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Tuesday, 25 December, 2001, 02:36 GMT
Gorbachev: 10 years after the fall
Mikhail Gorbachev
Gorbachev: Memories of his resignation remain strong
By the BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow

It is 10 years since Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union.

But the events of that final day remain all too clear in his memory.

"That day has etched itself into my mind as the most dramatic day of my life," Mr Gorbachev told me when we met at his political foundation in Moscow.

There was an attempt to isolate me - but they didn't succeed in forcing me to my knees

Mikhail Gorbachev
"That was the day that perestroika was so abruptly broken off."

Mr Gorbachev took advice from colleagues then locked himself away to write his resignation speech.

"I had to keep calm" Mr Gorbachev said "but inside I was full of emotion."

Anger at Yeltsin

Mr Gorbachev still maintains a union of states could have been preserved.

Final days
8 December: USSR declared defunct
21 December: CIS grows to 11
25 December: Gorbachev resigns
26 December: Russian flag flies over Kremlin
"There were objective reasons for changing the Soviet Union," he admitted, "but there are different ways to change things: you can either destroy everything, or reform it. We wanted to reform the USSR, and create a new Union: the Union of Sovereign States."

Mr Gorbachev blames Russia for destroying the Union. His most bitter criticism was reserved for the man who helped force him from power, Boris Yeltsin.

"He's a strange man," Mr Gorbachev told me, "full of tricks, and with a thirst for power. He claimed to be against privileges but Russian tsars didn't have the kind of privileges that he had. He's a liar!"

Putin's domestic policies are aimed not at the business clans, but at the majority of Russians who live in poverty

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mr Gorbachev accused the former Russian leader of trying to keep tabs on him after 1991.

"Yeltsin controlled everything," he complained. "I was completely under his control. My telephones were bugged. Whenever I travelled abroad ambassadors were instructed not to meet me. I was even banned from appearing on live TV.

"There was an attempt to isolate me - but they didn't succeed in forcing me to my knees."


Today Mikhail Gorbachev enjoys greater respect from the Kremlin.

He claims that President Vladimir Putin sometimes asks his advice on issues ranging from health reform to education.

"They've even give me back a special government telephone" Mr Gorbachev told me "so I can call the Kremlin."

The former Soviet leader was full of praise for Mr Putin.

"Putin's domestic policies," Mr Gorbachev argued, "are aimed not at the business clans, but at the majority of Russians who live in poverty."

He said the Russian president had helped bring stability and order to the country.

See also:

18 Aug 01 | Talking Point
Was it better in Soviet days?
30 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Russia
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