Prize honors perestroika Gorbachev says

October 16, 1990|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- Mikhail S. Gorbachev, saying his Nobel Peace Prize is a recognition of perestroika's impact on the world, basked in international accolades yesterday but received ambivalent reviews in his deeply troubled homeland.

"As a human being, I'm deeply touched and excited about this decision and I won't hide that," the 59-year-old Soviet president told reporters.

"But I accept this act of the most authoritative organization of the world community first of all not personally but as recognition of those great values and the great significance of the huge work we call perestroika for the fate of the whole world."

He said he felt comfortable with the fact that the only previous Soviet Nobel Peace Prize laureate was a dissident, the late Andrei D. Sakharov.

"All who contributed to the search for answers to our problems I value highly, and in the first ranks of those seekers after answers to disturbing questions was Academic Sakharov," he said.

The prize is the ultimate affirmation of Mr. Gorbachev's role in initiating the stunning changes in the international order during his 5 1/2 years in power, culminating last year in the recognition that the Cold War was over.

The last two years have seen the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the official renunciation not only of the 1979 Afghan invasion but of many past Soviet international actions, from the pact with Hitler on the eve of World War II to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Gorbachev buried the Brezhnev Doctrine, which justified armed intervention to preserve Communist regimes in allied states, and anti-Communist revolution swept Eastern Europe last year. Eventually, he accepted the reunification of Germany, which marked the end of the opposing military blocs of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

"The threat of war in Europe has practically disappeared," said historian and member of Parliament Roy A. Medvedev in an interview yesterday. "The change in the situation in Europe is the most important since World War II, and it's happened practically unnoticeably, without victims, without confrontations. And of course that's first of all the achievement of the policy of Gorbachev.

"No one else in recent years has achieved anything like what Gorbachev has for peace."

Yet the Soviet Parliament did not even bother to interrupt its debate yesterday -- on foreign policy, no less -- to acknowledge ++ the news from Oslo, Norway.

When Supreme Soviet Chairman Anatoly I. Lukyanov announced the prize, deputies responded with seven seconds of barely polite applause.

Foreign policy "is the only sphere where the action of Gorbachev has brought positive results -- noticeable results -- where his announced 'new thinking' is being implemented," said deputy and agricultural economist Alexei M. Yemelyanov.

"We started to behave in a little more civilized way, a little more humanely, and the world breathed a sigh of relief and turned its face to us. That's a historic achievement of Gorbachev."

Americanologist Georgy Arbatov noted wryly that Mr. Gorbachev's Nobel was not for his work in economics.

"I think he deserves it. He's reached agreements with everybody, with the Americans," said Zoya Y. Arkangelskaya, a 60-year-old architect. "He's done a lot for peace."

But Ms. Arkangelskaya had just waited 30 minutes in line to buy 10 eggs. She had planned to buy some wine, she said, but gave up when she saw a huge crowd outside the neighborhood liquor store and estimated the wait at two hours.

"I'd advise Gorbachev to pay more attention to the economy," she said.

In fact, Mr. Gorbachev, who had been expected to present a new plan for the transition to a market economy yesterday, postponed his appearance. He is now expected to speak on the plan Friday, after it has been examined by parliamentary committees.

Mr. Gorbachev is the first Soviet leader ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize or anything comparable. Most, though not all, of the Soviet Nobel laureates in other fields were dissidents, including literature recipients Boris L. Pasternak (1958), Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn (1970) and Joseph Brodsky (1987).

Former Soviet leader Leonid L. Brezhnev lobbied hard for the 1975 Peace Prize based on his role in the European conference in Helsinki, Mr. Medvedev recalled yesterday. But the Nobel Committee responded with a slap in the face by granting the award to dissident physicist Sakharov.

For Mr. Gorbachev personally, the prize symbolizes world recognition for a farm boy from the southern Russian boondocks who made good.

Though Mr. Gorbachev put on a fairly stoic face in a televised interview yesterday, his pleasure in the honor was hard to miss. He noted that he had been discussed as a potential Nobel recipient for the last two years, revealing that he has been paying attention.

Dr. Bernard Lown, co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recalled yesterday in an interview with UPI a meeting he and his Soviet counterpart, Dr. Yevgeny Chazov, had with Mr. Gorbachev when their group won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

He said Mr. Gorbachev asked to see his gold Nobel medal. "He looked at it like a little boy fascinated with a toy. He said this is the first time he had seen such a thing," Dr. Lown said.

He said he suggested that Mr. Gorbachev might get the Nobel Peace Prize himself for his arms reduction initiatives. "I said this will be yours, and he laughed, but didn't say anything," Dr. Lown recalled.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.