Walter Laqueur
Walter Laqueur
The Long Road to Freedom:  Russia & Glasnost
ISBN: 0684190303
The Long Road to Freedom: Russia & Glasnost
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The Long Road to Freedom: Russia & Glasnost
Program Air Date: September 3, 1989

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Walter Laqueur author of the book "The Long Road To Freedom: Russia and Glasnost." Why'd you write the book?
WALTER LAQUEUR, AUTHOR, "THE LONG ROAD TO FREEDOM: RUSSIA AND GLASNOST": Well it's a very exciting period now. I think Moscow having been the most boring capital has become the most interesting one. My own personal interests goes back a long time to the second World War. Then I became interested. besides I broke my leg. I had nothing to do. And it so happened that the Russian teacher was near by and I studied the Russian language and immersed myself in Russian culture and politics. And ever since, well that's not quite true, but almost ever since I've been deeply interested in Russian Soviet affairs.
LAMB: Where were you born?
LAQUEUR: I was born in what was then Germany.
LAMB: What was then Germany?
LAQUEUR: Well it's no longer. I mean as of the end second World War borders have changed.
LAMB: What is it now?
LAQUEUR: It is now Poland.
LAMB: And when did you leave there?
LAQUEUR: I left seven years before. In other words in 1938.
LAMB: When you think of Russia and we hear these words always interchanged. What is the difference between Russia and the Soviet Union or is there in the way you're talking about?
LAQUEUR: Well Russia of course goes back a thousand years. It is celebrating a thousand years of Christianity just now. And Russia's culture, its landscape, its national character. As the Soviet Union has been going on only for 70 years and of course 70 years for a historian is never a very long time.
LAMB: What is Russia?
LAQUEUR: Well Russia is that enormous land mass between Europe and Asia looking both ways. Culturally, politically more connected to Europe than to Asia but not wholly part of Europe.
LAMB: When you sat down to write the book were you more interested in bringing us up to where we are today or in explaining what is going today with glasnost and perestroika?
LAQUEUR: Well I took a certain risk because it's like writing in the middle of a revolution. You don't know what can happen tomorrow let alone one year and unfortunately these days it takes not a month or two to bring out a book but six or nine months. So here I took a certain risk. And well I wanted to explain I wanted to provide the background of what's happening now in the Soviet Union.
LAMB: Where are you now?
LAQUEUR: Where am I now?
LAMB: What do you do now?
LAQUEUR: Ah!
LAMB: Besides write books.
LAQUEUR: Well I have, I’m afraid too many jobs. I have -- I'm head of an institute In London. Which means I have to commute every six weeks in Europe. I am one of the directors of the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington. One of the think tanks. I am a university professor at Georgetown. Well I don't want to bore you with all the details.
LAMB: Which one of those different jobs take the most time?
LAQUEUR: My work at CSIS, at the Center of Strategic International Studies in Washington.
LAMB: Could you explain to us what that is?
LAQUEUR: Well that is one of the political economic military think tanks which for many years was connected with Georgetown University. It's no longer. It's founded in 1960 and well we publish the engaging research. We have about 150 staff members. And being located in Washington it's an interesting place to work.
LAMB: What about your job in London?
LAQUEUR: Ah! In London I'm director of a Institute of Contemporary History which is a biggish library. We publish journals. And however I'm afraid much of my job in London is to collect money for our survival which is a little more difficult in London than in America.
LAMB: How often have you been to the Soviet Union?
LAQUEUR: I've been very often because in the 1950s I acted as a special correspondent for a number of newspapers. In addition my wife had at the time family in Soviet Union. So for many years I used to go every year. Now then in 1964 it sounds funny but in 1964 my wife's family lived at the time in Dukaduse which is I call it Switzerland without the jewelry. Very nice place. Now I was walking with my father-in-law in the mountains and suddenly it occurred to me that somehow Russia in the years to come wouldn't be a very interesting place. You see that was the time when Khrushchev was in office. And Brezhnev had just come to power and somehow it seemed there wouldn't be many surprises ahead. So I decided well life being short I would devote my next years to very different problems. I had lots of interesting topics for someone interested in politics and history. So from 1964 to 1984 I opted out. I was engaged in other topics. But then of course by 1984 or 85 with Gorbachev the country became very, very interesting. Now I faced a problem namely I had missed 20 years. So I had to re-erect all the stuff. To revisit the Soviet Union again. I had to talk to people. But I think it could be done in view of my background with them prior to 1964.
LAMB: How many languages do you speak?
LAQUEUR: Well I think Karl Marx was a true linguist once said you can't be stimus in eleven languages. Which is about my average.
LAMB: Which one do you speak best?
LAQUEUR: I think I speak speaking is still my German which is my native language. However my books had one exception have all been written in English. So I would say today I think in English and despite my accent I'm a little proud even about my style of speaking. But English is my language.
LAMB: Can you speak Russian?
