BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Mikhail Gorbachev, why did you write this book?
FORMER PRESIDENT MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (SOVIET UNION), AUTHOR, "MEMOIRS:"
(Through Translator) Everyone is writing books. I sometimes wrote read read
books about perestroika and saw my name in those books, but the rest was
totally false, stupid, silly, a lot of rumors, a lot of speculation. Some
other books are quite serious, of course. I don't want to overdramatize it
but anyway, I thought I thought that I am the principal witness and the
principal person who bears responsibility for what happened, and I believed
that it was important for me to explain my position about how I started
reforms, why I came around to the view that reforms were necessary; why did I
decide and how that decision emerged about reforms and how difficult the
So I thought that it is important to write a book about the time of
perestroika because perestroika had far reaching consequences for my country
and for the world. I cannot accept it when people speak but Gorbachev is
silent. I had to speak out and I did that and I tried to avoid the temptation
of the writers of many memoirs to prettify myself, to show myself in better
life. I tried to keep within the facts. I have a lot of facts about various
events, about all that happened and about my relationship with various people
in domestic and international politics. I could say a lot. I tried to write
about the most important things. At first I dictated 10,000 pages of
material. Here, this book is equivalent to 1,000 pages of typewritten text.
LAMB: I notice that the German company Bertelsmann bought this book and now
it's published in the United States and Doubleday. And that one of the first
countries you ever went to in your life, in 1966, was Germany and Berlin and
you said it was an emotional experience for you. Why is that?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, for us, relations relations that
we have had with Germany after the war bore the imprint of what happened in
the past, the war for which Nazism was responsible, the bloodshed, the
bloodbath in which our country and your country, too, was involved.
Twenty seven million Russians and people of other nationalities of the former
Soviet Union died in the war or in the camps or were killed in bombings, etc.
That, given the fact that the gene pool of our country, whole generations were
killed for example, males born in 1922, '23 only a few of them survived. So
the war was an extremely painful experience and therefore building relations
with Germany after such a tragedy this is something that all of us had to do
a lot of thinking about, we and the Germans, and a lot had to change in our
country and in Germany.
And when I visited, even the German's Democratic Republic, the country that
was our ally at that time, as a Russian as a Russian, you know, heart my
heart began to beat faster. There was that building of Reichstag, the burnt
building of Reichstag. We saw that mound of earth over the Reich
Chancellory, the Brandenburg Gate, where there were those goose stepping
soldiers there used to be those goose stepping soldiers. And I remembered
the war. I was 10 years old when the war started and the memory of a child
remembers all that, imprints all that.
I remembered how the war started on a Sunday. Everyone was planning to go out
and to have fun. The grownups had their own fun. We kids had our children's
fun and then suddenly stopped. All of us were gathered together in the center
of our village, the village of Privolnoye, which is my birthplace, and we
listened. There was no radio at home at that time so we were listening from
the loudspeaker a special loudspeaker that broadcast the speech of Malenkov.
That is how it began.
And then we had very difficult years. So the war was a shocking a shocking
experience, an upheaval, and it was not difficult to get over that experience
with Germany, even though in the history of our relations there's a lot of
periods of cooperation and of positive positive interaction. But building a
new relationship, a partnership of cooperation that was a difficult process.
And when I went there, I really, you know, watched all of it through a special
perspective. I tried to understand and I remembered a lot.
Nevertheless, I saw we saw that Germans are people like us, that they, too,
even then, understood the kind of tragedy that Nazism was for them and for the
world based on those delirious ideas of race superiority, exclusivity, etc.
So emotionally it was a difficult experience. Politically, of course, it was,
at that time, quite clear that things have changed. But emotionally that is
difficult because other than our head, we have our heart.
LAMB: By the way, a couple of years ago when Richard Nixon was here for our
book program like this, I asked him what his favorite town in the world
was or city and he said it was Istanbul in Turkey. How about yours? What's
your favorite city in the world?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, I would not want to do it this way.
