The personal and the political: Mikhail Gorbachev through the eyes of his contemporaries
This article reviews the memoirs of Gorbachev’s Russian and foreign political contemporaries. In our opinion, these ego-documents reflect the views of their authors not only as individuals, but also as members of certain social groups embedded in a specific historical, social, and political context. We also assume that, when describing a politician, authors of ego-documents describe themselves as well. We discovered the following pattern: while foreign memoirs tend to assess Gorbachev’s personality positively, their assessment of him as a politician can be quite ambiguous. On the one hand, foreign politicians highly appreciate what Gorbachev did to end the bipolar confrontation between the two superpowers. On the other hand, they point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in his political behaviour. Russian memoirs are much more polarised. Those who criticise Gorbachev are censorious of both his political and personal qualities. His adherents praise him both as a politician and as a person. Interpreters and others who worked directly under Gorbachev tend to be among his supporters, while diplomats and members of the military and of the intelligence services are critical both about the policies and personal qualities of Gorbachev. Interpreters and some other people who worked directly under Gorbachev tend to be among his supporters, while diplomats, members of the military and of the intelligence are critical both about policies and about personal qualities of Gorbachev. In their self-righteous indignation, they go as far as accusing Gorbachev of betrayal of their country, even of working for the American intelligence service.
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