The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

60 The "Shadows" Come to Light

EDVARD SHEVARDNADZE

...

... The problem of truth and deception was central to my resignation. I began to contemplate leaving approximately a year before December 20, 1990. But even at the early stages of my activity as a member of the Politburo and as Foreign Minister, when I constantly encountered throwbacks to the old double standard, backsliding from stated principles, and attempts to operate in the old fashion, I was compelled to reflect upon my role and its limitations. Back in 1986 I asked myself how long I could go on speaking as an exporter of the new thinking while other people and groups inside the country were obviously oriented toward the old thinking.

I am not blaming anyone for adhering to old thinking, and my reason is by no means a desire to come across as the righteous type who overlooks the sins of others. All of us were cut from the same cloth. To put it more accurately, we all meant to be, in words at least. But although some genuinely wanted to throw off the totalitarian mantle, others could not, and still others found it suited them just fine, as if it had been custom-tailored. I remember how they demanded that words about the class struggle be included in the Party's program, and Gorbachev said to them: "We remember about the class struggle when we want to force people to starve." It was naïve to think that generations raised for decades on barracks socialism could quickly adjust their consciousness. But I would like to believe that it is possible, because it is vitally necessary, and I have kept assuring myself and those close to me that the time will come when we will learn how to speak the truth, and speak it in time.

Chernobyl was the first test of glasnost, and it failed. Now it's all up ahead, I told myself, we're just starting. But ahead lay the tragedies in Alma-Ata, Sumgait, Stepanakert, Baku, Tbilisi, Vilnius, and Riga, and the old mechanisms kicked in, simplifying, distorting, or just eliminating the truth about events. I myself ran into a clear attempt to conceal from the country's leadership important details of the April execution in Tbilisi, so I can back Gorbachev's statement that he knew about the events in Vilnius only after they happened. But that means a theory of some "shadow" authority inevitably surfaces, a force operating at cross purposes with the lawful authorities, sending out disinformation along with the tanks. Or there was a desire to "cover for" this power and keep it out of the glasnost zone, something that is harder for me to believe.

* * *

-700-

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