“It was the path to freedom. We later conducted the first free elections in Russia in 1,000 years.”
I understood that nothing would work without deep-seated political reforms. After suffering a defeat in the first democratic elections, the establishment joined forces and openly attacked me at a meeting of the party leadership. That was when I announced my resignation and left the plenary chamber.
SPIEGEL: But that was only in April 1991, eight months before the end of the Soviet Union. Besides, you returned. You allowed yourself to be persuaded once again, instead of using the moment to send the old party packing.
Gorbachev: Yes, I came back after three hours. Some 90 comrades had already established a list for a new Gorbachev party, which would have created a schism. I joined the Communist Party at 19, when I was still in school. My father had been on the front and my grandfather was an old communist — and I was supposed to blow the whole thing up? Today I know that I should have done it. But the man sitting in front of you is not a so-called statesman, but a completely normal person. Someone with a conscience, and that conscience tortured me constantly.
Gorbachev: … he was already very, very self-confident. When we wanted to bring him into the national party, many advised us against it. They later elected him as party leader in Moscow. I supported it. He was energetic, and it took a long time for me to recognize my mistake. He was extremely infatuated with power, haughty and thirsting for glory, a domineering person. He always believed that he was being underestimated, and he constantly felt insulted. He should have been shunted out of the way and made an ambassador in a banana republic, where he could have smoked water pipes in peace.