Friday, March 11, 2005

History Friday: Hope For Blotchy Heads Everywhere

 Posted by Hello

Today is the day that Forbes releases its world's richest bastards list and so to distract myself from this celebration of skewed value systems (I want to start a worlds 400 poorest list, as well as cap income and estate values at $10 million: does anyone else need more? If they do how did they get so rich while being so profilgate? More on this at another time) I wandered back into the dusty archives of time to bring you another installment of History Friday:

March, 11 1985: Gorbachev becomes Soviet leader
"There is a new man in charge at the Kremlin - Mikhail Gorbachev has taken over following the death of Konstantin Chernenko.

Chernenko, 73, died yesterday after a long illness - but his death was only announced to the Soviet people this morning. Sombre music preceded the news on radio and television and scheduled programmes were cancelled.
The speed of naming of his successor - at 54 the youngest man to take over as general secretary of the Soviet communist party - has taken people by surprise."

My interest in all things Soviet has been previously documented, an obsession that arose while living in Germany not far from the old DDR border under the shadow of cruise missiles and SS-20s. A visit to Berlin in 1984 further cemented my pre-pubescent fascination with "the east" and so when Gorbachev came on the scene the year after we moved back to England I precociously resolved to carefully follow this interesting man.

To my mind Gorbachev, not Reagan, ended the Cold War and not because he lost an ideological battle. His position and worldview was much more complex than the celluloid fantasies lived out by the Gipper. One of the greatest tragedies of our era (and perhaps the blackest mark on Gorbachev's legacy) was the fact that Mikhail Sergeyevich lost control of the USSR and had to hand over the task of easing the Soviet Union out of state capitalism into proto-democracy in the less capable and more avaricious hands of others. It is my firm belief that the cause of Russian freedom and progress has been set back by at least a decade by the mess that followed Gorbachev's ouster and hangs in the balance even today. It is criminal that after Gorbachev set the ball rolling by allowing the Baltic States to become independent it took 14 years for a semblance of true democracy to reach Georgia and the Ukraine. Belarus still labors under a fascist kleptocracy, as do many of the Soviet's Asian former possesions. Mother Russia herself is weak, loosing grip on her hard won civil rights and freedoms, dying of AIDS and losing a demographic battle that could have dire consequences for world economies and security.

Sort of makes you miss the old days, don't it? Come on, all together, sing! (I recommend the full Bolshoi Chorus wav. or the Red Army choir MP3 versions, about half way down the page. This has to be one of the most awesome sounding national anthems ever- it even made me happy to see the hammer and sickle rise at the Olympics knowing I'd get to hear a snippet of this).

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