Gorbachev turned 90 quietly
On Christmas Eve in 1991, at the age of 60, wearing a dark red birthmark shaped like the American continent, Gorbachev slowly gave his last speech as the first and last president of the Soviet Union. As he closed the green file of his speeches, the red Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin and the Soviet Union officially closed its curtain on history.
On March 2, 2021, Gorbachev turned 90 years old. He still favors dark suits than he did 30 years ago, but his body, swollen and lumbering from diabetes and multiple surgeries, moves slowly with a walking aid. Since the COVID-19, he has not been absent from commenting on international events, but more often, in empty homes and isolated hospitals, he complains that his daughter and granddaughter do not come to see him.
Gorbachev stands in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in November 2014, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photo: AFP
Birthdays in isolation are silent
“In 2016, on Gorbachev’s 85th birthday, he personally gave me a copy of his biography, Gorbachev: A Life, and wrote ‘See you on your 90th birthday’ on the flyleaf of the book,” said Anton Furnitsky, a journalist for Russia’s Channel One channel.
But Mr. Gorbachev failed to keep his promise, and his doctors advised the 90-year-old to minimize communication because he was the most susceptible group for the novel coronavirus.
By his 90th birthday, Gorbachev had been isolated in hospital for several months, according to Mikhail Gorbachev Foundation spokesman Vladimir Polyakov.
Gorbachev celebrated his birthday with close friends via video app Zoom. Nurses at the hospital lit a double-decker cake with 90-year-old candles for him. Gorbachev looked even more bloated as he reclined in his chair with only Igor Borisov, his former personal doctor.
Gorbachev, 90, celebrates his birthday in the hospital. Photo: Komsomolskaya Pravda
Early in the morning of March 2, Gorbachev’s daughter and granddaughter called, and “he (Gorbachev) was smiling happily,” Polyakov said.
On the same day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others also sent messages of congratulations.
As always, Russian President Vladimir Putin wished Gorbachev his 90th birthday, saying, “You are worthy of being one of the outstanding and extraordinary men of the moment. You are an outstanding contemporary statesman who has exerted a great influence on the course of national and world history.” Putin wrote in his message.
Can only try to breathe the age
“From 64 to 75 is old age, then old age, and then just trying to breathe,” Gorbachev said of age before his 75th birthday. Now he is turning 90.
Gorbachev was in high spirits as he gathered with family and friends at a Moscow restaurant on his 75th birthday in 2006. “My biggest dream at the moment is to get drunk at my 75th birthday, whatever the consequences,” he declared.
It was indeed an unforgettable birthday, with a large bouquet of violets sent by friends and family, which Gorbachev regarded as a symbol of his happy life with his late wife Raisa.
Gorbachev’s 80th birthday party in 2011 was even grander. The Soviet president’s birthday party at a charity event at London’s Albert Hall felt like a royal celebration, with Sharon Stone and Kevin Spacey as hosts and a banquet costing more than 4 million roubles ($350,000).
Gorbachev had his 80th birthday party in London in 2011. Photo: CFP
But a few days before his 80th birthday party, Gorbachev’s health was already showing signs of trouble. He had to undergo a two-hour procedure on his spine.
However, when he turned up at his 80th birthday party, he patiently answered reporters’ questions about his longevity. He said he used to go hiking with his wife Raisa. After Raisa’s death, he continued to walk six kilometers a day, in all seasons and in all weather, taking hot and cold showers.
In 2016, Gorbachev underwent heart surgery and became increasingly frail. In an interview with the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg that year, Gorbachev pointed to his cane and said, “Look! Now I need three feet to get around.”
Steve Rosenberg was forced to say that the Soviet politician never lost his sense of humor.
For nearly 30 years, Gorbachev lived in a two-story, government-funded house on the outskirts of Moscow. The light blue and white colors make the house look more modest than the other buildings in the neighborhood. The Russian government provided him with a security guard, a driver, a cook and a nanny.
In late 2020, due to his medical condition and COVID-19, Gorbachev was hospitalized again. Gorbachev had been working with documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky before he was admitted to the hospital.
Speaking to the camera, he complained that his daughter and granddaughter, who live in Germany, had not come to see him for a long time since the outbreak, and that his health was getting worse. “I had to use a special staircase in my room to get to the second floor, otherwise it would take me a year to get there. ”
Sitting alone at one side of a long table with about a dozen people in the empty house, Gorbachev asked his nanny for a shot of vodka, spoon a gooseberry into his mouth, and a photo of his wife Raisa on a cabinet.
The meaning of life is gone
Throughout the slightly empty house, Raisa’s gaze is everywhere, through photographs.
Photos of Gorbachev and Raisa at his home in 2020 can be seen everywhere. Images: manski – doc
When it comes to Raisa, Gorbachev readily admits, “When Raisa died, the meaning of life disappeared.” When making the documentary, Mansky asked, “The meaning of life is to be a woman. Is there no higher meaning?” Gorbachev asked rhetorically, “What higher meaning does it need to love and be loved by a woman?”
He can still remember her voice, her laughter, the smell of her perfume, and how they met in college. “The first time I met Raisa, she was otherworldly, and I fell in love with her as if bewitched, and decided she was the one I was looking for,” Gorbachev wrote in his memoir.