I really do not want to give all the praise to one city. I visited many
cities. I've traveled throughout the world. I love Moscow, even though there
were some years of neglect in Moscow and some buildings in Moscow are very
simplistic, this kind of prefab construction. Today, Moscow, particularly its
center, the historic part of Moscow, is being rebuilt. It is rising again and
this is wonderful. I welcome this. It is a lot of joy to walk the streets of
Moscow, the narrow lanes of Moscow. Those were the years of that when I was
a student I first came to Moscow, that those I I met Raisa in Moscow.
Overall, in my life, I lived a quarter of a century in Moscow. Both my
granddaughters were born in Moscow. So Moscow University, my young years, are
connected with Moscow.
On the other hand hand, St. Petersburg is also a wonderful city Kiev,
Odessa, I have also visited many of your wonderful cities, really beautiful
cities, big and small San Francisco. Or I thought that, you know, Vancouver,
the Canadian city of Vancouver, I thought that it was a town, but when I came
I saw it was a city. It was a marvelous city with beautiful bays, with a
nature that is similar to ours. And I could go on and on. I could speak
about many wonderful cities that I visited, including Istanbul. Yes, I
visited that city, too.
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Perhaps sometimes the person the
individual associates a city with some event, with some experience. On the
other hand, there are such wonderful cities, like Paris, for example, or as I
write in my memoirs, you walk the streets in that city and you see the you
walk the cities of streets of Rome and you feel as though you are a part of
history. Florence Florence, when you look at that city from the hill and you
feel the music of those tile roofs and it's a wonderful, light city, a city of
flowers and music.
So I would not single out one city and give all the praise, all the laurels to
one city. That would be unfair. It is good there are many wonderful cities.
It is the diversity that we have to protect, we have to preserve. It would be
terrible if someone tried it would be stupid if someone tried, once again,
steamroll the world to equalize everything into one model of society. We
tried to force a Communist model of society on the people and tried to make
people happy in this kind of barracks. Or, if someone tried to Westernize the
entire world, that would be equally stupid. We must see the world as a
diverse world with very different nations, very different histories, cultures.
Now we have an opportunity after the Cold War after the end of the Cold War
to build a very diverse world with all that multiplicity. Even though there
are still dangers, I after the end of the Cold War, I hope that we will avoid
the new division of the world. I hope we'll take advantage of the
opportunities because this is why we did what we did in working together with
your country in overcoming, surmounting the barriers, the terrible barriers
that we had to overcome; not only those mountains of weapons, but there were
the mountains of lies about each other that we had to set aside the
When people met, then they saw that all of us are the same in that we want to
live, we want to enjoy life, and I'm very glad I recently on this visit, I
have seen I have been to eight states of the United States and I had some
very private meetings and I once talked to 20,000 people to a group of 20,000
people and there was enormous interest, many questions. People are very
open open minded, and they applaud the fact that they can now breathe after
this sword of Damocles the nuclear sword of Damocles had been averted.
But people, again, are also worried because we see some kind of players you
know, you started on this question, but, of course, I went on to contemporary
politics. Of course, my book is more about past events. But you cannot
divide the past and the present.
LAMB: You say in your you just told us earlier that you dictated some 10,000
pages of material. When did you start dictating? And then how did you put
the book together? There's a preface in here by Martin McCullough from the
University of London. What role did he play in putting the book together?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) No. No. He only participated in the
editing of the English edition, trying to make the book more concise, so some
ideas about the structure of the book. But the book is mine. All this book
was done by me. Many people helped me because it takes a lot of work to
complete this book, but the main burden of the work was mine and I had to
decide eventually about what kind of book it's going to be, what will be left
out of the initial 10,000 pages, what will be left in the German edition, what
will be in the English edition, and finally, this English edition was born
after a good and friendly cooperation, but sometimes we had a lot of debate a
lot of sharp debate because those people who know publishing they said that I
should produce a more concise edition for English and American readers. I
eventually agreed, but I disagreed with some other suggestions. I am a
democratically minded person, but the decisions eventually the decisions I
take myself. It's my decision.
