According to the custom of the time, entire lengthy speeches of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR were printed on them. Mikhail Gorbachev then. I took a pencil and underlined a few sentences among the word ballast, which brought the scent of relaxation, greater freedom.
Europe à la Scholz could be lived with. But the Czechia does not want to
In the musty atmosphere of Czechoslovakia, where the neutered collaborationist Husak regime ruled at the time, Gorbachev’s Soviet Union was a promise of freedom. I never loved Russian, it was the language of the August occupiers. But in those years, I read Russian magazines that printed sensational articles about Stalin’s crimes, tuned in to the Central Group of the Soviet Army on television, and laughed at comedians who openly criticized the Soviet system, which were incredibly daring from the point of view of the time.
For the first time, I believed in Gorbachev’s efforts to reduce military tension and peaceful coexistence with the West. And for the first time he felt that freedom could come not only from the West, but also from the East.
Me too, like maybe millions of Czechoslovaks, but Gorbachev soon terribly disappointed. And that, when in Prague in 1987 he did not apologize for the August invasion, but supported the economically relatively successful Husák regime.
Let’s restore Czechia-Slovakia. It will help
In the end, however, Gorbachev lived up to expectations. In 1989, he let the democratic revolutions in Central Europe take their course, agreed to the withdrawal of the Soviet army, and largely avoided bloodshed during the collapse of the USSR.
His role in Yeltsin’s and then especially in Putin’s Russia was contradictory. He supported the occupation of Crimea, but opposed the current war against Ukraine. But the positives prevail. For me and for my generation, he will forever remain the first Russian who helped the Czechs to freedom.