Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last leader of the old Soviet Union, has been glamorized to the point where he actually modeled for Louis Vuitton; the consumer is supposed to aspire to own a duffle bag just like Gorby’s.
But Gorbachev’s not just a pretty face: Claire Berlinski, writing at City Journal, asks in her article, A Hidden History of Evil
Why doesn’t anyone care about the unread Soviet archives?
And we all should ask that question. Here’s what she has to say about Gorbachev:
For instance, the documents cast Gorbachev in a far darker light than the one in which he is generally regarded. In one document, he laughs with the Politburo about the USSR’s downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983—a crime that was not only monstrous but brought the world very near to nuclear Armageddon. These minutes from a Politburo meeting on October 4, 1989, are similarly disturbing:
Lukyanov reports that the real number of casualties on Tiananmen Square was 3,000.
Gorbachev: We must be realists. They, like us, have to defend themselves. Three thousands . . . So what?
And a transcript of Gorbachev’s conversation with Hans-Jochen Vogel, the leader of West Germany’s Social Democratic Party, shows Gorbachev defending Soviet troops’ April 9, 1989, massacre of peaceful protesters in Tbilisi.
Stroilov’s documents also contain transcripts of Gorbachev’s discussions with many Middle Eastern leaders. These suggest interesting connections between Soviet policy and contemporary trends in Russian foreign policy. Here is a fragment from a conversation reported to have taken place with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad on April 28, 1990:
H. ASSAD. To put pressure on Israel, Baghdad would need to get closer to Damascus, because Iraq has no common borders with Israel. . . .
M. S. GORBACHEV. I think so, too. . . .
H. ASSAD. Israel’s approach is different, because the Judaic religion itself states: the land of Israel spreads from Nile to Euphrates and its return is a divine predestination.
M. S. GORBACHEV. But this is racism, combined with Messianism!
H. ASSAD. This is the most dangerous form of racism.
One doesn’t need to be a fantasist to wonder whether these discussions might be relevant to our understanding of contemporary Russian policy in a region of some enduring strategic significance.
As uncomfortable as it may be for those who think it’s progressive to keep Mao’s Little Red Book on their bedside table or favor the radical chic of a Che t-shirt, we need to expose and acknowledge the reality of Soviet-style communism that has claimed so many tens of millions lives. A good place to start would be recognizing it for what it was, and understanding its history.
Until then, we shall continue to see tyrants selling expensive luggage while comfortably driven around in limousines.