LAQUEUR: I speak Russian. Well every Russian in one minute would know that I'm a foreigner. But I speak it.
LAMB: Which Russian leader, now when we talk about Russia by the way I mean in your context here are we talking about the Ukraine and Lithuania and Estonia and all those or are you just talking about the original Russia?
LAQUEUR: Well people make a mistake you see we frequently say Russia meaning Soviet Union because inside the Soviet Union Russia's only 50% the rest are ….Armenian ….so my interests is of course the Soviet Union in general although I think I know more about Russia than I know about smaller republics simply because I don't know the languages and I'm depend on translations from these languages.
LAMB: Over the last seventy years or so seventy two years of attempted Bolshevik Revolution have there always been Russians that have lead the country?
LAQUEUR: Well with one important exception in Stalin. However I should correct myself Stalin was a Georgian but he didn't admit to this. He wanted to be accepted as a Russian, spoke Russian, very seldom spoke Georgian. And he was assimilated.
LAMB: Who's your favorite Russian leader?
LAQUEUR: My favorite Russian leader well that's a tough one. I think it's the present man.
LAMB: You like Mikel Gorbachev?
LAQUEUR: Yes. He's a personable man. He is a man who means well. He's an educated man. I think he's a decent man, that he will succeed.
LAMB: Have you ever met him?
LAQUEUR: No I didn't meet him.. well yes I met him at Harvard.
LAMB: Why is he having such a strong impact on western world along with his own country?
LAQUEUR: Well I think partly for negative reasons. Namely the people who preceded him. They singularly oldish people and half the time we didn't even know what they were doing. And here there comes a relatively young man..well he isn't that young but even so with comparison to Brezhnev and Chernenko and Andropov and he is a relatively young man a dynamic man and had new ideas and of course such a man was bound to affect public opinion and the rest.
LAMB: Your book is called "The Long Road to Freedom." Are they free?
LAQUEUR: No they're not free. And the think the stress is on long. I will be a long..it will be a long haul. And I think people are making a mistake who think that the fall and the freedom is around the corner. It's not. If they're lucky it will be a matter of decades.
LAMB: How free are they compared to what they were before Mr. Gorbachev came?
LAQUEUR: Well they are astonishingly free in some respects namely the publishing, the protesting, you can hear anything on television, saying such unthinkable, they can openly criticize all the things which are wrong. Many things are wrong. But it depends for standard of comparison. If you compared with before the Revolution they are not that free. Because I'll give you an example before the Revolution Karl Marx could be published in Russia. Now today not everything can be published.
LAMB: Why not?
LAQUEUR: Well because partly self censorship and partly because there are limits to glasnost.
LAMB: Over the last 72 years or so which leader has had the most impact on the country?
LAQUEUR: Well unfortunately Stalin. Partly because he was longest, partly because he was the most ruthless and he did the most damage. And to undo these things that will be an historical assignment for the Soviet Union for years to come because it's not just a matter of changing the leader but to change attitude to do that it will take initiative. It will, and will all this happen overnight. That's not going to happen.
LAMB: Talk about some of these leaders for us. Lenin. Who was he?
LAQUEUR: Well Lenin was a very different type of Russian from present day leaders. He was a native Russian. But he was also an internationalist and he deeply detested the negative aspect of Russian history and what he called enslavement attitude. He was a true internationalist. Of course he was basically mistaken because like Marx he saw that through the course of time differences between nations particulars. There would be no country clean in the wash because we now see how wrong he was. Because nationalism persists like religion. And all this good socialism to internationalists of 70 to 100 years ago like Marx.
LAMB: When was Lenin in charge?
LAQUEUR: Lenin was in charge he was head of the party from before the Revolution. He was the brains behind the Revolution. Without his constant pushing there wouldn't have been a Revolution. So here, it shows here really how important sometimes an individual can be. Without Lenin there would be no Revolution. They would have missed the bus, they would have missed the bus in 1917 maybe there wouldn't have been a second chance. So here we however we see Lenin he was shot by an assassin in 1921 and then he was ill then he had a stroke. So he was really in power only for four years. He died in January of 1924. But well before that he was out of it.
LAMB: Where did he come from?
LAQUEUR: He comes from a place which was then called Simbirsk which is 200 miles east of Moscow.
LAMB: And how did he work his way up to where he was able to bring about a Revolution?
LAQUEUR: Well he came from a middle class upper middle class family. His father was I think an inspector of schools in the whole neighborhood. His brother was a Revolutionary . And he was one of these Revolutionaries who believed in terrorism. And Lenin learned from this to sing which is like I said he said I loved A) that I ought to be a Revolutionary but B) that terrorism isn't the right way.
LAMB: It was his brother that believed in terrorism?
