Coffee With…A Side of Glasnost

Would we have coffee….with Mikhail Gorbachev?

Cammy:  Once upon a time, when I was very small, I never would have thought to have coffee with Mikhail Gorbachev.  For one thing, back when I was 6, he was the face of what we were still being told was the Soviet “threat.”  For another, my mother told me coffee would stunt my growth.

But my fear of the man with the Kool-Aid® stain on his head collapsed right along with the Soviet regime and my belief that Mom was telling the truth about coffee.  He became an innocuous figure in the collection of “World Leaders Of My Elementary Years,” kind of like Reagan.  In fact, I kind of feel like there ought to be novelty salt and pepper shakers featuring Gorby and Reagan.  Oh, and Margaret Thatcher (maybe as a cream jug?).

Today this old fellow seems to have popped onto my Google feed out of the total obscurity in which he’s been dwelling since sometime in the 90s to talk smack about Putin.  I’m thinking coffee is a fabulous idea.  First of all, anyone who’s willing to call a man as f’ing scary as Putin on his shit is worth buying a cup of coffee (after all, it could be his last).  Second….what does he think of Russia now?

We’re more than 20 years since the wall came down in Germany, and it won’t be long before we’re whipping out the retrospective footage of that incredibly awkward Olympics where the Soviet Union was gone, but there was really nothing certain in its place.  And where’s the former world power now?  The situation is scarier than it was in 1985– in a totally different way–and every bit as shaky as in the 90s–but in a totally different way.

And what does Gorby think of all this?  He was the first of the USSR’s leaders to have been born post-revolution.  In an effort to try and revive the Soviet economy (which was circling the drain at a vastly accelerated rate), he began introducing radical reforms, additional freedoms, and moved to De-Stalinize the country.  In the end, it didn’t prevent the end of the Soviet Union.  Does that bother him?  He’s still very much a socialist, so the rampant capitalism in Russia has to grate.

I think this could be a multi-pot-of-coffee type of conversation.

Kristy:  Definitely.  Like Cammy, I’d like to get his take on Russia now.  Not just what he thinks of it, but what he thinks can be done, if anything.

I’ve got another reason for wanting to have coffee with him, though.  The one factoid that always sticks out in my brain about Gorbachev is one my Russian prof told me years ago.  Evidently he had a strong southern accent, and for that reason people made cracks about him being stupid.  It seems that the stereotype of southerners being slow in more ways that one reaches beyond US borders.  However, my prof swore he was one of, if not the most intelligent leaders the USSR ever had.  So yeah… I’d like to discuss the impact of stereotypes and see his take on it.

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