LAMB: Before we started you said that the gentleman doing the translation for
both of us, Pavel, helped you on the book. I want to show the audience what
he looks like and they'll remember him. They can see it on the screen right
there. He's there on the monitor. And he is now translating my English to
your Russian and then when you speak, he translates your Russian to my
Do you think that when you have a translator, which we all need when most of
the time when language is does that cut down on the ability to communicate
as as well as we should?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, what can we do? I don't want us
all to speak one language. I don't want us to abandon all the other
languages. I cannot agree with having in the world some kind of superculture
and all the other cultures to be subordinate to it. That would be very
dangerous. We want a a united world and the world is globalizing. The world
is getting smaller. We, today, see things in real time because of the
communications media, television, etc., etc. But we should preserve the
diversity and the multiplicity that exists in the world.
In nature it's very important, but similarly in the human world, in the world
of nations, people should meet, people should work together. That's a source
of great happiness, of course, and diversity, too, should be preserved. It
should not be the kind of Communist barracks which some people wanted to
create because barracks is still a prison, a big prison. And prison one
feels bad in prison always. And therefore, we should preserve languages and
there should be translation, therefore.
I am sorry that, at a time when we didn't have enough time during the war and
later to study languages, I I I studied German a little bit, but because of
lack of time, I didn't have a chance to learn any of the foreign languages.
And I regret that because translation can constrain you. Translation can
constrain because I tried to elaborate. I am a temperamental person, I come
from the South, and then I have to stop and listen to the translation. And
the translator has to keep pace with me. When one speaks to a person and
looks that person in his eyes, I I prefer that. So I I'm sorry that I don't
know foreign languages that my generation many people didn't have a chance to
learn those languages. But I would say that Pavel, my translator I would
like to say to the others what I said to you. He worked for many years as a
diplomat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He spent a few years working
with Mr. Shevardnadze, the foreign ministry minister. He had worked before
that as interpreter in the UN secretariat in New York, the city that he loves
very much and he is saying that this is the best city in America.
And then when I became general secretary and then president, all my contacts
over the past 10 years, including after I stepped down, have been through him
and I value very much his wide range in knowledge because I have to discuss
things that are very complex political and philosophical things that are
quite complex, and, therefore, I need a person who's not just an interpreter,
a but a person who has wide ranging knowledge in the various subjects. And
he is that kind of person. And he is also a person who can work very, very
hard. It's amazing.
LAMB: When we watched you, when you were the leader of the Soviet Union, we
always wanted to know if you understood any English and whether or not in the
meetings you could understand President Reagan or President Bush at all. Do
you understand English?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) To some extent, yes. When one meets with
people often and when you talk about things and you translated being
translated, you begin to learn. It's a kind of teaching process and at some
point I began to feel that I'm beginning to understand the point, the main
content. Of course, not those matters that require great precision where
positions are being laid out. That requires very precise translation and
precision in translation; really defines the consequences, the
implications political consequences. But in terms of human give and take,
yes, at some, I started to understand certain things, to get certain phrases
We were driving here in the car in New York and I asked my colleague, who
accompanies me, Dr. Lichadahl, who knows English quite well, and I was
reading various signs and I tried to translate or understand some of those
signs. And then I said, `You know, I I already know quite a few English
words,' and the difficulty is that it's not like in Russian or in German you
can read easily. But in in English sometimes you write Liverpool, but you
should read Boston. But I can already read some and understand some and I
said, `I have quite a few English words already.' And he said, `Well, the
next phase, of course, is to connect all those words.' Yes, to connect is
more difficult. It's probably too late to start.
