“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gorbachev Receives Liberty Medal in Philadelphia. Interesting.

Gorbachev Honored For Liberty
By: John P. Connolly, The Bulletin

Philadelphia - The last leader of the Soviet Union was honored by the National Constitution Center last night, and the air was charged with political issues and specters of the Cold War.

After becoming the youngest full member of the Soviet Politburo in 1980, Mr. Gorbachev was named General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985, ready to make long overdue reforms in the Soviet system.

For six years, he pressed for democratization by promoting glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). These policies created the environment that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union two years later.

Mr. Gorbachev became the 20th recipient of the Liberty Medal, an honor presented by the Constitution Center to honor world leaders who have labored to secure liberty for people throughout the world. Joseph M. Torsella, president and CEO of the Constitution Center, delivered a speech filled with praise for Mr. Gorbachev's commitment to liberty.

"He grew up under the brutal rule of Stalin, a dictator who introduced the words 'purge' and 'gulag' into the beautiful language of Pushkin and Chekhov," said Mr. Torsella. "But when he came to occupy the same office that Stalin held, 63 years later ... he introduced very different words. 'Glasnost,' openness. And 'perestroika,' change."

Renowned pianist Van Cliburn performed at the ceremony, along with singers Judy Collins and Bruce Hornsby. Also in attendance were Gov. Ed Rendell and Mayor Michael Nutter. Former President George H. W. Bush presented the award.

"It is a true honor for me to participate in this year's Liberty Medal ceremony to celebrate the achievements of someone whom I consider a great world leader and a dear friend," said Mr. Bush. "Regardless of the dividing lines between us, President Gorbachev opened up new possibilities for the world to come together and solve its problems in the pursuit of liberty. When Eastern Europeans were living in the dark shadow of the Cold War, he provided a beacon of light. Now, almost 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are still witnessing the positive impact his efforts have had across the globe. President Gorbachev is always looking ahead at a better future and helping all of us work to get there."

In a press conference before the ceremony, Mr. Gorbachev took questions about Russia's strained relations with the U.S., and urged caution and cooperation as the solution to the situation. Mr. Gorbachev stressed that the way forward for the countries lies in rebuilding the relations between them and cooperating.

"We have to think about the future of our relations," he said. "I recall that when I became the leader of the Soviet Union, the leaders of our two nations had not met for six years. And this was at the peak of the Cold War. At that time, we concluded that we needed to reconnect, restart the relationship between America and Russia. And step by step we did that."

He said that building up relations made it possible to make progress toward ending the Cold War. Both nations have strong tools for cooperation, and future proceedings to better Russian-American relations should build on that, even though he is not content with the level of democracy in both countries. Mr. Gorbachev said that both countries need to continue an ongoing perestroika.

"This is one area of our domestic affairs where we can not ever be fully satisfied with what's happening," he said. "But there is freedom of information and there is a large amount of freedom in the media, particularly in the print media and on the radio. As for television, I am more critical, I believe there is too much government input on the television channels."

John P. Connolly can be reached at


  1. We could ask Gorby what to do in Afghaniston. :(

    Soviet-Afghan relations
    After the Russian Revolution, as early as 1919, the Soviet government gave Afghanistan aid in the form of a million gold rubles, small arms, ammunition, and a few aircraft to support the Afghan resistance to the British. In 1924, the USSR again gave military aid to Afghanistan. It received small arms, aircraft and Red Army military training in the Soviet Union for Afghan Army officers. Soviet-Afghan military cooperation began on a regular basis in 1956, when both countries signed another agreement. The Soviet Minister of Defense was now responsible for training all Afghan military officers.

    In 1972, up to 100 Soviet military consultants and technical specialists were sent on detached duty to Afghanistan to train the Afghan armed forces. In May 1978, the governments signed another international agreement, sending up to 400 Soviet military advisors to Afghanistan. In December 1978, Moscow and Kabul signed a bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation that permitted Soviet deployment in case of an Afghan request. Soviet military assistance increased and the PDPA regime became increasingly dependent on Soviet military equipment and advisors.

  2. In God's economy, Gorby probably must be admitted to the ranks of the angels, all things considered. (reading the mind of God) Not sure about his deceased wife though. Wonder if he remarried.

  3. Failed in the Afghan war. Failed the Soviet economy. Failed at keeping the Soviet Union together. Failed miserably at liquor reform. Failed at practically everything, but came out a winner.

    Succeeded with granddaughter Anastasia

    (Ana·sta·sia (an′ə stā′z̸hə, -s̸hə; -z̸hē ə, -s̸hē ə)


    a feminine name: dim. Stacey, Stacy

    Etymology: LL, fem. of Anastasius < Gr Anastasias, lit., of the resurrection )

    in a Pizza Hut commercial.

    Announced his Christian convictions. All in all, he's among the angels.

    The first major reform programme introduced under Gorbachev was the 1985 alcohol reform, which was designed to fight widespread alcoholism in the Soviet Union. Prices of vodka, wine and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted. People who were caught drunk at work or in public were prosecuted. Drinking on long-distance trains and in public places was banned. Many famous wineries were destroyed. Scenes of alcohol consumption were cut out from films. The reform did not have any significant effect on alcoholism in the country, but economically it was a serious blow to the state budget (a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles according to Alexander Yakovlev) after alcohol production migrated to the black market economy.

    Gorbachev has also appeared in numerous media events since his resignation from office. In 1993, Gorbachev appeared as himself in the Wim Wenders film, Faraway, So Close!, the sequel to Wings of Desire. In 1997, Gorbachev appeared with his granddaughter Anastasia in an internationally-screened television commercial for Pizza Hut. The US corporation's fee for the 60-second ad went to his not-for-profit Gorbachev Foundation.[19] In 2007, French luxury brand Louis Vuitton announced that Gorbachev would be shown in an ad campaign for their signature luggage.

  4. One thing you don't want to bet your reputation on in Russia is a successful alcohol reform.