LAQUEUR: That's right his older brother. And he said well we can change things not by bullets and not by bombs but by patience of the leaders using propaganda and (unintelligible) the Nazi's at Massack. Nothing else that we do will matter. And then he was arrested early on I think at the age of 19 or 20 (unintelligible). And then he went to Switzerland and then most of his subsequent life which was approximately from 1900 to 1917 he spent in exile in Switzerland reading books, writing books, becoming an anarchist middle faction, later on became the Bolshevik power.
LAMB: What imprint has he left on the country?
LAQUEUR: Well in one way a great one to the extent that to this day he is everything. But of course he was in power only for a very short time and he was a ruthless man with all his nice qualities. He destroyed the opposition. He made it utterly impossible for the Soviet Union to pick the democratic way. And once you destroy your rival it is very difficult to find the way back to a democratic history.
LAMB: What was his reason for wanting the Revolution?
LAQUEUR: Well he said it was inevitable. And power was as he said the mystery. In other words the old government had abdicated. Someone had to take over. It was a vacuum. And there was a famous scene in the then Russian. Russian had a Parliament for six months you know in 1917. It was called the Contetum Assembly. And some of the speakers this is a historical fact that said which part of this horrible situation would dare to take power. So Lenin went up and shouted. He was a man that's unbound himself and well his party took over and the rest is history.
LAMB: What were the principles of the party?
LAQUEUR: Well the principle was a most extreme things of Marxism which means nationalization of industry, nationalization of agriculture, a world according to the gospel of Marx. Unfortunately however you see Marx has written a lot of things intelligent things but capitalization he had never written practically anything about the socialist society. So here you had a curious situation of a party in power which in a way didn't know what it wanted. Well it knew what it did not want and it didn't want capitalism, didn't want private ownership, and it had now idea how to educate people and how to bring about this wonderful society.
LAMB: Did they not want all those things that capitalization brings about because they believed or because they wanted power their way?
LAQUEUR: No no no. There was a genuine aversion. They saw that..well above all this saw that capitalism just …The totally underrated..the fact that capitalism was still a very powerful has a very powerful end and could develop countries and could provide an enormous contribution to economic development that communism could not. But all those people didn't know enough ….
LAMB: What would Mikel Gorbachev say about Lenin today?
LAQUEUR: Ah. He's a great master. He quotes him in virtually every speech. And you see in a way Lenin like the Bible you can find a quotation for everything. Whatever your course of action you can find a suitable reference in there. Because you can find a reference in Lenin for freedom you can find a reference for less freedom and so on and so on.
LAMB: So why does he do that?
LAQUEUR: Well because you see each system need a kind of founding father … Well they need someone. Now starting with them. Brezhnev was no good. Of course they go back to Lenin.
LAMB: We're talking with Walter Laqueur and here's what the book looks like, "The Road to Freedom: Russian and Glasnost," and it's published by Scribner. When did you finish writing this book?
LAQUEUR: I finished writing the book a couple of months ago and I think I finished it about …nine months before. It takes this long you know from conception to publication
LAMB: Has anything happened in the last nine months that you wish you had in this book?
LAQUEUR: Minor things. Some of my critics on the whole I cannot complain because it's been very complimentary…. But some of them said well maybe Mr. Laqueur has (unintelligible). And here I think I have not been wrong. I've not been wrong because I'm not pessimistic in the long range. I think in the long range …but in the long range as I think I mentioned before it will be a long time. It won't be tomorrow it won't be next year. There will be set backs. And a famous Russian writer once said and he's very frequently quoted history Russian history is not Nevsky Prospect. Now Nevsky Prospect is the main street of Leningrad. Straight. Seven miles. And the man wanted to convey is that history goes in a zig zag it doesn't go straight forward. There may be set backs. There may be three steps forward and two steps backwards. There may be three steps backwards. So that was a very brief in putting it that was my belief and I think here I have been basically right and I wouldn't quit saying it …
LAMB: If the Soviet people and what 15 different republics and you're talking about the Russians but if the Russian people had our constitution given the nature of the Russian people and they enforced it the same way we did would they be any different than we are?
LAQUEUR: Well look your constitution develops or should develop organically. You can have a wonderful constitution. Russia has the best constitution in the world. The Stalin Constitution of 1913.
LAMB: The language?
LAQUEUR: The language is wonderful. You have the freedom of assembly. You have freedom of speech. Freedom of everything but it didn't mean anything. You see you cannot automatically stand that a constitution from one country to another and think that now that they have newspaper men and has covered Egypt. And I found out much to my surprise that Egypt had adopted the Belgium. But Egypt wasn't Belgium it didn't work. And well this is a similar situation in the Soviet Union. And see Russia had an unfortunate history. That the history of Mongol invasion, Tartar invasion. For hundreds of years it was under the yolk of foreigners. And while Europe and later the United States made progress Russia was falling behind. So the way to modernize was by a Revolution from above. And it was futile at first ecosyntially and then was later on what the Bolsheviks tried namely to bring about a change by order from above. And it doesn't always work. It works sometimes but usually it doesn't.
LAMB: Is there a way to describe what the Russian character is like?
