Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gorbachev and I: The unbearable unethicalness of politics

Gorbachev was pushing his way through the correspondents and guests that had surrounded him, shaking hands with someone, smiling, stopping for a short while to speak with acquaintances. When he reached me, Mikhail Sergeevich stretched out his hand and asked cheerfully: "What do you think, am I ever going to make it to the microphone? "

The president made his speech - informal, but businesslike and precise. and then the chaos so common at these events began. Watching him from afar I recalled our last two meetings with him, when he was still president of the U. S. S. R.

The Bolshoi Theater was celebrating the 850th anniversary of the great Azerbaijani poet Nizami. A few writers, representatives of the various republics, participated in the program, including myself, representing Russia. I said that politics separates people, economics, especially such as ours, depresses them, and only art and literature can unite and bring their hearts closer together. During the recess we gathered in the little hall, Mikhail Sergeevich and Raisa Maximovna, his wife, appeared, greeted us and immediately joined our conversation.

The president said to me: "Andrei, you were absolutely right when you said that politics are unethical. To my regret, it is so. and although all my life I tried to unite politics and morals into one, this is, alas, still only a romantic dream".

I noticed how his eyes darkened and his face reflected worry and sadness. I imagine he was thinking of something personal at that moment and did not want to speak about it. We stood next to each other a while longer, quietly understanding one another. At the door, we agreed to meet. It was hard to set up a definite time. In two days he was flying off to Madrid.

I left for a long trip to the United States, and by the time I returned, much had already been decided in the exhausting struggle for and against the Union agreement. Rumors were rife about the impending resignation of, Gorbachev. Then a meeting of the leaders of the Slavic republics hammered three nails into the coffin of U. S. S. R.

I can still hear the muted, sad voice of Mikhail Sergeevich as he expressed his bitterness at his colleagues, who had hurried to report to Bush about the formation of the independent republics, and had forgotten to tell their own president. "What a shame. . . a great shame. . ". , said Gorbachev. But emotions, as we know, are superfluous in politics. and once again he repeated the familiar phrase about the unethical nature of politics. I was shocked by this impromptu meeting, and the earnestness with which be addressed all of us: "If only this would help the country. . ".

He did not get angry and did not raise his voice. Something inside him bad been extinguished, as though someone had turned off the motor in his soul. Maybe this is what shocked me most about that conversation. Honestly speaking, I was on his side. I have never disguised my thoughts on this issue or my impressions of what happened. and when I met with the president again at his residence - he hosted a reception for delegates attending the international conference on "The Anatomy of Hate", - I felt that through his special warmth to me he instinctively understood my response to recent events.

The meeting was permeated with sadness because everyone understood that the president was leaving. When he entered the room, everyone stood up. It was a mark of respect to the man who had done so much for the world, for democracy, for the future.

When Elli Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Prize, asked Gorbachev, who had received this same prize as president, if he wished Wiesel too could become president, Gorbachev smiled with sadness: "I wouldn't advise it". Once again, he repeated that same phrase about the unethical nature of politics that I first hear from him in the Bolshoi Theatre. I imagine that everyone understood it in the same way - Gorbachev had in mind the separatist meeting of the three republican presidents who signed a document behind his back, cancelling the Union Agreement and the president with it.

In the days of the putch. Radio Svoboda asked me how could Gorbachev have surrounded himself with people who not only betrayed the cause to which he devoted his life, but placed the man who had promoted them in such a difficult position. I remember that I said on the air that one had to know Gorbachev. Mikhail Sergeevich is a very open and trusting person. When someone wanted to ingratiate himself with Gorbachev, the president was not always able to spot this. Such people are devious, playing the part of loyal Gorbachev supporters.

His trusting and kind nature played a cruel joke on him. In relying on others, he weakened his own position. He cannot be forgiven for this.

Of course, Gorbachev is a strong person. This was demonstrated by the calm and dignified manner in which he left office. He is also aware of the role in history that he has already played, and that which still awaits him. He is the first of our leaders to leave his post to rejoin the richness of life, from which he had been somewhat distant in recent times.

I am convinced that the Gorbachev epoch is not yet over. Not only because he will still participate in the public life of the country, but also because everything that he did during this period will continue through us.