Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

By Andrei S. Grachev; Margo Milne | Go to book overview

Preface

Like it or not, Mikhail Gorbachev changed the destiny of our world. In his six and a half years in power, with courage, tenacity, and common sense, he succeeded in breaking down physical and psychological barriers that were believed to be indestructible and in moving the world away from a pattern of confrontation and its many attendant dangers. Through his actions, he sketched the broad strokes of a radically different concept of politics for the beginning of the twenty-first century.

And yet when on December 25, 1991, he relinquished the presidency of the henceforth defunct USSR, he left behind a splintered, ruined country, torn by conflicts and in doubt about its future, a country whose division may be a threat to world peace--a kind of Chernobyl on a global scale.

As the USSR toppled, it dragged its president down with it. Gorbachev's resignation marked a defeat and a tragedy: the defeat of a statesman forced out of power without completing what he saw as his mission and the tragedy of a reformer forced to abandon his plan before it had begun to bear fruit.

But this departure, paradoxically, was also a triumph. Gorbachev did everything he could to destroy the power that an aging Communist nomenklatura, wrapped self-protectively in the ideas of another time, had placed in his hands. And he succeeded. The single-party system vanished, almost without violence or confrontation, to give way to an approach to government based on democratic principles. His resignation was a legitimate and logical result of this change, and it was, therefore, the ultimate indication of how well his political agenda had succeeded.

By ending the reign of the party that had brought him to power, Gorbachev not only endangered his position as head of state, he also made it possible for the parliaments of the republics to affirm a new legitimacy. The emergence of strong local governments was a threat to the unity of the country. Gorbachev, however, could not imagine moving ahead with reform unless a unified state was pre- served. It was undoubtedly in an attempt to save the union (not necessarily the USSR in name and with all extant bureaucracies) that, in late 1990, he formed an alliance with conservatives1 who wanted to preserve the country as an integral whole. It soon became apparent, however, that the price of this coalition would be the abandonment of reform. And Gorbachev could not accept that either.

Inexorably, the situation came to a head. Gorbachev almost became a hostage of the right-wingers, whom he himself had appointed to key government positions

-xv-

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Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword - ARCHIE BROWN ix
  • Preface xv
  • Mending the Breach 1
  • Reinforcements From The Second Front 13
  • On a Crumbling Verge 33
  • A President Without a Country 47
  • One Last Mission For the Union 59
  • On the Eve Of the Seventy-Fourth Anniversary Of the October Revolution 85
  • The Mirage Of a Confederal State 97
  • A Free Man With Nothing to Fear 113
  • A Cloud in Trousers 119
  • Fight to the Finish 127
  • Final Hours 145
  • Checking the Pulse 153
  • Last Rites 159
  • Burying a Time Capsule 169
  • Departure 175
  • Afterword: - A Mythical Kingdom Vanishes--Again 195
  • Appendix: Resignation Speech of Mikhail Gorbachev - Delivered at 7:00 P.M. on December 25, 1991 203
  • Notes 207
  • About the Book and Author 214
  • Index 215
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