But I have an interest in languages. In Germany for example, in Germany
since I studied German when I was younger and even read German, unfortunately
later I had no chance for 20, 25 years to use the language, but in Germany
when I go there, the next day two, three days afterwards I begin to
understand a lot and to speak a little. So it's that way.
LAMB: You mentioned Raisa, your wife, Mrs. Gorbachev, earlier, and you
mention in the book that it took her two years to recover her health after the
coup. I want to ask you how she is how is she today? And what is she doing
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, it is true it is true that
probably I am more solid physically and in terms of my nervous system. Men,
unlike women, are are different. Friedrich Engels said that women are a
different civilization. They are more sensitive and to me, to a person who
was steeped in politics I spent 40 years in politics that's a real ordeal
for and and not all can go through this. I was able to endure. I was able
to avoid panic. I never panicked in in any situation. Whatever the danger,
I always tried to concentrate and to think about a solution to any problem.
As for her and our daughter, she took our isolation during the coup very hard
and that affected her health and her strength. And it took her two years,
indeed, to recover, to start traveling with me and she does. I want her to be
with me because she is the person who is probably the most important person in
my life. She gives me a lot of support and, of course, those who say that she
took decisions for me that, of course, is not true. She was far from
politics. But she was a very and is a very educated person and it so happens
that we have always been together and supported each other. We are close, not
only personally intimate but we are also friends intellectually. This is the
way it was and is.
Today she is working on some charitable programs within the Gorbachev
Foundation because today the situation in Russia is difficult and people from
other countries try to help and we appreciate this. Of course, what Russia
needs most is not so much charity but cooperation based on ground rules, based
on real partnership. But there are some people in Russia who have been
hard hit by the current situation the recent situation. And the humanitarian
charitable assistance that we receive is only to be welcomed. I really believe
that this is something that the American people can do very well. And I
appreciate it this very much. I like this very much. I think that without
this without this feature of the American character, which I think is very
spiritual, without this a nation cannot really work. And in America, this
works very much. And the fact that people here came from different places,
different continents and they understood that they should, of course, take the
initiative that they also should help each other. And that, I think, created
this morality of mutual help initiative on the one hand, but solidarity on
the other hand toward those who cannot make it.
So this is what she's doing, and right now we she is working actively with
the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and they are working hard to make
sure that the assistance that we receive from other countries really goes to
those who are in need. We found that initially some people whose hands are
not clean tried to do business, to make a profit from this charitable
assistance and they actually sold at a profit some of that humanitarian
shipments. And, therefore, my foundation, even though mostly it is a think
tank and it is a research center on political science and international
relations, we also have a special group within the Gorbachev Foundation that
helps those who'd like to give this kind of assistance. And we cannot do
everything, but we're working together with a number of humanitarian
organizations because they trust us, because they know that people who work
with Gorbachev are good and decent people, people with a good conscience,
people who were with me through thick and thin. So Raisa is doing this, too.
LAMB: You say that your hobby both of your hobbies early in your life was
reading, and I'd be interested in knowing what kind of books you read...
MR. GORBACHEV: (Russian spoken)
LAMB: ...in your early years...
MR. GORBACHEV: (Russian spoken)
LAMB: ...in your library. And you even said that your daughter, Irina, read
almost all the books, all the Russian classics and all in in your library.
What kind of books did you read early?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) First of all, you ought to know that this
is really our great hobby and, because of this, we have an enormous library.
We have been buying books all our life. We have in our library a lot of
fiction, a lot of books about history and philosophy, because Mrs. Gorbachev
had a PhD in philosophy, a lot of material of a reference kind. So my library
is of great help to me. It helps me out in difficult situations. We have the
Encyclopaedia Britannica and we use it because our daughter speaks English and
Mrs. Gorbachev can read a little English, so we use that as a source. So we
do have a big library.
