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

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

A President Without a Country

One of the peculiarities of any political landscape is the impossibility of making out its true contours--the height of its passes and peaks, the steepness of its slopes, the depth of its abysses--until after the fact, when politics has become fossilized in the strata of history. To try to gauge events as they are taking place is a dangerous and not very productive occupation, like trying to sketch a torrent of lava as it flows out of a volcano.

None of the organizers of or participants in the ceremonial signing of the economic community treaty, which took place in the Hall of St. George at the Kremlin that October 18, realized that this would be the last triumph of the policy launched in March 1985. Without realizing it, we were bidding a solemn farewell to perestroika, both as a word that had found its way into the language of every nation in the world and as the last hope that the peoples of the Soviet empire might free themselves from their totalitarian past by the rational, cooperative solution of maintaining a unitary state undergoing a process of transformation.

Gorbachev's reformism had given historic impetus to the country's development, but this dynamic energy had gradually dissipated, and it was impossible for him to win in a confrontation with the darker social forces whose resistance and revolt he himself had provoked. After August, the driverless engine of the single state kept rolling along for another two months, running on the momentum of the political process started before the coup. It still seemed to be headed for an economic union--a voluntary, though truncated, one. In the end, though, the engine was stopped dead on the tracks by the bureaucracy of the republics.

On that day in October, however, Gorbachev was still unaware of any of this. He went to the Hall of St. George in the morning, well in advance of the ceremony, under the pretext of reviewing the protocol and rehearsing his part on stage, as it were. Actually, he just wanted to prolong the festivities and savor his well-earned triumph.

The Kremlin administration, the protocol service, and the press service reported to him on the arrangement of the room and the participants and showed him where the cameras and the flags of the signatory states would be positioned. The proper angle was selected so that the President would appear on the screen

-47-

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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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