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Ex-Soviet leader Gorbachev calls to create civil society in Russia

September 12, 14:35 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has presented his new book titled "I Remain an Optimist" to reporters

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Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

© Dmitriy Serebryakov/TASS

MOSCOW, September 12. /TASS/. Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev sees difficulties in relations between the authorities and the society in Russia, and calls to create a civil society.

"Relations between the authorities and the society are becoming more complicated," Gorbachev told reporters on Tuesday during the presentation of his new book "I Remain An Optimist."

"They should not fear their own people or be shy, it’s time to create a civil society," Gorbachev stressed.

Gorbachev has presented his new book titled "I Remain an Optimist" to reporters. The book contains his life’s memoirs, beginning with childhood, the story of how he climbed the political ladder in the Soviet Union and reflections on some tragic pages in the history of our country, including his perestroika (restructuring) policy and the causes behind the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev shares his views on Russia’s present-day leaders and, of course, on international relations.

Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who was at the helm of the USSR from 1985 to 1991, will be remembered as the initiator of improving relations with the West and the founding father of the perestroika and glasnost policies that implied a smooth transition to a market economy while maintaining planned economy and easing ideological restrictions in the media and culture.

On the other hand, Gorbachev’s opponents pin the blame for the growth of nationalist sentiment in the former Soviet republics on him, which eventually led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. He is also blamed for the failure of his economic policy, his inability to uphold the country’s interests in the international arena and for the nation’s loss of its superpower status.

Referring to the break-up of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev stressed that he was not involved in making the decision to dissolve the country, pointing out that it was adopted by the other republics’ leaders.

"The republics - Russia, Ukraine and Belarus - (in December 1991 - TASS) recalled their lawmakers from the Soviet Supreme Soviet (parliament) thus destroying what could be saved. A totally different game was underway at the time. The republic’s Supreme Soviets practically unanimously voted for the break-up of the USSR," the former Soviet president wrote.

About Putin

In his book, Gorbachev lays out his assessment of modern society and his view of the situation in the country led by Vladimir Putin.

"Putin inherited the chaos. It was impossible to remain idle. He resorted to extraordinary measures to stabilize the situation, some of them were authoritarian. While seeing that, I nevertheless believed that such measures are permissible to a certain limit," he stressed.

Gorbachev noted that the Russian President "has been able to stabilize the situation in the country <…> and strengthen Russia’s stance on the international stage."

He noted though that the external economic environment helped Putin too. "I have in mind the oil price hikes of $100-120 per barrel. I cannot fail to recall the collapse of these prices during the perestroika era," he wrote.

The former leader of the USSR hopes for dialogue between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. "The first meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump was held in July 2017. It’s very good that it finally took place. However, it is a pity that this happened six months after the advent of the new US administration," he noted.

"We need to put everything on the negotiating table and establish interaction mechanism not just on some issues, even important ones, but on all problems," the former Soviet leader said, adding that he hopes to be heeded. 

"I would like to support those who believe it is right that the country should `rid itself of Stalinism," he said at a meeting with journalists ahead of the publication of his new book entitled I Remain an Optimist.

Gorbachev acknowledged that in his younger years he was a Stalinist himself.

He described his departure from that ideology in these words: "It was a process."

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