Mikhail Gorbachev interview excerpts

Here are excerpts from an interview with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin on Tuesday.

On the idea of citizenship in Russia:

“I could say, there are roots, but these roots aren’t firm yet at all. The political leadership, the state’s leadership, as well as the economy, are very, very cautious in dealing with civil society. If I were to characterize civil society in Russia now, I’d say it’s slowly getting going.

“Civil society plays the pivotal role, a very, very important role. Through civil society, real control is exercised. And secondly, I would say, no less meaningfully even though I mention it second, we must ensure that all democratic institutions really function, not as an imitation, as is now the case. The parliament, justice, the courts.”

On whom he will vote for in the coming Russian parliamentary elections:


Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and his grand daughter Ksenia Gorbacheva pose for a picture prior to a press conference in Berlin on Monday. Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s final leader, said on Tuesday that Russia’s current leaders should not expect to maintain support forever. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

“I still have to think about it. As far as platforms are concerned, I’m probably thinking about Yabloko [a liberal opposition party]. The Communists are stronger than Yabloko, because they are the remains of the old party, with strong structures. I won’t vote for them, but nevertheless I wish the Communist party success. I’ll most likely vote for Yabloko.

“I’m sure United Russia will stay in power. This party completely capitalizes all resources, all means…This party gives financial support, in various directions, to various groups of society. The military will get more, so they double and triple the salaries of the military. Pensioners receive more money. Those are election gifts. This party does everything to stay in power. I don’t know if they will succeed, because distrust of the party is increasing.

“I think Margaret Thatcher was elected three times, right? I know that there were many who were not satisfied with her, but she was still reelected in fact. And afterwards, there came a point in time, when her own party didn’t want her anymore, right? So there are many things that cannot be foreseen. But United Russia [Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s party] senses, that they are losing power and sympathies. And of course they count on the leadership of the political leaders. But the political leaders are losing prestige and authority. It could happen that before the presidential election the situation could shift somewhat.”

On the Arab Spring:

“In these countries there used to be no real democracy. There were clans in power, who became completely ossified, fossilized, for 20 to 40 years. And this anger has piled up. So this means, either the military was in power, or kings were in power, and but actually kings could participate in democratization as well, if they wanted. Each individual country should decide for itself.

“What just happened in North Africa should be a lesson for all others. A society should never become like a pond with stagnant water, without movement. That’s the most important thing. And the second lesson, people won’t put up with democracy being introduced through bombs and tanks. Neither NATO nor the others will get away unpunished. One doesn’t forget something like that. There are many lessons to be learned from the Arab Spring.”

Michael Birnbaum is The Post’s Moscow bureau chief. He previously served as the Berlin correspondent and an education reporter.
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