The personal and the political: Mikhail Gorbachev through the eyes of his contemporaries

Dmitry Pobedash, Dmitry Kalinin


This article reviews the memoirs of Gorbachev’s Russian and foreign political contemporaries. In our opinion, these ego-documents reflect the views of their authors not only as individuals, but also as members of certain social groups embedded in a specific historical, social, and political context. We also assume that, when describing a politician, authors of ego-documents describe themselves as well. We discovered the following pattern: while foreign memoirs tend to assess Gorbachev’s personality positively, their assessment of him as a politician can be quite ambiguous. On the one hand, foreign politicians highly appreciate what Gorbachev did to end the bipolar confrontation between the two superpowers. On the other hand, they point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in his political behaviour. Russian memoirs are much more polarised. Those who criticise Gorbachev are censorious of both his political and personal qualities. His adherents praise him both as a politician and as a person. Interpreters and others who worked directly under Gorbachev tend to be among his supporters, while diplomats and members of the military and of the intelligence services are critical both about the policies and personal qualities of Gorbachev. Interpreters and some other people who worked directly under Gorbachev tend to be among his supporters, while diplomats, members of the military and of the intelligence are critical both about policies and about personal qualities of Gorbachev. In their self-righteous indignation, they go as far as accusing Gorbachev of betrayal of their country, even of working for the American intelligence service.


Aleksandrov-Agentov, A. M. (1994). Ot Kollontay do Gorbacheva [From Kollontay to Gorbachev]. 304 p. Moscow, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya.

Akhromeev, S. F. & Kornienko, G. M. (1992). Glazami marshala i diplomata: Kritichesky vzglyad na vneshnyuyu politiku SSSR do i posle 1985 g. [Through the eyes of a marshal and of a diplomat: a critical assessment of the USSR foreign policy before and after 1985]. Moscow, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya.

Arbel, D. & Edelist, R. (2003). Western Intelligence and the Collapse of the Soviet Union: 1980–1990: Ten Years that did not Shake the World. 338 p. L., Frank Cass.

Boldin, V. I. (1995). Krushenie p′edestala. Shtrikhi k portretu M. S. Gorbacheva [Knocking off the pedestal : Touches to the portrait of Gorbachev]. 447 p. Moscow, Respublika.

Boldin, V. (1994). Ten Years That Shook The World : The Gorbachev Era As Witnessed By His Chief Of Staff. 310 p. N. Y., Basic Books.

Brown, A. (1997). The Gorbachev Factor. 444 p. N. Y., Oxford University Press.

Bush, G. H. W. & Scowcroft, В. A. A World Transformed. 624 p. N. Y., Alfred A. Knopf. 1998.

Chernyaev, A. S. (1993). Shest′ let s Gorbachevym [Six years with Gorbachev]. 528 p. Moscow, Progress ; Kul′tura.

Dobrynin, A. F. (1996). Sugubo doveritel′no [Strictly confidential]. 688 p. Moscow, Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya.

Drokonova, O. N. (2006). “Fenomen M. S. Gorbacheva” i ego epokha v amerikanobritanskikh istochnikakh i issledovaniyakh 1980-kh – 1990-kh gg. [“The Gorbachev phenomenon” and his era in American and British documents and research]. (Dissertation). 195 p. Surgut.

Gates, R. M. (1996). “From the Shadows”: The Ultimate Insider′s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. 608 p. N. Y., Simon & Schuster.

Grachev, A. S. (2001). Chelovek, kotoryy khotel, kak luchshe [The Man who meant well]. 496 p. Moscow, Vagrius.

Istoriya v ego-dokumentakh : Issledovaniya i istochniki [History in ego-documents: research and sources]. (2014). 368 p. Yekaterinburg, AsPUr.

Kaznacheev, V. A. (1996). Posledny gensek [The last Secretary-General]. 239 p. Moscow, Gudok.

Koivisto, M. (1997). Witness to History The Memoirs of Mauno Koivisto, President of Finland 1982–1994. 316 p. London, Southern Illinois University Press.

Korchilov, I. (1997). Translating History : The Top Russian Interpreter’s Thirty Years on The Front Line of Diplomacy. 400 p. N. Y.

Korobeynikov, A. A. (1996). Gorbachev: drugoe litso [Gorbachev: the other face]. 207 p. Moscow, Respublika.

Kryuchkov, V. A. (2003). Lichnoe delo [Personal file]. 480 p. Moscow, EKSMO.