LAQUEUR: Well the Russian character has many wonderful features. It's old minded. It is very romantic, sentimental, like children, great intellectual interest, willing to help one's neighbor. Many sterling qualities. Look at the way they were hiding in the war. You know even if the situation seem utterly hopeless they went on hiding. And on the other hand these negative things just as I mentioned before namely the fact that Russia was conquered by foreigners. It left its faces. So you also find for instance you find you're more informed more informed in Russia than in any other country. You find a great deal of envy. Why should he have more than of the hay than I have. You know that kind of thing. And that left faces in the Russian national character. Oh and willingness to take initiative. And that's the custom …in our society. I frequently see in a Russian immigrant that came to America from Israel professional people who said it's all very well, here is a dentist who said oh now I've established myself where are my patients. He expected to stay for ….He didn't understand our system at all. In other words he had maybe been reading about it maybe he listened to the Voice of America but what made our system
LAMB: Go back to intellect of a Russian.
LAQUEUR: Tremendous. After all don't forget these are the people who provided some of the world's greatest novelists, greatest composers. Not painters but strange I don't have an explanation Russia never produced one great painter. But well nor did maybe America so here we shouldn't be too harsh. There are contributions of their culture has been tremendous but not during the last 50 or 60 years. Because, and that of course was a great blow. They expected with the Revolution to not only bring about a development of history, new culture. And now they confess of course that the years of stagnation. It's changing during the last year or two because they can talk and write more openly. The movies have become more expressive.
LAMB: Have you spent a lot of time with the average Russian?
LAQUEUR: Well there's no such thing as an average Russian because you see that's how it is in Russia. You know the men in Moscow is a kind of cosmopolitan city…. You go to the small town …but it will still be a small town ecologically attitudes are totally different. A lot of Russians again are different. You talk to the people in central Asia …Interesting thing several Russians told me look you approach and talk about the glasnost. You should know that there's glasnost 1, glasnost 2, glasnost 3. I asked what do you mean. They said well glasnost 1 was Moscow most of them, then you go maybe to Kiev or to Leningrad to the capital of the Republic and you have much less glasnost, then you go to a small place a thousand miles away and after all you shouldn't forget Russian spans seven or eight time zones it's hardly a … and they wait for guidance from Moscow and they always get it. Even now when they should think for themselves they wait for Moscow.
LAMB: What does glasnost mean?
LAQUEUR: Translated into English. It means something like openness. It is not freedom of speech because if they had freedom of speech they wouldn't need glasnost. It's freedom of speech minus ….In other words people should know more about the business of government they should participate in it more there should be fewer secrets. Russia has been the classic country of every single secret. Just on my way here to the studio I was reading a Russian weekly which they said was not only ….of secrets but even the conception was perfectly ridiculous.
LAMB: But you write in your book that you can't even get a map of Moscow.
LAQUEUR: Yeah. You couldn't get, you have maps of Moscow but they are only about a quarter of the streets appear and everything is very approximate.
LAMB: What about the telephone book doesn't even include some of the major addresses?
LAQUEUR: As a foreigner you cannot normally get a telephone book at all. And the embassy somehow gets one. But even here you have only enough …Even understanding you can open the telephone book and you saw Stalin 351 well you wouldn't get Stalin answer but you would get his secretary or someone and today with all of glasnost you cannot get a decent map of Moscow and you cannot say if you stay in a hotel you cannot get a telephone book there.
LAMB: I know I asked this of you and you said there is no such thing as an average Russian. Let me go back and ask maybe a different way. What is the Russian that you come into contact with and have and I don't care if there are a lot of different types want from life.
LAQUEUR: Well he wants from life he wants to be left in peace. They suffered in the war. They want peace.
LAMB: But the younger ones..
LAQUEUR: Yeah well it's true the younger ones less because their memory doesn't reach that far. Stalingrad for them is like …far…away…They want to have a better life materially because maybe the greatest bane in Russian life is standing in queue or in a line somewhere. But we forget that. We take it for granted that we go to the supermarket or if we go to a shop you buy what you want if you have the money. In Russia you may have all the money in the world but you still have to wait for hours or weeks or years. I think I relate with somewhere in my book when I was in Moscow last I saw a big line in a street called Qusniskimost (?) which is a street where most book shops are. And well as a old Russia head when you see a line even if you don't know what they're selling so I joined it and after a half an hour my turn came and what did I get a new book on waiting in a line in Russia. It was the first book which the Russian published about you know the tremendous amount of time which is wasted by you know standing waiting in a line. In fact the man gave an interesting figure he said that waiting going shopping takes more man hours than any, than in agriculture well it's the biggest employer so to speak only it's a negative thing. People waste their time and that's perhaps the greatest complaint that you have to waste so much of your time instead of doing positive things or instead of watching television or instead of playing with your children you have to wait in the shops or for things which you never get.
