In This Review

The New Russia
The New Russia
By Mikhail Gorbachev
Polity, 2016, 400 pp

Gorbachev here offers a detailed account of his thoughts, actions, and concerns from the day he resigned as president of the Soviet Union, in 1991, until today. The emotions on display are a mix of anger (giving way to undisguised hatred in the case of his successor, Boris Yeltsin), defiance, and sadness. Throughout, Gorbachev defends what he accomplished with perestroika at home and “new thinking” in foreign policy. He had hopes for Vladimir Putin, and at the outset of the Putin era, he excused a degree of authoritarianism as necessary and praised the new president’s agenda. Even when the Putin regime began to veer from the democratic path that Gorbachev had passionately defended, he blamed “the government” or “state authorities” rather than Putin himself—until roughly 2011, when his despair became comprehensive. On the Ukrainian crisis, Gorbachev punts, simply exhorting all parties to come together and find a solution. Despite his loosely formulated, sometimes backward-looking ideas, it is hard not to come away from this memoir thinking that Russia would be better off today if it were following Gorbachev’s instincts.