Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said he is "ashamed" with the way Russia is run today and warned the Kremlin could face an Egypt-style uprising, reports The Wall Street Journal. The report sounds sensationalistic and plausible, if all you read about Russia are Washington Post and WSJ. However, the reality is quite different. According to the recent poll conducted by the independent and highly-respected Levada-Center, 69% of Russians approve Medvedev's work and 73% approve Putin's work; 72% of the nation "trust" the Russian government; 49% of the Russians approve the work of the government as a whole, and--equally--49% disapprove the government's activity. As you can tell, stats are much better than in Egypt or in the U.S., for that matter.
While Gorbachev is romanticized in the West and is credited with bringing the reign of the "Evil Empire" to an end, he remains one of the most hated figures in his home country, Russia. In 1996, only four years after he dissolved the Soviet Union, Gorbachev ran in Russia's presidential elections. He gained 0.51% (half of one percent) of the country's vote. Many Russians still blame Gorbachev for losing the control over the transition (that never happened), and leaving the country up for grabs by corrupt apparatchiks and oligarchs. Russians' quality of life and savings collapsed and disappeared after Gorbachev dismantled the Soviet Union. The Caucuses (Georgia and Chechnya specifically) went up in flames of violence and terrorism unknown in the Soviet Union or other "transitioning nations" like China, and the entire country found itself robbed of its resources and pride. One of my Moscow friends calls Gorbachev names and says "He [Gorbachev] will die without ever realizing what he's done and the tragedy he's inflicted upon the Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, Chechen, and other peoples of the Soviet Union."
The Wall Street Journal interprets the remarks of Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, who said on Tuesday that the West should not support the popular uprisings in the Middle East, as a sign of the Kremlin's concern. In fact, the real quote of Russia's Lavrov is: "We have had one revolution in Russia and we don't believe that we need to call for others." Today, Russia strongly believes in staying out of other countries' businesses. An average Russian has very negative associations with the 1917 Soviet Revolution with Lenin on a tank and the 1991 Democratic Revolution with Yeltsin, miraculously, on a tank as well. The associations are the ones of hunger, economic collapse, loss of national pride, and devastation. As someone who grew up in the country that is no more, I concur the feelings and recollections. Gorbachev is the irrevocable part of those memories.
Mikhail Gorbachev's personal affairs and career aspirations became so low, that starring in Pizza Hut and Louis Vuitton ads became his main sources of income. Seems like Mr. Gorbachev needs a little media boost once in a while to remain relevant in people's minds. Otherwise, Pizza Hut's brand is stronger than his own. Here you go, Mr. Gorbachev - we gave you the publicity boost! Look forward to seeing you soon in your next pizza commercial!