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The accidental hero of 1989

Twenty years after the wall fell, Mikhail Gorbachev is quietly celebrated in the west, but shunned in Moscow. Yet in both places his reputation rests on his failure to reform the dying system in which he truly believed

In an interview with a reporter not long ago, Mikhail Gorbachev reminisced about his years at the pinnacle of power in the Soviet Union. Once in flow, it is normally hard to stop him talking. But on this occasion he hesitated, was silent for a long time and stared at his interviewer disconcertingly with those piercing eyes. “You know, I could still be there now, in the Kremlin,” he said. “If I was motivated solely by personal power I might still be possessing it… If I had simply done nothing, changed almost nothing in the Soviet Union as it then…

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