Sunday, February 02, 2014

Mascot of the Month: Mikhail Gorbachev

So this might seem an odd choice, but as the Olympics approach in Russia, the man who made "Russia" possible is Mascot of the Month - Mikhail Gorbechev.
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I suppose now a days, many people don't know or realize how critical this man was to preserving freedom and peace.  Prime Minister Gorbechev started a period of Openness (Glasnost) and Reform (Perestroika).  There was a long period during the up risings in Eastern Europe when the outcome wasn't clear - when a forcible repression of uprisings with thousands, maybe tens of thousands of causalities was not just possible, but probable.
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Gorbechev's fist test in Eastern Europe were "free elections" in Poland.  They were totally rigged so that even if the opposition won all the seats, they couldn't claim a majority.  About 45% of the se4ats were up for election, the rest guaranteed to the Communist and Farmer's Parties.  And Solidarity won all their seats - and then the unthinkable happened.  The second party, the Farmer's Party (I forget the exact name) - supposedly subservient to the Communists - aligned with Solidarity and kicked out the communists.  And the world held its breath.
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Every other time this happened (Hungary 56, Czechoslovakia 68, Poland 72) the Russian Army went in to put down opposition.  Mikhail Gorbechev didn't.  He allowed dissent.
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Soon, East German reformers were  protesting openly.  In 1989 the Prime Minister (Eric Honecker I think) was debating how to react.  He was leaning towards the Tiananmen Square Solution (killing them all), when Mikhail Gorbechev intervened.  East Germany then let protesters emigrate to Hungary, where they caused a commotion and Prime Minister Gorbechev approved Hungary letting them into West German.
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Thus the Iron Curtain fell.  In 1991, the Soviet Army staged it's final stand against Perestroika and tried to take over the country.  That was when Boris Yeltsin climbed the tank to declare Russia a country outside of the Soviet Union (and effectively dissolved the USSR).  the man holding back the army and the Communists from a civil war - Mikhail Gorbechev.
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I think of Mikhail Gorbechev, a man of peace who hoped for a better world, a more fair Russia and a happier people when I watch Vladimir Putin.  Putin - a stronger more dashing leader - suffers in comparison when judged by freedom of the
population.  In 1991, the Russian people traded security for hope and the dream of joining the world community.  Under Putin, they have slowly traded hope, freedom and openness for economic progress and authoritarianism.  It is a trade off that shouldn't have to be.
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So February is dedicated to all the Mikhail Gorbechev's of the world.  The people who choose the public good over personal glory.  There are far too few of these people now.

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