LAMB: Walter Laqueur this is a list of all in your book of all the books you've written. I goes way back to 1956. Why, what were all, were all these books written for the public?
LAQUEUR: Okay. I write for the public and for ….
LAMB: And what was your reason to get into the book writing business in the first place.
LAQUEUR: Well that's very difficult and that's a good question a question which I never asked myself. And perhaps you had a feeling of something to say. But I guess you have something to say very few people make money at writing books. Some do but maybe 0.1%. Now you have a feeling that you have something to communicate and some people communicate by singing and some by painting and some by writing books. That's what I did. I still think I have it. I have that urge. If I wouldn't have it I think I would stop because there are easier ways to make money.
LAMB: Do you consider yourself a writer, a historian, a philosopher?
LAQUEUR: Well I'm not sure whether I'm a philosopher but I am I think a historian. I am a commentator on international affairs an analyst on certainly this country. But I think basically I am a writer. I also wrote two novels. I'm not arguing that they were very good novels but they were novels.
LAMB: Where did you learn how to write?
LAQUEUR: I don't think you can learn how to write. Well it's one thing you have to read the best writers in the world. But I don't believe in these faculties of journalism in the universities unless you have a certain ability unless you have style there is very little that you can do.
LAMB: When did you first know that you had an ability to write.
LAQUEUR: Well I think I began at 18 or 19. I began..I had the urge to write articles and they published articles. And then one thing led to another.
LAMB: All your books, you've got Russia and Germany, Young Germany, The Road to War, Europe Since Hitler, Weimar, Guerilla, Terrorism, The Missing Years, which one of these had the most impact?
LAQUEUR: Well difficult to say. You, if your book is good then you can answer that a few years after because so often I see a book which is a tremendous immediate success and then it is forgotten it gets out of print. I would say of these books maybe my books on terrorism and guerilla have a considerable impact because it happened to a period of time when terrorism was copied and I think my book was in French later it came here …in many languages …so you have things like that …
LAMB: Talk about terrorism just for a moment. Russians terrorists at all?
LAQUEUR: Well there was a great terrorist tradition but last century. After all they killed at least one of their czars in 1881. They killed any number of …But this stopped more or less since 1917. I stopped A) because the police became more effective B) because people realized that if you want real change …
LAMB: Are there certain kind of people that are more likely to be terrorists than others?
LAQUEUR: Ah. Now let's get to discussion which has been going on for many years and it still goes on among the experts if there's such a thing as a terrorist personality. And I don't know what scientists come out because on one hand yes there are certain things positions but for instance a man has to be aggressive. But then the same aggressive young man can become an aggressive lawyer or an aggressive I don't know football player and not necessarily an aggressive terrorist. So here there is a previous position but in the final analysis it becomes unpredictable.
LAMB: We are talking with Walter Laqueur and this is what his book looks like, "The Long Road to Freedom: Russia and Glasnost" published by Scribners and in the book stores right now and this is what number book would this be.
LAQUEUR: Oh I lost count. It would be about sixteen.
LAMB: Are you going to write some more?
LAQUEUR: Oh yes. I'm, in fact I'm writing just now the sequel which will be "Long Road to Freedom: The Saga To The Long Road To Freedom." I will be about Stalin and Stalinism. Or to be precise under glasnost we have learned we have heard there have been a lot or revelations and discoveries. And we know now so much more about Stalin and his system than we used to know. And so my my next book, I'm in the middle of it is about Stalin and Stalinism and the attempt to get rid of it.
LAMB: How do you go about writing? How do you physically write? Longhand or on a computer?
LAQUEUR: Ah. Well I was a newspaper man so I my early books were all written straight in the typewriter. But then I had an accident I forgot the details and I suddenly realized that I write by longhand my style improved from that. And so I wanted to do a presentation. I write first draft in long hand and second draft and the third draft and then my good wife writes it for the computer then I have..that's one of the advantages to be located in Washington I have a half a dozen of interns who help me. I want people from the universities students at the level of ….or a little before and they help me by simply by going to the libraries and by making excerpts and by going over it and again this being international place I find people who young people who know any number of languages I don't know. So Washington is a good place to write such books.
LAMB: Is there a certain time of day that you like to write?
LAQUEUR: Oh yes. Well some people who can write only by night I can write only in the morning. And I told story once that one should do one's writing in the morning because once created by computer better develop in the morning and if at all the afternoon should be with wife because one's (unintelligible). Some of my friends start writing at 9:00 in the evening. And sit down until 2:00 in the morning. But I'm a morning ….
LAMB: What time do you write?
LAQUEUR: Ah. Well when I was younger I began at 5:30 now I'm afraid it's closer to eight.
LAMB: And are you a fast writer or a slow writer?
LAQUEUR: I'm a fast writer. Here I think my training as a journalist helped me. And I've no patience with those students of mine when I give them an assignment say look write me 3,4 pages and if they tell me I need four weeks that's ridiculous. Because in the real world you have to write you have to produce 3, 4 pages in a couple of hours. So here I'm very grateful for that training that I had as a journalist has compelled me to meet deadlines.
