The death of Mikhail Gorbachev has returned us to a time that haunts us

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Mikhail Gorbachev was haunted. Haunted by the history that will not end.

He was haunted as was Shakespeare’s Hamlet, time was out of joint. His curse, like Hamlet, was to be born to put it right.

He was engulfed by events. As historian Vladislav Zubok writes, “a hapless captain”.

He wanted to “unleash forces of chaos in order to create society that had never existed”, he wanted revolution but did not understand what revolution required.

Zubok portrays Gorbachev not as a great man of history, but a timid figure.

As Zubok says Gorbachev’s “idea of a humane society was increasingly detached from the realities of Soviet power”.

Gorbachev would lose what he sought to preserve. He would be swallowed by history, not bend it to his will. History would outlast him.

A time of upheaval

History delivered Gorbachev to the reckoning of 1989, a time of upheaval and revolution. Everything in his life had led to this moment.

Gorbachev shared the fate of those who would live through the tumult of the 20th century, in the shadow of revolution, through war and struggle.

He knew the taste of apocalypse.



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