cold War and completing the unity of Germany,” said Merkel’s congratulatory message to Gorbachev on Tuesday.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner’s poor health marked the anniversary largely isolated from the outside world due to the Coronavirus pandemic. He also congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American colleague, Joe Biden, the former Soviet head of state, who launched pioneering nuclear disarmament initiatives between Moscow and Washington in the 1980s. Biden said in a congratulatory message released by Gorbachev’s translators that Gorbachev had “made the world a safer place.”

Chancellor Merkel wrote that Gorbachev could look back on his life with pride. “Your important contribution to the reunification of freedom will remain unforgettable in Germany, as will your ongoing personal commitment to the friendly relations between our two countries.” As one of the fathers of German reunification, “Gorbie,” as the Germans respectfully call him, attained its place in history nearly 30 years ago. At that time, he negotiated the terms of reunification with Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1930-2017).

The former Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union is considered one of the greatest reformers of the twentieth century. Jubilee, who wanted to organize a video conference with close friends, said in an interview with the state agency TASS on his birthday that he was often reprimanded in his home country. Today, however, he sees his politics of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (transformation), which he introduced in the 1980s, as the most important achievement of his life.

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“Without Glasnost, nothing would change in the country,” said Gorbachev, who also announced a new book of letters to him from the citizens, among others. With the policies of glasnost and perestroika, millions of people in Eastern Europe were freed from communist tyranny to freedom.

Kremlin chief Putin hailed the first and last Soviet president as a global figure. “You are truly one of those people of color and extraordinary; prominent state officials at the present time who have exercised a great influence on the course of national and world history.”

Putin wrote that “Gorbachev’s great professional life experience, energy and creative strength” will continue to help him “to actively participate in the necessary social and educational work.” In the congratulatory telegram published by the Kremlin, she said that Gorbachev remains interested in implementing international humanitarian projects.

Many Russians blame Gorbachev for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the powerful Communist Empire 30 years ago. The Russian State Polling Institute WZIOM published a poll on Honor Day, in which 72 percent of respondents believe that the country under Gorbachev’s rule has moved in the wrong direction. 51 percent said his policies at the time did more harm than good.

For the democratically minded part of Russian society, on the other hand, Gorbachev remains a symbol of freedom today. With his political establishment and as co-owner of the critical Kremlin newspaper “Novaya Gazeta”, he is still considered an important voice in Russia. The politician, who considers himself a social democrat today, has repeatedly criticized the increasing repression under Putin – and warned of a relapse into dictatorship.

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