LAMB: You dedicate this book for Naomi.
LAQUEUR: My wife. Yes Naomi.
LAMB: First time you've ever dedicated a book to your wife?
LAQUEUR: No. Yes first time. All the rest are to friends. She reminded me of it. I was very remiss.
LAMB: Do you have any idea why you were remiss?
LAQUEUR: No she help me so I don't know because you see my books frequently bear on ….stories. I write on television why should I devote it to my wife you know it's not such a pleasant subject.
LAMB: Do you consider your book here a love story?
LAQUEUR: It never is a love story because Russia is a very in some ways very attractive country in other respects it is a horrible country. But I very much hope like all people who deal with Russia that the attractive side will prevail.
LAMB: Have you ever lived there?
LAQUEUR: Oh I once faced that dilemma. In the late 1950's one of the world's leading newspapers wanted to send me as their permanent corr..to open a bureau. But I decided against it for a number of reasons. My children were a little bit small. And at the time above all you were so confined ….
LAMB: Stalin. Did he replace Lenin?
LAQUEUR: Yes.
LAMB: Directly, right after.
LAQUEUR: Yes.
LAMB: How did that happen. I mean Lenin was shot?
LAQUEUR: Well it was not immediately. Stalin was not how do you put it he hadn't read many books he wasn't very educated. But he was one of the world's greatest schemers in progress. Exceedingly. So what happened after Stalin died was that Russia had a collective leadership. Now Stalin maneuvered them out within a couple of years. Then there was another collective leadership and he again within a year he had pushed them aside so by 1929 Lenin died in 1924 it took Stalin five years to emerge as the sole leader of the country. That's an important date because in 1929 Stalin was 50. And his 50th birthday was celebrated in a way which neither Russia nor any other country had known before. He was the greatest politician. He was was immortal. He was the greatest leader who ever lived. All this on the occasion of his 50th birthday in 1929 and that was the beginning of what is now called the cult of Stalin. And the bells signified that Stalin was number one in 1929.
LAMB: Did he do this himself?
LAQUEUR: Oh he always know and associated himself with what is it called over eager assistants and so on that of course one..he could have written one line he could have pressed one button and the thing would have stopped but he never did.
LAMB: What was it that attracted people to follow him?
LAQUEUR: Well here apparently there is something in Russian history which or has been until recently which demands a strong leader. And a willingness to forgive to a strong leader any number of times. And Stalin knew that instinctively. So his assumption Stalin took a very dim view of human nature. And unless I punish my people unless I execute thousands of millions they won't work there will be anarchy. There has to be this strongest discipline and this can only be achieved with one leader that's me. Only I am capable. Only I am qualified to do the job.
LAMB: How long was he in power?
LAQUEUR: He was in power to the day he died which was in March of 1953. 29..24 years …
LAMB: Anything good come from these years?
LAQUEUR: No. Well it's a time of course many people admired him even some people …Even some American Ambassadors who didn't understand Russia. But it's only now I think there was a Greek historian Solon that said you should call no man happy but only lucky until he dies. He should have added only 30 or 40 or 50 years after because only then do you have the necessary perspective to judge what this man did was good or for the bad. And in Stalin's case how will it help.
LAMB: How many people did he kill?
LAQUEUR: Discussion going on and you may never know exactly but estimates are between 10 and 20 million. That's more to singles of people who were not born because of that. Which is more than even the most pessimistic people in the death of humans in Stalin's lifetime. In other words that victims are horrendous. You see this was the most active regime indeed. This war is with the writers. Everyone who was..seemed dangerous because he was somehow different.
LAMB: Did this country..did he buffalo this country at the end of the war?
LAQUEUR: Well yes to a certain extent. But then we helped because once the war was over and there was a tremendous outcry that the boys would come home and in the circumstances this was a weak American leadership and we needed some time until he could put an end to the job plus there was this tremendous pressure to withdraw American troops from Europe it wasn't too difficult for him to put pressure on …..
LAMB: What did we lose because of this approach?
LAQUEUR: Well in that respect I don't think we lost much because within a year of course people in America became very worried. They saw that Russia is advancing and taking over countries. And Czechoslovakia and Poland and Romania and Lord Felcher from the war years was rapidly disappearing and so by 1947, 48 the cold war was on because people were getting very apprehensive. There in the final analysis it may have been Stalin's mistake to have shown his ugly face. If he would have smiled then maybe the rest would have been on NATO it would have been almost an ally and you could have made him …But Stalin didn't start an approach …
LAMB: '53 how did he die?
LAQUEUR: He died of a stroke. He hated circumstances which are almost Shakespeare if you read it. He had been in difficult health for quite awhile but he hated doctors. He never he never wanted to see a doctor. He consulted his secretary who had been a long time been a nurse …So what happened one day in March of 1953 is he had a stroke but one dared enter his room without them being called because as had been his custom. So as we know now some 36 hours passed until people got really worried and one particularly courageous servant went in and he found him on the carpet. He lived on for another 24 hours but it was hopeless.
