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Death of a Mensch – how Putin is destroying his legacy

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es Vienna, August 31, 2022

A famous 20th century dictum has it that “all political careers end in failure”. It was certainly true of the British MP who coined the phrase, the clever, dangerous oddball, Enoch Powell. And perhaps it’s also the case for the more likable statesman,  Mikhail Sergeyvic Gorbachev, who died yesterday aged 91 in a Moscow hospital after a long illness.

That goodbye kiss, last Soviet leader Gorbachev congratulates Erich Honecker on his re-election as party boss, East Berlin, 1986

How well he was remembered, as I remember him, as a real Mensch spontaneously adored by children (not the case for his beloved late wife Raisa I noticed), a man whose genial and generous character survived decades of working under Stalin, and the persecution and torture of his grandparents.

With Raisa- her death from cancer in 1999 devastated Gorbachev

His passing has been marked by dozens of often fascinating obituaries and analyses, of which I will single out that of the Guardian’s Jonathan Steele as especially balanced and observant about the near-intolerable pressures on the last leader of the USSR, not least those of his enemy and eventual successor Boris Yeltsin which eventually closed in, and resulted in Russia’s leadership being handed over to the KGB bureaucrat, thief, and murderer Vladimir Putin.

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