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Vox Pop: Russians Give Mixed Assessment Of Gorbachev's Legacy


Mikhail Gorbachev (left) behind the casket of his predecessor as Central Committee general secretary, Konstantin Chernenko, in Moscow on March 13, 1985.

Mikhail Gorbachev (left) behind the casket of his predecessor as Central Committee general secretary, Konstantin Chernenko, in Moscow on March 13, 1985.

Former Soviet leader Mikheil Gorbachev, who came to power 25 years ago, may be a hero in much of the Western world for his role in ending the Cold War. At home, however, his legacy is more complicated. RFE/RL correspondent Kevin O'Flynn asked Muscovites for impressions of their history-making former leader.

Tatyana Yegorova, 40, English-language teacher at International University, which was set up by Gorbachev in 1991: "You know that, at a certain stage, it was very positive. There was a lot of progress; it was a completely different world. I rate that very positively, although if you look at it through the eyes of experts in various areas there were also major minuses."

Ivan Medintsev, 55, biologist: "I am positive and negative about Gorbachev. Positive because things began to change. Negative because they didn't go the right way -- because Russia, out of all the countries in the CIS, ended up in a dead end. It could have been completely different. That's why I'm half positive, half negative."

Valentin Botkin, 79, former engineer: "I consider Gorbachev the initiator of the collapse of the Soviet Union and view him unfavorably because the downfall of the union was a big tragedy. It was not only due to him. The downfall of the union was brought about because of the constant atmosphere of 'odobryamstvo' -- or sticking your hand up and agreeing to everything -- and the failings of the ruling party."

Nina Ivanova, 79, former factory worker: "What do you mean Gorbachev? First of all, he was cultured, I liked him. He made a good impression when he met with President [sic] Thatcher. Straight away, I thought, handsome. I want to say that I liked his Raisa, She was the first lady, beautiful, reserved, cultured, quiet, calm, and she dressed stylishly."

Mikhail Shchegalkov, 27, computer programmer: "I don't think about him. That wasn't my time; I was little then. I can't say what I think of him, I don't. I don't know much about the history of his politics....

"[What I know is] mainly negative and not positive. Mainly that that he started reforms and did not follow them through to the end, that he cast things aside half-done. That's the main thing."
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