LAMB: How old was he?
LAQUEUR: He was 74.
LAMB: What happened next?
LAQUEUR: Well again and that is Stalin's great weakness. If you have a good ruler then he makes provisions for his succession. Stalin didn't know that. Because he was so firmly convinced that not one man may be provided. That no one of the younger people were adequate could do the job that he didn't make any provisions. So what happened was that the political body of the Soviet Union they established what they called the Gang Collective Leadership (?) and that went on for a couple of years until one man again pushed the others aside. It was Khrushchev. And he established himself as a sole leader. And that went on till 1964 when there was a coup and when Khrushchev was overthrown by Brezhnev.
LAMB: How long was Khrushchev in power?
LAQUEUR: '56 to '64. Eight years.
LAMB: Where was Mr. Gorbachev in this whole mix?
LAQUEUR: Oh at that time Gorbachev was a student in Moscow University. Student studying law and he was the organizer of the common excuse organization. He was a young man on the make. Of course he came from a good from a communist point of view a good family. His grandfather had already been a Bolshevik. So that's really aristocracy. Now in addition he was a good organizer, a good speaker. So he made his way up from being a small town peace organization either being called to Moscow which wasn't easy at that time at all because everyone wanted to go to Moscow and then Gorbachev came from the caucuses and only a very few people were permitted. So he must have had very good connections and being an able man who …in the first place. And then inevitably well almost inevitably within 10 or 15 years he made his way and became regional party secretary of an area which I know quite well of Stavropol an area of a kingdom of beautiful men and he did his job well. He was personable. Showed an interest in people, was popular so he was marked as one of six or eight young people who would make a name for themselves.
LAMB: If you know if you went around Russia or Moscow now and you found a bunch of old cronies in a room talking is there anybody alive today that would say I made Mr. Gorbachev what he is today. I pulled him out of the ranks at such and such a time?
LAQUEUR: Yes there are such people. For instance Andropov who really gave him a chance. But Andropov the head of the KGB who later became First Secretary but he's dead. So I don't think anyone alive now who can say well I made him you know he was my boy.
LAMB: We have about ten minutes and again I want to show the audience that may have just joined us that we're talking about this book and our guest is Walter Laqueur who is the author of this and many other books and he is at the Center for the Strategic and International Studies here in Washington. He is a professor at Georgetown. He also commutes from here in London where he runs a library?
LAQUEUR: It's called the Institute of Contemporary Studies.
LAMB: Is there a building there in London where you can go visit?
LAQUEUR: There is a very nice building in the center of London, very elegant, very old, only too small.
LAMB: Going back to we were talking about Khrushchev and we only have ten minutes. If he'd have lived longer or if he'd been alive do you think he'd have done some of the things Mr. Gorbachev had done?
LAQUEUR: Well Khrushchev was a very curious man. On hand he did a number of good things. He was a courageous man. And..for instance he in 1956 he was the first and only one who came out with a famous speech against Stalin which really began the process of de-Stalinization because in 1956 he was the first one to dare to say that Stalin was a criminal. And he had some good ideas how to reform Russian society and Russian industry and Russian agriculture. His main problem was he was impatient and he was a bit of an unguided missile. He had a good idea he had a bad idea. He swapped ideas. He didn't understand that in politics if you have an idea you should just stick to it. You cannot abandon it to the next or change it. In addition he made a lot of enemies. And nobody believed young any more he was either 70 or 71 years or so. So people now think back to Khrushchev as on the whole a man who wasn't bad. He was a tremendous improvement from …Stalin and he was better than the people who succeeded him namely Brezhnev who did nothing in the sitting around and well policy of live and let live which in certain countries in certain periods may be a wonderful policy but not in Russia at that time.
LAMB: How did Brezhnev get into power?
LAQUEUR: Ah. Brezhnev Brezhnev was a man who didn't have many enemies. He was selected because the people who choose him they know he wouldn't be a danger …Nor would he be a great launcher of new projects like Khrushchev. So in all the people who wanted the state of affairs to remain as it was they opted for Brezhnev. And that was fatal. Not so much in the beginning. Brezhnev stayed in power from '65 to '80.
LAMB: Where was Mr. Gorbachev during those 20 years.
LAQUEUR: Gorbachev was working his way up in the caucus from being a very minor secretary to becoming a member of the central committee.
LAMB: When did that happen?
LAQUEUR: He became a member of the central committee I believe in 1980, 81 but that doesn't mean that much because the central committee has between 200 and 300 members. That wasn't the end it was a jumping block. It wasn't the seat of power. So here in the first or second year of Brezhnev things went reasonably well. But then the country entered a process of stagnation in everything and at a time and when the economy was changing and modernization was needed and high tech was you know taking over. Well Brezhnev was had been educated under Stalin and all he knew was you have to develop coal and steel and oil. That he did. And this was a time when coal and steel and even oil became less important and did nothing to develop industry he did nothing to make the country freer. So there was a horrible period. I mean it wasn't a dangerous period like under Stalin. People didn't get killed. The worst that could happen to you was maybe five years in a camp.