Kvitsinsky, Yu. A. (2005). Vneshnyaya politika SSSR v gody perestroyki [Foreign policy of the USSR in the years of perestroika]. In Nash sovremennik, 1, pp.185–202.

Ligachev, E. K. (2010). Kto predal SSSR [Who betrayed the USSR]. 288 p. Moscow, EKSMO.

Matlock, J. (1995). Autopsy on An Empire : The American Ambassador’s Account of The Collapse of The Soviet Union. 836 p. N. Y., Random House.

Medvedev, V. A. (1994). V komande Gorbacheva: vzglyad iznutri [On Gorbachev’s team: a view from the inside]. Moscow. URL: (mode of accesses: 25.10.2015).

Memorandum of Conversation : Meeting with Brian Mulroney, Prime Minister of Canada. March 13, 1991. URL:–03–13––Mulroney.pdf (mode of access: 25.10.2015).

Men′shikov, S. M. (2006). Na Staroy ploshchadi [“On Staraya Ploshchad”]. In Slovo.

Metlok, Dzh. F. (2003). Smert′ imperii : Vzglyad amerikanskogo posla na raspad Sovetskogo Soyuza [Death of the empire : The view of the US Ambassador on the demise of the Soviet Union]. 579 p. Moscow, Rudomino.

Oleynik, B. I., Pavlov, V. S. & Ryzhkov, N. I. (2010). Iuda : Anatomiya predatel′stva

Gorbacheva [Judas. Anatomy of Gorbachev’s behavior]. 240 p. Moscow, EKSMO.

Palazchenko, P. (1997). My years with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze : The Memoir of a Soviet Intepreter. 384 p. Pennsylvania, Penn State University Press.

Petukhova, I. A. (2008). Ital′yanskaya pressa o vstreche M. S. Gorbacheva i R. Reygana v Zheneve (1985 g.) [Italian press about M. S. Gorbachev and his policy in 1984––1991]. In Vestnik Pomorskogo universiteta. Ser. Gumanitarnye i Sotsial′nye nauki, 13, pp. 66––70.

Reagan, R. (1990). An American Life. 752 p. N. Y.

Reygan, R. (1992). Zhizn′ po-amerikanski [Living the American way]. 742 p. Moscow, Novosti.

Ryzhkov, N. I. (1992). Perestroyka: istoriya predatel′stv [Perestroyka: the story of betrayals]. 400 p. Moscow, Novosti.

Ryzhkov, N. I. (1995). Desyat′ let velikikh potryaseniy [Ten years of great shocks]. 576 p. Moscow, EKSMO.

Sekirinsky, D. S. (2010). SSSR perioda Perestroyki v otsenkakh amerikanskikh analitikov: istochniki stabil′nosti i obnovleniya sovetskoy sistemy [USSR during perestroika as seen by American analysts: sources of stability and change of the Soviet system]. In Istoriya : Elektronnyy nauchno-obrazovatel′nyy zhurnal, Vol. 1, Iss. 4. URL:–0–1–ru (mode of accesses: 31.01.2016).

Shakhnazarov, G. Kh. (2001). S vozhdyami i bez nikh [With and without the leaders]. 590 p. Moscow, Vagrius.

Shebarshin, L. V. (1997). Iz zhizni nachal′nika razvedki [From the life of the head of intelligence]. 192 p. Moscow, Terra.

Shevardnadze, E. A. (1991). Moy vybor: V zashchitu demokratii i svobody [My choice: in defence of democracy and freedom]. 367 p. Moscow, Novosti.

Shevardnadze, E. (1991). The Fututre belongs to Freedom. 237 p. N. Y., Free Press. Shevardnadze, E. A. (Leonova, G., Transl.). (2009). Kogda rukhnul zheleznyy zanaves. Vstrechi i vospominaniya [When the Iron Curtain collapsed]. 426 p. Moscow, Evropa.

Sukhodrev, V. M. (2008). Yazyk moy –– drug moy [Language my friend]. 536 p. Moscow, Tonchu.

Thatcher, М. (1993). The Downing Street Years. 832 p. London, Harpercollins.

Yakovlev, A. N. (2001). Omut pamyati: Ot Stolypina do Putina : v 2 kn [The Pensieve: from Stolypin to Putin]. Moscow, Vagrius. URL: http://www.e– (mode of accesses: 17.09.2015).



  • There are currently no refbacks.

ISSN 2311-911X (Print)
ISSN 2310-757X (Online)


BASE Search eLibrary WorldCat