Happy birthday! Gorbachev turns 90

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, was in office for just six years. But in that time he initiated radical changes with his glasnost and perestroika reform policies, which led to detente and rapprochement between the East and West. Commentators take stock on Gorbachev's 90th birthday.

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LB.ua (UA) /

Why be grateful to Gorbachev?

Writing in lb.ua, columnist Vitaly Portnikov takes a critical view of the last Soviet leader's life work:

“If a Soviet Republic fails to understand, you have to make your point with force [Gorbachev believed]. And that's what he did more than once: in Tbilisi, Baku and Vilnius. As far as economic reforms go, I can't remember any to speak of. On that score he was hopelessly slow off the mark. ... The encyclopedias of the Western world will always dedicate many pages and grateful passages to him. But our encyclopedias will always bear a grudge against him for being on the side of Ukraine's enemies at a crucial moment in our country's history. A despot is always a despot. Even an ex-despot, and even the last.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

The man who didn't abuse his power

Viktor Mironenko, who works for the Gorbachev Foundation, is especially appreciative of what Mikhail Gorbachev didn't do:

“Gorbachev should not be judged solely, or not as much, by what he did do. The time he was given was very very short in view of the huge tasks that lay ahead of him and us. Therefore he must also, or perhaps primarily, be judged by what he didn't do even though he had enormous power and possibilities. He did not become a 'tsar' or a rich man, he did not cling to power, he did not build himself palaces, he did not give sinecures to his children and grandchildren. ... He remained a human being.”

RTV Slovenija (SI) /

Conservative resistance was stronger

Miha Lampreht, former Russia correspondent for RTV Slovenija, takes stock of all the last Soviet leader accomplished:

“Gorbachev changed the world together with his close colleagues Yakovlev, Medvedev and Shevardnadze. He remained romantically attached to socialism but he himself never resorted to brute force. In this sense, he remains a great statesman who initiated the reform process. But due to conservative resistance, objective circumstances or indecision, he was unable to continue along this path. Nevertheless he gave the impetus for sweeping changes. Gorbachev is more popular abroad than he is at home.”

Libertatea (RO) /

A romantic humanist

In the daily in Libertatea, author Vasile Ernu describes how Gorbachev will be remembered:

“There are two great myths. The first is the negative narrative, with 'Gorbaci' as the treacherous tsar who dissolved and betrayed an empire. Then there is the positive version: 'Gorbi' the dove of peace, the great statesman who brought freedom and peace to the people. He was guilty of dissolving the USSR, but we are all glad that it remained peaceful. ... Gorbachev remains a romantic, a man of peace who still believes in socialism with a human face and that the nations of the world can understand each other, negotiate with each other and avoid violent conflicts. In the end, Gorbi remains a typical romantic humanist.”