LAMB: During that period though did he build a good military and the space program.
LAQUEUR: Yes. Now that's perfectly true. He built a space program and he built up the Soviet army. But what so you you know more tanks and everything else.
LAMB: Why were they able to do so well and were they? Are those tanks good are those planes good? Are their missiles good?
LAQUEUR: Well tanks were good. Missiles were not bad. Planes were so so. In a country in a dictatorship like this if you have certain priorities you can do certain things if you neglect everything else. And that's exactly what happened in the Soviet Union. But what was it good for? It all lead to Afghanistan which everyone now in Russia realize was a major mistake because the army was saying look we have a problem in Afghanistan we have all these wonderful divisions why don't we you know what happened they got bumped out. So here being part of the legacy of Brezhnev.
LAMB: Okay Mr. Gorbachev is one of two or three hundred..
LAQUEUR: Yes.
LAMB: ..that in the top leadership of the country during the Brezhnev years.
LAQUEUR: Yes.
LAMB: How does someone in the in the in Russia compared to the United States work up through the ranks. How do you get noticed. And how do you..do you put up your hands somewhere and say I want to be leader.
LAQUEUR: No no no no.
LAMB: Do you have a whole cadre around you that you move with you up there?
LAQUEUR: Yes. And you A) you keep your nose clean. You show you're popular with the people.
LAMB: How do you show that?
LAQUEUR: Well not, even though you with your lifestyle may be you know superior you don't flaunt it. You know you don't you live simply. You speak the language of the workers and the peasants which is not that easy because by now there is a kind of ruling elite that have their own way of life and own style. And now what happened to Gorbachev was that he had that what is very different about his leadership and very ….And he almost got derailed. How did it happen? They made him in '82 a member of the political role and that was silly. A member of the political role …. But being..
LAMB: How old was he then?
LAQUEUR: He must have been 49 or 50.
LAMB: The youngest member?
LAQUEUR: The youngest member. And to the youngest member you give the least effective job ….And that was a ….because to be responsible for agriculture in Russia is a indication to be ….
LAMB: By the way who picked him to be on the Politburo?
LAQUEUR: I think it was Andorpov by the time..
LAMB: Pulled him right out of ranks and say..
LAQUEUR: Pulled him out. Yeah. You see very important I haven't mentioned before in Russia it's like in the children's world you have to have a friend who is in an important position. In this you become a container so to speak. You help if he helps you. It's a little bit like Moscow. You know you have kind of very slick that you can count on your boss. Your boss can count on you. And here I think he was Andropov's man. Andropov took to the role. And he told him you (Gorbachev) you take care of agriculture. Now somehow in a very elegant way he got of it. Within a couple of years he passed it on to someone else. Because if he had stuck longer with agriculture it would have been disastrous because he would have been a failure.
LAMB: 1985. The next man Andropov in charge lasted how long?
LAQUEUR: He lasted for almost a year but for nine months he was so ill that he virtually no longer ….
LAMB: Next man Cherneinko.
LAQUEUR: He was ill from the very beginning. He ….
LAMB: They all just waiting for the moment for Mr. Gorbachev to come on.
LAQUEUR: No they were not waiting. They were not waiting because the political party split. There was opinion to what would succeed who should succeed. The elderly people didn't want to have a younger man because a younger man was dangerous you know in the political sense. So here there was a very curious situation. And in a way the election of Gorbachev was an accident. …
LAMB: We only and unfortunately there is a lot for folks to read in this book that we haven't got time to talk about. We've got two minutes. You say in this book that this is the long road to freedom. In the last moments what is it that makes it a long road to freedom and how long do you think provided health is good how long do you think Mr. Gorbachev will be in office.
LAQUEUR: Well it's such a long road to freedom because of the tremendous distance. Because you have 20 million bureaucrats and their families who do not want the present state of affairs to change. And you have to over come that. You have to over come the mentality of people are afraid of change. And this is an uphill struggle and I don't know if whether Mikel Gorbachev likes that. Even if he'll be lucky. And it will probably take a decade.
LAMB: Do you want to go back to the Soviet Union?
LAQUEUR: Oh I want to go back but it's still very tough. The hotels are not too good but still I would want to go back.
LAMB: And after you write your book on Stalin is there another book in you about the Soviet Union?
LAQUEUR: Yes. Some publishers have suggested I should write my autobiography but I have to think of it interestingly.
LAMB: Our guest for the last hour has been Walter Laqueur. He is the author of "The Long Road to Freedom: Russia and Glasnost." Thank you very much.
LAQUEUR: Thank you.


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