My hobby particularly is Russian fiction, but also European and American
classics. I have read many of the books by your writers Theodore Dreiser,
Scott Fitzgerald, to say nothing of Mark Twain and Jack London and I could go
on and on. And I read them; I read more than one book by each author. If I
started reading Jack London, I wanted to read all that he wrote. I also like
European fiction. I read many books by European authors, fewer books by Asian
authors. I would say I read some books on Eastern history and philosophy. I
like books on history. I like historical fiction, memoirs. I have a lot of
books, a lot of memoirs; read them all, and I sometimes go back to those
books. Recently, for example, I started to reread Dostoyevsky, particularly
"The Devils," "The Possessed," "The Karamazov Brothers." And there's a lot
there that's extremely extremely instructive. I am amazed at the magnitude
of that writer, and he was able to render human sufferings and he really was
on a quest to study the human so soul. And I think he is probably probably
the best on that score. Tolstoy, Chekhov, too, are great writers,
so it's it's amazing what they can do.
And I continue to read a great deal. We used to be a closed society
ideologically very closed, controlled society. And that meant that even
well educated people did not get a chance to read some of the many of the
books of Russian philosophers because the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
did not like it because our ideologue our ideologues did not like those
philosophers. But when we began perestroika, we very quickly published 30
volumes of all the philosophers of pre revolutionary Russia. And I have those
30 volumes, and I read a lot by them. They were great minds: Ilian,
Solovyov, Perdiyev. They said a great deal of what today we are only
rehashing. So sometimes we are reinventing the wheel. That is our problem.
We reinvent the wheel. We sometimes think as though there were no thinkers
before us, and that can be tragic. We really have to have to go back to
those thinkers and writers.
It's very important that whatever we say about TV it's important, of
course, but books are should not be replaced by anything, by TV or something,
because the books make it possible to think more deeply. Probably American
audiences will say, `Well, Gorbachev knows that we're reading less than we
used to.' Well, I know that in all countries people are spending more time
watching TV than reading. But still, I think that books will continue to
exist. There will be books. Television has a role, of course. Television
has a role in terms of, you know, allowing people to spend time at leisure.
But in terms of formative work for the individual, it's very important to read
books. And I read also detective stories, crime stories. I like them. James
Hadley Chase, George Simenon and some of our writers, Agatha Christie. So I'm
LAMB: You you mention that perestroika might have started for you in an
event in which a well known American attended a couple of them Arthur
Miller, Peter Ustinov and Alvin Toffler, and there were others that you
listed, but those are the three that our audience would recognize the most.
What was that event? Because Alvin Toffler has often been mentioned in this
country by the speaker of our House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich, as one
MR. GORBACHEV: Mm. (Russian spoken)
LAMB: ...one of the people that he has followed, his idea. Why did
MR. GORBACHEV: (Russian spoken)
LAMB: What what happened at that meeting that led to some perestroika?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, that was a meeting of people who
are very respectable, very credible. And we had people also from our country
there; for example, the famous writer Chingiz Aitmatov and other people.
Also, Federico Mayor, who is now the head of UNESCO. We had a number of
people from Italy representing Italian culture. We had also Alexander King
from the club of Rome. We had some Asian thinkers people with a very broad
vision. I don't remember all of those names, but it is true Chingiz Aitmatov,
who is my friend, asked me to meet with those people, and he said, `Well, it
will be just a brief meeting.' But we spent several hours together in my
Kremlin office. It was a fascinating conversation for all of us.
And during that meeting, when I was listening to them and when I also became
involved in that discussion, I saw that we were thinking about the same
things. We said that we had already entered upon a new world and that that
we should understand that it's a very different world, that it's a world where
we are threatened by nuclear weapons and also by environmental deterioration.
We live in a world where the economy is globalizing, in an information age,
and so we are, more than ever before, in one boat together. Of course,
nations have their own interests, but those interests cannot be realized they
cannot be realized properly if you don't understand that the world has
changed. And therefore, the universal values become more important. They
gain priority over the national interests. And it was then that I said that
the values common to all of mankind is something that we need to emphasize, is
something that should be our guidepost, our lodestar, in building our
philosophy and building our policy and and in preparing our action. At that
time, to say so meant that the general secretary was saying something that was
very unorthodox, unconventional.
