Ex-Soviet ambassador lays bare Gorbachev's tragic legacy

Source: 1News

Mikhail Gorbachev left a divided legacy, to some in Russia, it was the actions of the last leader of the Soviet Union that led to the nation's downfall, but to others, his reforms offered hope for change in the authoritarian nation and lifted the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Rouben Azizian was the Soviet Union's Deputy Ambassador to New Zealand in the 80s, during the time of Gorbachev's “perestroika,” or restructuring.

"This was phenomenal."

READ MORE: Mikhail Gorbachev - the man who re-directed the course of history

"He famously came up with a number of concepts that are used even today.

"His idea was that we are going to be free democracy and We should talk and dialogue and not use force that was a crucial time in the history of the Soviet Union.

"The second major contribution was him basically reaching out to Western leaders... making the Soviet Union, a friendlier country to the rest of the world."

But the breathtaking series of changes driven by noble these goals were soon followed by economic collapse and political upheaval.

And as Eastern Bloc nations attempted to break away from the USSR, Gorbachev was unable to control the forces he unleashed, unwilling to use the violent repression that in the past had maintained control across the vast communist empire.

The last leader of the USSR spent the remaining months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on December 25, 1991.

Azizian still remembers the day his nation's embassy in Wellington lowered the flag of the hammer and sickle and raised the red, white and blue of the Russian Federation.

"I feel very sad that actually in his own country Russia very few people would remember him or even a remember they probably think of him of someone who ruined the great Soviet Union."

Today Azizian is the director of Massey University's Centre for Defence and Security Studies. He believes the true tragedy of Gorbachev's legacy is the political state of modern Russia.

"In Putin's Russia, today when people are arrested for protests are thrown into jail. Gorbachev did the opposite."

"His last, maybe words were, that... President Putin destroyed everything. I was trying to build.

"He felt very sad about Russia's actions in Ukraine.

"I feel the same way. I am someone who was expecting and hoping for Russia to become a full democracy.

"He leaves this world, not as a happy man... but filled with sadness."