The man who inspired this forum, Sir Peter Ustinov, said in the 1990's, of a man who inspired him and so many then, Mikhail Gorbachev:
"He is without a doubt, the man of the century. Everything that has happened in Eastern Europe, for better or worse, has derived from him."
Speaking as he was at a point in history so positive, compared to now, about a region so hopeful, the "worse" then was indeed much "better" than the best is now, in the wake of all that has derived from another Russian President, Vladimir Putin.
Gorbachev did indeed fail as well as suceed. Like Putin, he didn't, while President or subsequently, share in a deep understanding of the level of desire amongst the regions and nations that made up the Soviet Union, to break away from the reach of the Russian state's grasp. The separatist movements then were already expressing a desire for independence that has continued and deepened.
But Gorbachev, in the attitude of those who want the old Soviet Union's one element that those like him sort to maintain, a union of Republics, was as far removed in his personal and political attributes from Putin as can be imagined or seen. Glasnost, the openness, that Gorbachev and his associates began and continued, and perestroika, the reform agenda that he and they pursued, was a process like nothing eperienced on that scale, before or since, in any country. It was a peaceful revolution.
If to seek peace is a part of the desire for the defeat of prejudice, this reluctant winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was no warmonger, but was a unifier. He became friends as well as colleagues, with President Ronald Reagan, it was he, the Soviet leader, as much or more than any Western leader, who was also the winner of the Cold War. When he criticised President George Bush, who he was also friendly with, in the early nineties, for describing America as the victor of the Cold War, he was right to do so. For he knew, it was the world at large and humanity as a whole that were and are the winners of the ending of that Cold War, with a peace that has lasted a long while. As we see and witness a knew cold war as a result of a brutal violent war, caused by that current Russian leader so unlike and often opposed by, that former leader, we remember the leadership of Gorbachev with a regret for the loss of it and him.
We here on this forum honour the memory of a man of peace. A man of insight, of wisdom, of courage, Mikhail Gorbachev made as many mistakes as any great figure has a tendency to, which was not as many in any sense, as most of lesser stature. He was a giant figure in the development of the history of his country and history of the world. He may be gone, but he shall not be forgotten. He shall indeed be remembered by history far more in the ways that Sir Peter expressed in the first part of his appraisal, than many others ever shall.