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

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

Departure

On December 17, representatives from the ABC television network came to Moscow intending to persuade Gorbachev to take part in the "historic taping" of the last days of the Soviet Union.

At first, the project seemed unrealistic. Gorbachev still was not convinced that there was no way to return to the past of the Union. Moreover, the very spirit of the program, this "view from the Kremlin," the indiscretion of a camera poking into the secret corners of the palace, which was traditionally off limits even to Soviets--all this was so out of the ordinary that Gorbachev was instinctively wary. And yet, armed with patience and tact, fortified by support from the presidential press service and from Soviet television under the direction of Yegor Yakovlev, the Americans got what they wanted. They blended into the walls of the Kremlin so completely that even the guards stopped paying attention to them.

In putting the program together, ABC newscaster Ted Koppel acted as a kind of John Reed in reverse. Seventy-four years earlier, Reed, a journalist sympathetic to the Communist cause, had witnessed the "ten days that shook the world," the birth of Soviet Russia, from the inside. Koppel had come to witness the final hours of that revolution, which had taken place so many years before.

Koppel came into my office on the third floor of the government building at the Kremlin on Friday, December 20, after a 5,000-mile flight. He undoubtedly was not expecting to hear what I had to tell him. We were unable to promise him an exclusive interview with the President because Gorbachev was too busy. Besides, the idea of Koppel reporting on the last days of the USSR was highly problematic, and we would never be able to explain to anyone in the country why the Americans were covering this story. And finally, the main sticking point: "You have to understand that the meeting of the republic leaders in Alma-Ata starts tomorrow, and nobody knows how it's going to turn out."

Koppel was dumbfounded. He had come to Moscow for two or three days, intending just to tape an informal conversation in a relaxed setting, preferably by the fireside at the dacha, with the remarkable president of a great country as he prepared to leave the political scene and pass into history. Koppel had expected to be back in the United States in time to celebrate Christmas with his family. But here he was, and everything was still up in the air. His first reaction was annoy-

-175-

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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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