Nostalgia permeated Moscow book retailer Biblio-Globus last Wednesday when former Soviet premier Mikhail Gor-bachev released a new book about German unification.
Even a short outburst by hecklers added a sense of poignancy to words of respect and admiration issued by members of the public ahead of a book signing by the man who oversaw the transformation of the Soviet Union, leading the way to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing onset of democratic and market reforms.
"Know-it-alls abound these days, but this is the story of someone who took part in the events," Gorbachev, 68, said, speaking of his book, "How It Was," released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1999.
Gorbachev said the collapse of the wall was a necessary result of his perestroika policy. "The new relationships between the Warsaw Pact countries meant that each was independent, each had to decide its own fate and everyone had to respect that," he said of the defunct military alliance of Soviet Bloc countries.
"A lot had to change for that to take place," Gorbachev added.
In his book, Gorbachev assigns a large amount of blame on the West for Germany's division after World War II. "It was impossible to end [the Cold War] without solving the German question," he writes.
Gorbachev played up the roles of the Soviet Union and Germany in the unification, while minimizing that of the United States and other Western countries.
Although praised during the book signing for his role in ending 70 years of Communist rule in Russia, Gorbachev nonetheless remains widely unpopular in Russia.
He joined the Social Democrat Party in October to fulfill what he called his "last debt" to Russia.
Speaking of the changes to which his reforms had led, Gorbachev said: "We currently can't use the opportunities that came from Germany's reunification. The cooperation we envisioned hasn't yet taken place.
"But although we have seen a growth of anti-Americanism," he added, "Russians still like and trust Germany."