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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Farewell to the last Soviet emperor, who also inspired the last boss of the League of Communists of Slovenia (ZKS)

By: Gašper Blažič

On the very day of violent clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops near Kherson, the news of the death of the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, came out. A man who thoroughly marked world politics in the second half of the 1980s and then also in the early 1990s, when he became – apparently against his will – the bankruptcy administrator of the “Soviet paradise”.

After the Slovak bishop Pavol Hnilica on March 25th, 1984, i.e., in the “Year of Orwell”, incognito in the middle of Moscow almost imperceptibly read the consecration text for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as the message from Fatima dictated, big changes started to happen at the centre of world communism. The consecration took place already at a time when the last great Soviet communist leader, Leonid Brezhnev, was already dead, and he was succeeded only for a short time by Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. Then, in 1985, Gorbachev took the chair of the party leader and thus the most influential politician in the Soviet Union and fairly quickly announced the reform processes, which are mainly known by the names “perestroika” and “glasnost”. But by the time Gorbachev announced at the Soviet-American summit in Malta (very soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall) that there would be no new Yalta and that the nations would decide their own destiny, almost the entire five-year period had passed. Regardless, the Western press will probably accompany Gorbachev’s departure from this world with assessments that “Miša” in the dialogue with the West mainly took care of two things: nuclear disarmament and the peaceful separation of the Soviet republics or the transition of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to the Commonwealth of Independent States.

However, we know that it was not quite like that. Indeed, at the peak of his political career, Gorbachev also accumulated some dark spots. The first is definitely related to Chernobyl. The leadership of the Soviet Communist Party was informed about it very quickly, but unfortunately, as was usual with totalitarian regimes, the other countries were not informed about it. Only a few days after the accident, when radioactive dust was detected in one of the Swedish nuclear power plants (where they found that the release did not come from them, but was brought by the wind from elsewhere) and when the American satellite also noticed a large fire in the west of the then Soviet Union with an unusual beam, the Kremlin was forced to admit the harsh truth about the worst nuclear disaster in history. Which is certainly not unrelated to the current and very dangerous events surrounding another Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia. Given the Bolshevik mentality of the current Kremlin ruler, saying that victims are not important, the danger of a similar catastrophe is very close again. Just under three years before the Chernobyl disaster, the world was saved from (self)destruction by nuclear missiles, after the Soviet colonel Stanislav Petrov acted sensibly and realised that it was a false alarm and that American nuclear missiles, which were supposed to be flying towards Moscow, were not coming.

With this implausible denial of the accident, Gorbachev lost a lot of moral credit in relation to the USA and the then American President Ronald Reagan – certainly the last American president who presented the Soviet authorities with a list of Soviet political prisoners under their noses at every meeting – and was left with nothing more than a slight yielding. But even after he declaratively supported the then 70-year-old Wilson’s concept of self-determination of nations in Malta, he failed the next moment. Namely, as early as 1990, announcements about respecting the self-determination of nations were taken very seriously in the three Baltic republics of the then Soviet Union, i.e., Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Lithuania assumed the role of flag bearer and paid dearly for its role with the intervention of the Soviet army, which also claimed civilian casualties. However, this was the time when the much more pragmatic George Bush ruled in the USA, who directed the axis of his interests to the Middle East (operation Desert Storm), which somewhat relieved Moscow’s hardliners and at the same time gave strong support to the unity of the then already crumbling of Yugoslavia. And let’s be realistic: even the Belgrade hard-liners from military circles were watching the events in Lithuania very carefully and were preparing similar plans for Slovenia and Croatia as well. And also, for the military coup, which, compared to the “bulldozing” admiral Branko Mamula, the slightly more restrained army general Veljko Kadijević did not dare to carry out. Even though he made several visits to Moscow – even during the war for Slovenia he wanted to fly there, but Hungary and Romania rejected the intention to enter their airspace – he repeatedly consulted with his Soviet colleague Dmitry Yazov about the simultaneous execution of a military coup in Belgrade and Moscow.

After the rather awkward conclusion of the “Okop” campaign in Slovenia in July 1991, it became increasingly clear to Western leaders that they would not be able to save either Yugoslavia or the Soviet Union. They were rightly concerned, above all, that Soviet nuclear weapons would fall into the hands of extremists, so the world was practically speechless when in the second half of August 1991, in the absence of Gorbachev, some Soviet officials announced the deposing of the reformist leader, who at that time was on the holiday on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. However, the project crashed when the new leader of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin, pulled the handbrake and the army was not ready to follow the coup plotters’ instructions either. At the end of 1991, the Soviet Union could only say its farewell greeting, when the recognition of Slovenia and Croatia by the European Community was already prepared. Of course, this does not mean that Gorbachev went into anonymity, because not so long ago he even supported Putin’s project of annexing Crimea to Russia, which was also a prelude to the current war and a serious violation of the international agreement of 1994, which gave Ukraine in exchange for nuclear disarmament guaranteed the inviolability of its borders.

Certainly, the story of the Soviet reformist had a great influence on Slovenia as well – even during Yugoslavia. Gorbachev’s visit to Ljubljana in early 1988 greatly angered Belgrade circles, saying that the leader of a world superpower had nothing to talk about with “provincials”. But his meeting with Milan Kučan, who had taken over the leadership of the Central Committee of ZKS less than two years earlier, was much more important than it seemed at first glance. Of course, only Kučan knows exactly what they discussed, but most likely the topic of the conversation was primarily the export of the Soviet model of “socialism with a human face” to Yugoslavia, where it was otherwise known under a similar name (“socialism tailored to the people”). At the time of the meeting with the Kremlin emperor, Kučan had already faced criticism from Belgrade, saying that the Slovenian authorities were not acting decisively against the phenomenon of so-called counter-revolution and its supporters. This was a year after the publication of the Slovenian national programme in the 57th issue of Nova revija, during the preparation for the publication of the writer’s constitution and also of Kavčič’s diary, which greatly benefited Kučan, and the godfather of the publication, Niko Kavčič, knew this well. However, it was obvious that “socialism with a human face” did not exclude repression, only that the latter was somewhat adapted and more directed against those who posed the greatest danger to the regime. This is also why only a few months after Gorbachev’s visit, three of the four members of the JBTZ quartet were arrested and a trial was held, which was supposed to let Belgrade know that the Slovenian authorities had the situation under control.

And perhaps this also explains why Kučan gave covert support to Putin’s Russia throughout the aggression. And apparently, he has the most faithful imitators in his “proud successors”, for example Tanja Fajon and Dominika Švarc Pipan, who, in protest, did not applaud European Commission President Ursula von den Leyen for her support for Ukraine. As if to say, it is not appropriate to support the victory of Ukraine. Of course, this kind of logic is publicly supported by the former prominent member of the SD, Aurelio Juri, who, like in 1991, when he wanted to negotiate with the YPA as the mayor of Koper, demands negotiations. But then did not the leader of the French resistance, Charles de Gaulle, act badly because he refused to talk to Hitler?

The conclusion is therefore in the palm of your hand: Gorbachev was indeed a reformist, but at the core he always remained a Bolshevik. Just like his loyal Slovenian students.

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