Mikhail Gorbachev is one of the most important figures of recent times, a man who literally changed the world. Here are some stirring quotes from his memoirs and other sources:
On politics and peace:
There is a widespread view that, in politics, inner motives are irrelevant in the assessment of the objective results. Not true. I know from experience that motives, particularly those that are improper, invariably affect the results.
Then and now i happen to read ‘profound’ arguments that violence is not only justified but even necessary in the transition to a new society, It goes without saying that during revolutions bloodshed is, indeed, often impossible to avoid. But to look upon violence as a panacea, to encourage it in the name of some allegedly higher aims, that is to accept the slaughter of entire families, villages, peoples? No, that is inadmissible.
We realized it was vital to correct the distorted ideas we had about other nations…A country can develop its full potential only by interacting with other societies, yet without giving up its own identity.
Peace from a position of force is inherently weak, whatever people say about it. It is in the nature of such peace to be founded upon confrontation – hidden or open – on the permanent danger of flare-ups, and the temptation to use force. For centuries, mankind has been obliged to accept this truly bad peace. We cannot allow ourselves to continue like that anymore.
It goes without saying that the events in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and later in Bulgaria and Romania caused us great concern. However, not once did we contemplate the possibility of going back on the fundamental principles of the new political thinking – freedom of choice and non-interference in other countries’ domestic affairs.
Lack of spirituality and anti-intellectualism are terrible dangers. But pure intellect that is deprived of a moral basis is just as threatening in today’s world.
On growing up:
When our contemporary advocates of peasants’ happiness refer to the ‘golden age’ of the Russian countryside I honestly do not understand what they mean. Either these people do not know anything at all or they are deliberately misguiding others – or else their memory has totally failed them….(My grandfather’s) favourite joke was ‘The most important thing for a man are shoes that don’t pinch his feet’. Actually, it wasn’t just a joke.
On the beauty of nature:
In times of crisis I sought out nature to restore my spirits…the oneness with nature was so strong that we seemed to inhabit a different world. No words can express that feeling. Probably a true believer experiences the same soaring of the spirit in church. But then, to me, nature is also a church…
My character and my entire perception of the world were to a large extent shaped by nature, and the awareness that not only do I exist in it, but that nature lives inside me.
On looking back:
Memory works in mysterious ways – it retains mainly the best of what happened in life – even if there was not much of it.
For me, there has never been a gulf between my conscience and my inner convictions…I, like everyone else, made mistakes, miscalculated. But my conscience is at ease. Any my thoughts and ideas are exactly as they used to be.