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

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

One Last Mission for the Union

The presidential airplane was one of the integral symbols of the power of the presidency, which had begun to accumulate after Gorbachev was elected. Such symbols were intended to lend a certain luster to the office of president by creating an official protocol distinct from that of the era when the Party had been all-powerful. Some of the symbolism was inspired by other countries, especially the United States. This was true, for example, of the national flag hanging behind Gorbachev's desk. It also applied to the presidential jet, whose name, Sovetsky Soyuz ( Soviet Union) was as clearly identifiable as the American presidents' Air Force One.

Unfortunately, Gorbachev was sometimes more preoccupied with this kind of ceremony than with the real apparatus of power. He knew, however, that this symbolism could not replace real, tangible support. He was well aware of the importance of a viable administrative mechanism to ensure that decisions were carried out and to monitor their implementation, and to maintain two-way communication between society and the president.

Gorbachev naturally felt the need for a "conveyor belt" of this kind, especially since the omnipotent, well-regulated Party apparatus was no longer serving this function. He occasionally made efforts to create a structure that could replace it. The last of these attempts was the introduction of the office of vice president, which was entrusted to Gennady Yanaev.20 Yanaev was to direct a monitoring chamber responsible for following up on the execution of presidential decrees.

Efforts of this kind were usually impulsive, and Gorbachev was probably subconsciously aware that they would not yield any tangible results. Moreover, their success required persistence, organization, and a systems-oriented bent of mind--characteristics that were foreign to his nature--and he therefore took every opportunity to slip away from this type of work. It bored him to leave the heights of his historic reform project to descend into "the prose of life."

It was much simpler and pleasanter for him to concern himself with the outer trappings of presidential power. His staff was, of course, constantly approaching him on these subjects, proposing that he discuss the arrangement of his office or work out the fine points of diplomatic protocol for welcoming and leave-taking ceremonies on the staircase of the Grand Kremlin Palace.

-59-

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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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