The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

foreshadowed that of Gorbachev since 1986. Ultimately, the nomenclature openly rebelled against Gorbachev but its attempt as we have seen failed almost immediately. At the same time, I underestimated the totalitarian character of Gorbachev's power, which helped him to demote or neutralize his political enemies almost to the end of his tenure. Although I was aware that the KGB was an extremely important instrument for Gorbachev until 1991, I should confess also that I evidently did not fully understand Gorbachev's personality and his political and social goals. I also oscillated between the view of Gorbachev as a liberal communist and a hidden enemy of socialism which he wanted to gradually dismantle. The moment of truth came to me during Gorbachev's press conference after his release from Crimea on August 23. It became evident that the General Secretary was really devoted to "socialist choice."

With the overestimation of the might and the determination of the dominant class to defend itself, I was probably wrong in my evaluation of the 19th Party Conference of 1988. I considered it a success of party apparatchiks while it ultimately was a great victory for Gorbachev because it opened the way for the relatively free elections of the following year.

It is curious that in June, 1991, I strongly believed in the high probability of the coup against Gorbachev. However, I was extremely far from thinking that this coup, if performed, would fail. But my gravest failure was not being able to predict the collapse of the Soviet empire until it occurred. In this respect, I was no better than my colleagues in Moscow and Washington.

This last circumstance makes me very humble about the possibility of predicting the crucial events in our times. And I promise myself to remember my mistakes in the future when I try again to analyze current and tumultuous sociopolitical processes.

Vladimir Shlapentokh

-xii-

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