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Friday, December 09, 2022

Gorbachev’s marriage broke the mold just like his politics

Mikhail Gorbachev was buried on Saturday at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow next to his wife Raisa, with whom he shared the world stage in a close and loving marriage unprecedented for a Soviet leader.

“They were a true couple. She was part of them, almost always by his side,” said then-Chancellor of Germany Helmut Kohl at Raisa’s funeral in 1999, where Gorbachev cried openly. Simply unimaginable.”

Gorbachev’s very public devotion to his family broke the strong structures of previous Soviet leaders, as did his openness to political reform.

“He loved a woman more than his job. I think he would not have embraced her if her hands were stained with blood,” said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, of Russia’s leading independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta. The editor wrote. The newspaper was co-owned by Gorbachev and was forced to close under official pressure after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Gorbachev’s open attachment to his family stands in stark contrast to the secrecy surrounding the personal life of Russia’s current leader, Vladimir Putin.

Raisa Gorbacheva was a bold figure for Soviet first ladies: a more visible, direct manner of speaking, refined manners and fashionable clothing. A sociologist by training, she met Mikhail at Moscow University, where they both studied.

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“One day we held hands and went for a walk at night. And we went on like this for the rest of our lives, ”Gorbachev told Vogue magazine in 2013. Raisa accompanied him on his travels and they discussed politics and politics together.

His confident demeanor and prominent public role did not sit well with many Russians, who also resented Gorbachev and blamed his policies for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, the couple found sympathy in 1999, when it was revealed that Raisa was dying of leukemia. Her husband spoke to television journalists daily, and the sometimes arrogant politician was suddenly seen as a sentimental and unhappy family man.

For more than two decades after his departure, Gorbachev kept Raisa’s memory alive and embraced his status as a solitary widower.

In 2009, she released a CD with seven romantic songs, “Songs for Raisa”, where she sang together with the famous Russian composer and guitarist Andrei Makarevich. The sale went to a charity founded by Raisa. A few years later, he published a book dedicated to him, “Alone with me”.

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Their wedding became the subject of a popular theater play “Gorbachev” in Moscow in 2021. His point to Russia was remarkable: the country’s leader was a man who put family, friends and personal responsibilities first. One scene recalled a pivotal moment in Gorbachev’s career when he returned to Moscow after the failed Communist coup against him in 1991. Raisa was traumatized, and instead of immediately returning to the political scene, he went to the hospital to be with her. ,

“I was not married to the country, Russia or the Soviet Union,” wrote Gorbachev in his memoirs. “My wife was married and I went to the hospital with her that night.”

In the Moscow cemetery, a life-size statue of Raisa has stood over the graves of both of them for many years.

Gorbachev had a daughter, Irina, two granddaughters and a great-granddaughter. Despite his attachment to the family, Gorbachev spent his entire life in Russia while he lived in Germany.

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