And so the Nobel Prize committee continues its vendetta against Soviet Communism. After Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov and Brodsky, another Soviet dissident has been awarded the Nobel Prize. This time for peace.
As before, the choice was precise and to the point. More than that, it was the best choice imaginable because the new laureate has contributed more to dismantling the Soviet Communist Empire than all of his four predecessors combined or any other person in the world for that matter.
The name of this No. 1 Soviet dissident is Mikhail Gorbachev, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the president of the U.S.S.R. He is the first card-carrying Communist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and I highly suspect he will be the last.
The Nobel Prize awarded to Gorbachev dramatically underscores the tragic dilemma that haunts him. He is a historic figure -- one of Shakespearean dimensions. On the one hand, he is an unchallenged champion of peace in the world, perhaps the greatest in this century. Gorbachev's new political thinking replaced the Brezhnev Doctrine as a beacon of Soviet foreign policy. Without Gorbachev, without this new political thinking, it would have been impossible for Eastern Europe to achieve its independence from the Russian Empire and start its quest for democracy. Without Gorbachev we would not have the miracle of a reunified Germany. Without Gorbachev the Cold War would be still with us dictating our political behavior. No other leader in the Kremlin could have made such far-reaching and daring concessions, which made the long-awaited breakthrough in conventional and nuclear arms negotiations possible.
But on the other hand, nobody in the Soviet Union and beyond its boundaries, neither the CIA nor the British intelligence service, has done so much to disrupt the internal peace in Russia as the new Nobel laureate. The empire is disintegrating in a very violent way. Bloody skirmishes are shaking almost every part of the Soviet Union. The coal miners are striking, the draftees are fleeing, the whole country is in turmoil, shaken by deep economic crisis and social instability. What a bitter and symbolic coincidence: the decision of the Nobel Prize Committee was made public on the same day Gorbachev was finishing reading a newly devised draft of the now famous "500 Day Plan" which, if implemented, will bury socialism in Russia.
The Nobel Prize committee, in awarding its prizes for literature and peace to Russian dissidents, not only recognized their remarkable achievements in letters and human nobility but also tried to shield them from persecution at home. I suspect the same applies to Gorbachev: the recognition of his contribution to world peace and the attempt to support him in his domestic struggles provide the embattled Gorbachev with the opportunity to buy some much-needed time.
I would not draw this parallel with other dissidents farther, though. Russian dissidents who became Nobel laureates needed the prize as a shield against conservative forces. Gorbachev doesn't need a Nobel prize to defend himself against conservatives inside the Communist Party. On the contrary. The prize will affect the conservatives as a red cloth affects a bull. But I am afraid (and not only I) that Gorbachev can use the prize as a weapon in his dispute with the Russian democrats who want to go much farther on the road of democratization in my country. Only by proving this fear groundless will Gorbachev be able to go into the history books as equal to the greatest among Nobel laureates.
The writer, a political columnist with Izvestia for the past 40 years, is currently a fellow in the Institute of Politics at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.