Politicians from Germany and around the world paid tribute to the Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev shortly after his death became known.
Without Gorbachev, “the peaceful revolutions in the countries of the Eastern Bloc would not have been conceivable here,” Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt (Greens) wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening. “His words have encouraged us, made me strong.”
Gorbachev died on Tuesday at the age of 91.
Germany owes a lot to Gorbachev, Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) also wrote on Twitter. “He ushered in the end of the Cold War, enabled Germany’s reunification and gave his country a democratic momentum. A brave man of conviction whose voice will be missed.”
Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Özdemir (Greens) made a similar statement, adding: “His death is depressing. Even more so at this time. Thanks
The CDU chairman Friedrich Merz declared: “Without Mikhail Gorbachev, German unity in freedom would not have been possible. The CDU mourns the loss of a statesman whom Germany could trust and who trusted us.”
Green politician Jürgen Trittin tweeted: “I bow to a great politician of peace Michael
Alexander Lambsdorff, deputy chairman of the FDP in the Bundestag, tweeted with regard to the current war in Ukraine: “We Germans owe you so much. I’m sure your compatriots will also realize from a distance that you were a true statesman, a man of peace.”
Ex-CDU leader Armin Laschet said: “Can a single person change the world? Yes. He can. No violence, no tanks, withdrawal of 350,000 Soviet soldiers from Germany. Freedom for millions in Central-Eastern Europe. German unity. Unthinkable without Mikhail Gorbachev.”
US President Joe Biden praised Gorbachev as a “man with exceptional foresight” and “a leader of a rarity” who made the world “safer”. And further: “Mikhail Gorbachev was a man with a remarkable vision. (…). These were the actions of an extraordinary leader – one who had the imagination to see a different future possible and the courage to risk her entire career to achieve it. The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”
French President Emmanuel Macron described Gorbachev as a “man of peace whose decisions opened the way to freedom for the Russians”.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has highlighted the importance of the former Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev for Europe. “He played a crucial role in ending the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain,” von der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening.
She described Gorbachev as a leader who was reliable and respected. “He paved the way for a free Europe. We will never forget this legacy.” Gorbachev died in Moscow on Tuesday evening at the age of 91.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to the legacy of the late Russian Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. “I have always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end,” Johnson wrote on Twitter late Tuesday night.
He also confronted Gorbachev with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “At a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his relentless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example for all of us,” Johnson wrote.
According to a spokesman, Russian President Vladimir Putin also expressed his deepest sympathy for the death of Mikhail Gorbachev. Putin will send the family a telegram on Wednesday morning, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced on Tuesday evening in Moscow. Putin describes the collapse of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and promises to restore the country to its former strength.
Mikhail Fedotov, who served as human rights adviser to the Russian president from 2010 to 2019 and, as press minister, co-authored Russia’s then-liberal media law in 1992, said: “Gorbachev returned Russia to the course of civilized development – and the world from nuclear war and the division into different blocs moved away.”
The prominent liberal Russian opposition politician Grigori Jawlinski paid tribute to the late Nobel Peace Prize winner as a changer in the world. “Gorbachev gave us freedom. He gave freedom to millions of people – in Russia and its surroundings and in half of Europe,” wrote the founder of the opposition party Yabloko on Wednesday night in his blog on the Telegram news channel. Yavlinsky and the Yabloko party are the last remnants of the opposition in Russia.
In recent weeks, Russian media have repeatedly reported on the health problems of the former head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Tass news agency is now reporting that Gorbachev is to be buried next to his wife Raisa, who died in 1999, in the cemetery of the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow.
Politically, Gorbachev had played no role in the past few decades. The attempt at a comeback in the 1996 presidential election failed miserably – Gorbachev only got 0.5 percent of the votes.
However, he repeatedly spoke out publicly and warned of a renewed increase in tensions between Russia and the USA. He enjoyed a great international reputation until the very end. Biden and then Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) congratulated him on his 90th birthday in March last year.
Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 at the age of 54. He set about reforming the system through political and economic freedoms. His “glasnost” policy of transparency not only allowed criticism of the party and the state. She encouraged nationalists who called for independence for the Baltic states, for example. Many Russians did not forgive him for the dislocations unleashed by his reforms.