SPIEGEL Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev: 'They Were Truly Idiots'

Part 4: 'Democracy Will Prevail in Russia'

SPIEGEL: The seemingly liberal Medvedev is sometimes compared to you. Do you think that's justified?

Gorbachev: Comparisons are deceiving. Medvedev is an educated man, and he is gathering experience. But he needs forces on which he can depend.

SPIEGEL: How will the process you began in 1985 end for Russia? Will the country become a democracy, will nationalists assume power or will the communists return?

Gorbachev: It will be difficult, even painful, but democracy will prevail in Russia. There will be no dictatorship, although relapses into authoritarianism are possible. That's because we, or so it seems to me, have only come halfway.

SPIEGEL: Mikhail Sergeyevich, let's take a look at the period following your resignation. You ran for president again in 1996, but you captured only half a percent of votes. Only someone who hasn't realistically assessed the mood in the country would be willing to put himself through a candidacy like that.

Gorbachev: Why? How do you know how many votes I actually received? One of Yeltsin's allies said publicly that, according to his information, I had 25 percent of the vote. In effect, I got 15 percent. On the morning after the election, one of my delegates called me from Orenburg and said that I was at just under 7 percent. That evening it was 0.65 percent. What was it that Stalin said? The most important thing is who counts the votes.

SPIEGEL: In recent years, you've spent a lot of time on the road as a kind of traveling salesman, effectively selling your past and making a lot of money in the process. You give lectures, appear in advertisements for the luxury goods firm Louis Vuitton and open banks and furniture stores. Is this appropriate for a man who changed the political map of the 20th century like few others?

Gorbachev: Wait a minute. Let's examine what people consider to be moral, including you Germans. Yes, I give lectures, and I write articles. Do you prefer someone who steals in secret? As opposed to someone who openly approaches Louis Vuitton? In Russia, there are those who make their money in criminal ways, but I earn everything myself. How else is my foundation supposed to function? The government doesn't give us a single kopeck.

SPIEGEL: You fund the rest with your books?

Gorbachev: I have just completed my 13th book, which is a completely private memoir. And a 25-volume set of the collected works will be published soon. Soon you'll be calling me a "speculator."

SPIEGEL: Half of Moscow reproaches you for the gala event that was held at London's Royal Albert Hall in late March to celebrate your 80th birthday.

Gorbachev: Let me clarify: First we celebrated here in Moscow on March 2, in a group of people close to me. It wasn't a small group, about 200 people.

SPIEGEL: But no one from the Kremlin was there.

Gorbachev: The Russian president and prime minister sent me their best wishes. And I was awarded the highest state medal, the Order of St. Andrew. The benefit event took place in London a month later. It was an initiative organized by my friends and Irina.

SPIEGEL: Your daughter, who is the vice-president of your foundation.

Gorbachev: A Gorbachev award was inaugurated there.

SPIEGEL: Why do so many Russians hate you?

Gorbachev: I don't have that impression. On the contrary: I've felt supported during all these difficult years.

SPIEGEL: Mikhail Sergeyevich, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Matthias Schepp and Christian Neef in Moscow; translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

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