But they transcribed our talk and they published what I said. And in the
Soviet Union, the thinking people, particularly those who were associated with
the Marxist philosophy and ideology people were shocked. Some were mildly
shocked and others were very shocked. They said, `Well, this general
secretary Gorbachev is saying things that are heresy.' And I used this, as I
sometimes did; I used Lenin, because I read a lot of Lenin and I felt that
sometimes he was right, but sometimes he violated the truth because of
political and ideological considerations. I read Lenin in a new way, not in a
way in the way I read him when I was a student. I was general secretary. I
was in Lenin's shoes, in a way. And I used one of his one of the quotations
from Lenin. Lenin said one day that the proletariat sometimes must
subordinate its interest to the interests of the nation as a whole. And that
reference to Lenin made it possible to smooth the reaction. But people said,
`Well, he's saying something incredible. This general secretary is saying
something unbelievable.' But what was at that time incredible to many of us,
of course, had already been said by Einstein. Einstein said that nuclear
weapons changed everything but, unfortunately the human mind had not changed.
`Our thinking,' he said, `has not changed, even though the survival of mankind
is at stake.'
And therefore, I think that Alvin Toffler is right in many of his writings. I
recently read the translation of "The Third Wave" by him and his wife, and
Speaker Gingrich wrote a preface to that book. And it's extremely
interesting, because they speak about the human civilization, which is
entering a new phase of its development. And we must find a way to adjust to
it. We cannot stop the process of the evolution of our stip civilization.
If we do not adjust, if we do not understand both the positive aspects and the
dangers, if we do not change our behavior, our action, that could be very
dangerous. We should understand how civilization is evolving. If we do so,
then we will be able to take advantage of the positive aspects and to limit
the negative aspects of those changes. I think he provides very interesting
illustrations to that and I agree with him.
In America, I I think it's wonderful that many books have been published that
are extremely interesting. For example, some economists have published books
that question the entire paradigm of the development of laissez faire society,
laissez faire economics. Those are people who really think freely. They are
free thinkers. They're not like cowboys. I don't want, of course, to offend
cowboys. I like cowboys. But what I what what what I mean is that they
are not cowboys, but they are putting things very starkly. And I I am
thinking also not only of Alvin Toffler but of others. So my feeling is, we
should not put spokes in the wool wheel of the development of civilization.
And we decided that one day, people who met had met then, including Peter
Ustinov and some others, that we will meet again. This year, we wanted to
meet, but we were not able to. But we will definitely meet with them with
some of them. That conference was called Issyk Kul Forum because it was
held that conference of intellectuals was held near Lake Issyk Kul in
So we'd like to have Issyk Kul II. And the president of Kyrgyzstan has
already invited us to come and to talk, to have another discussion. But we
want to prepare, to prepare well. We want this discussion to culminate in
some kind of paper, of an appeal to mankind by people who, it so happens, are
particularly sensitive to what is happening and who will be able to speak out
and to say something important to mankind.
LAMB: I don't know whether you can answer this or not, but if you you've
been in the United States a lot and you've observed our political system. If
you lived in this country, do you have any idea if you would be a Democrat or
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well my God you first have to sort out
whether there is a real difference between the two parties. Frankly frankly,
I see no big difference between them. Perhaps now some difference is
emerging, perhaps. I think that I am a democratic person. My nature is
democratic. My experience of working and interacting with the Americans was
working with two Republican presidents, and I must say that we were able to
work together, to cooperate. We were able to go very far. And I will not
recount all of that; you know very well that my opinion of President Reagan is
very high, even though he is a Republican traditionalist, perhaps I can say,
and he represents the Republican Party right wing. But it was this president,
President Reagan, who who really, I I think, understood that he had to do
something and even to buck the trend. And therefore, I can only say that I am
committed to democracy, and within the old system that we had when I was in
politics, this is something that people are recognized. I was I I I had
this fame. Well, it's not a question of fame, but I was recognized as a
person whose style and whose thinking are democratic from the start; from my
very young years, I was like this.
