Nearly half of Russians believe that there were no positives to the tenure of former general secretary of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, a poll has found.
March 2 marked the 85th birthday of the Soviet Union’s last leader, who from 1985 to 1991 oversaw the USSR’s partial liberalisation and eventual dissolution.
Russian opinions of the former general secretary and, briefly, president of the Soviet Union are varied, according to a poll by Moscow-based VTsIOM, with respondents considering him both a well-intentioned patriot and a leader bereft of achievements in equal measure.
47% of respondents believe there were no positives to his time presiding over the Soviet Union. Only five years earlier, this figure was only 4%, indicating a huge shift in opinion on Gorbachev since the poll was last conducted in 2011.
Gorbachev famously sought to reform the USSR from the ground up via Perestroika, a programme of market liberalization which arguably accelerated the existing disintegration of the USSR’s bloated and mismanaged state economy, despite its progressive aims. 5% of respondents cited Perestroika as one of Gorbachev’s main failings, while 36% blamed him directly for the collapse of the USSR. 10% said that he led the country into economic decline.
The majority of respondents appeared able to put the ineffectiveness of Gorbachev’s initiatives aside, though, with 46% admitting that he had the USSR’s best interests at heart, despite his failings.
Others remembered Gorbachev less fondly, with 24% of respondents accusing him of being a criminal who deliberately destroyed the Soviet Union. Only 12% described him as a brave reformist.
Gorbachev’s biggest achievements, the poll found, were considered by respondents to be the ending of the Cold War, at 6%, and the democratic freedoms that he brought to the USSR, at 5%.