In terms of impact for the better, there’s no doubt Gorby was one of the greatest figures of the 20th century.
Much was made in the numerous obituaries of the anger felt towards him in Russia, understandable following the collapse of communism and the chaos which ensued.
I first went there in the 1960s and made a point of periodic revisits thus witnessed the dramatic historic changes, such as for example, turning Russian cities from depressing hell-holes to the lovely cities they now are.
When the football World Cup was staged there a few years back, matches were spread across numerous cities, mainly in Eastern Russia.
Tens of thousands of Western European football fans descended on these locations and it became a major news-item when they returned and reported how blown away by them they’d been, contrary to all the negative imagery.
The news-items showing thousands of people queuing to pay homage to Gorby lying in his coffin evidenced that Russians are well aware of his historic significance for the better.
What no obituary I read mentioned was a key reason in his heyday Gorbachev was not viewed kindly. He came from Southern Russia and never lost his accent, which urban sophisticates viewed as embarrassing. Imagine for example, a Cockney-speaking British Prime Minister. It simply couldn’t happen. So it was with Gorbachev.
Call it snobbery but I don’t doubt if the British population had chosen between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak they’d overwhelmingly have opted for Sunak. He oozes sophistication and a Prime Ministerial imagery whereas Liz reeks of provincialism, in appearance and voice.
But the vote was confined to Tory Party membership and Liz’s tax cuts proposals won the day.
So too here in New Zealand. Simon Bridge’s articulation when he first entered Parliament was truly abominable and he was quickly dubbed “Soimon” by the media. Too late he took speech lessons but the dye was cast.
For all the beneficial legacy of Gorbachev the tragic fact remains that Russia still suffers from its historic problem, namely being rules by tyrants.
History will accord the current evil psychopathic piece of garbage Putin as one of the nation’s worst ever, a screaming example of short man syndrome.
Note he’s always photographed besides henchmen standing no taller that himself. He issued “tough guy” photos a few years back of him bare-chested on horse-back.
His “sport” is a pretend martial art in which the “combatants” clad in pyjamas face one another tugging at them. About 6 years back he turned up at a world title fight in Moscow and his presence was announced. Poseurs can’t fool boxing people thus the audience rose and delivered a rousing round of booing resulting in his ignominious departure.
Gorbachev was a huge bright spot in 20th century history and with the passing of time will be increasingly seen as such.