So maybe that's my nature. I come from a peasant family. I come from the
soil. From my young years, I saw a great deal; I've worked a great a deal. I
know what it is to earn one's bread, to earn one's salary. I know what it is
to build a home; for a peasant, it's not simple. And I must say, I had a talk
with Tom Brokaw here and we talked about land, because he comes from the
heartland, from South Dakota. He worked on the combine, on the harvesting
combine. And we started to, you know, discuss this and talked about our
memories. And I said that I don't forget where I come from. To me, this is
the most important moral test, and I have never forgotten that I come from
among very, very people of working people, from simple people. And you know
Speaker O'Neill? I recently heard from a friend of Speaker O'Neill, whom you
probably know. He was a very colorful politician who was one of the first
American visitors whom I saw in Moscow when I became general secretary. His
friends told me that Speaker O'Neill, when he spoke about people, he said, `I
have a very important test. This man this man has not forgotten where he
comes from. When a person doesn't forget where he comes from, that's very
important.' And from that standpoint, I can say I don't forget where I come
from, and that probably is the foundation of my democratic spirit. What I
did, what Raisa did we come from working families we took advantage of the
opportunities that existed in the Soviet period for such people we were able
to take advantage, and this is our life, despite all of the tribulations and
problems inherent in that Soviet system.
You know, you cannot just say, `Well, it was a bad system and, therefore
people could do nothing and what people could do didn't matter.' No. The
first thing is that you have a life. You have a life and you have to live
this life. You have to continue the human race. And this is what people do,
even in the most difficult conditions, in the most difficult situations, under
the most harsh regimes. And we had a very harsh regime. So the lessons of
those generations that lived under that old regime and that developed the
country, that industrialized the country under that whole regime, that created
our science, our education system, that created opportunities and access to
education for all, despite the incomes and status of those people. This is
something that you cannot negate. You cannot throw out one word from a song,
and you cannot negate what actually happened. But, by the way, that old
system, by giving people those opportunities, created the prerequisites and
the forces that eventually buried that system because we, the better educated
people, people of my generation and people of the generations that followed,
we had education, we had knowledge, but we could not realize our potential.
The system was really fettering our potential. So the system in that way
created preconditions for its own demise for its own demise. And that is
because it was in conflict with the culture and with the education and with
the intellect of the people.
LAMB: Has there ever been a time in history in Russian history that a former
top leader like you has ever been able to write a book and travel the world
and talk about their life when they were leader?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) No.
LAMB: No? Never in history?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Nikita Khrushchev was under house arrest,
and he wrote his memoirs in secret and he was not able to publish them in the
Soviet Union. And, of course, he was not able to leave the country or even to
leave Moscow. And I once joked that it is known that 128 groups of mountain
climbers climbed Mount Everest; one third died. But 40 percent of those who
died died during descent. I mounted and climbed Mount Everest, and then I
descended from Mount Everest politically and I am still active. And in that
sense, this too is a kind of a revolution that is associated with Mikhail
Gorbachev. Many people in Russia say that while Gorbachev is in Russia, while
Gorbachev is there despite all the problems that are being created for him,
despite the information blackout to which he is subjected, if he is still
here, if he is not leaving Russia, this is very important for all of us. This
is an important reference point. So when people ask me, `Would you like to
move, to go to live abroad? Why involve yourself in the struggles, in proving
again to those reactionaries or to the current authorities, to the rulers of
Russia, who I don't think who they say don't deserve, you know, you, why to
do that? Go abroad.' No. I don't do that. I of course, I travel abroad,
but I live in Russia. This is my country. This is my land. This is my fate.
I will not go anywhere because this is my moral principle.
Last year, I buried my mother. She died when she was with us in Moscow. We
were providing treatment for her. She was 84 years old. But despite all the
problems and difficulties of our life now, I did my best. And then when she
died, I took her body to my native village, and she lies where my father lies,
in this land where she was born, where she lived all her life. This is very
important for me. She also wanted to be buried near my father. So I can say
that human beings are human only when they are not regarded as some don't
regard themselves as some will o' the wisp or dust in the wind.
LAMB: You say that an interview you had with Time magazine and then with
French television were the first steps toward glasnost, openness. Can you
tell us why they were?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Because it was unusual. Before me, that
never happened. If they answered questions, they did that in writing. They
received questions in writing, and then they answered questions and gave them
to reporters. But there were never the kind of exchanges in which I was ready
to engage. And I was new to that thing. It was not easy. It was not simple
for me then. We've been talking for almost an hour now, and I liked this
atmosphere; I like this talk. It's not important for me whether or not the
camera is on. But in the past, when I was beginning, when I saw the camera, I
first became almost speechless. It took all that changed to change that. So
glasnost became began with the general secretary. And the general secretary
who spoke sometimes in awkward phrases, who spoke sometimes not maybe very
properly, but he spoke out, he spoke he expressed his emotions and his
thoughts, and that too struck many people as very unusual, shocked many
people. That began in Leningrad, where I went right after the election as
general secretary, and I spoke to people and someone taped it. And then they
show showed the entire tape on TV, you know? They didn't intend to do that
initially, but then that tape was shown, and all people in the Soviet Union
were kind of set in motion. That was the beginning.
LAMB: Do you have any intention to write another book? D do you have any
intention to write another book?
MR. GORBACHEV: (Through Translator) Well, I would like to say that a few days
ago, I had a meeting with the officials from XXX, the publishers. And I
and my colleagues, my associates for many years, Anatoly Chernayev and Vadim
Zagladen, we wrote a book which I believe is a very necessary book for
political leaders, for those who are interested in the problems. And that is
called "The New Thinking: Yesterday, To Today and Tomorrow." I am convinced
that we will not be able to break through the jungle of the stereotypes and
the cliches that exist today if we do not sort things out in our minds. We
need a revolution in our minds. And I believe that that can happen only on
the basis of the new thinking based on the new situation, based on the
understanding of the global challenges that mankind is facing. So this book
is a very different book, but I'd like to see it published.
And in Japan also, a book was published of my dialogues with Mr. Ikeda, who is
the founder of Sokerg gai University. He had other philosophical discussions,
for example, with Chingiz Aitmatov, whom I mentioned. And we had a very long
dialogue with him for eight months, both oral dialogue and exchange of
letters. We discussed moral values with him. And the Japanese published two
volumes, and 150,000 books copies have been sold in Japan of that volume. So
I continue to write and I will continue to write. And I have still a lot to
And what happens sometimes is, you know, like this: You have the Bible, and
the Bible is not a very big book, but you have many volumes of commentary of
the Bible. So this book is not that big, but there's a lot in that book that
I could elaborate on. For example, the drama that happened in Reykjavik in
Reykjavik, it's a long story, but here it's just a few pages. In fact, it was
a real drama. And there were many events here in this book which I described
very concisely but which could be elaborated upon. And if you add here the
human dimension, the human dimension that is, to say my opinions and views of
my counterparts, of my partners, of people with whom I worked together yes, I
would have a lot to say. I don't know whether I will have the strength. I
don't know how many how many years God will be giving me, what his plans are.
But, of course, I spend my life in politics, I made political speeches and I
did not write books in the past. Now I am more interested in in sharing my
views and emotions and my thoughts, and I will continue doing it.
LAMB: This is what the cover of the book looks like. Our guest for the last
hour has been Mikhail Gorbachev and his book of memoirs. Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1996. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.