A tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev


In October of 2002, through the good influence of Wendell Berry, I was invited to a small gathering at the historic town hall in Zug, Switzerland. 

Nobel Peace laureates Mikhail Gorbachev and Desmond Tutu, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan – known as “the father of peaceful Islam” – the Russian chess champion Anatoly Karpov, and several members of the World Council of Former Foreign Ministers, were there to speak to the topic of Peace.

I was the only American and only one of two women. The other was Princess Elizabeth Karadjiievic of Yugoslavia. The USA had just announced its intention to invade Iraq, so I was on the spot a bit to answer for it. 

Or at least that is what the event’s organizer, Andrey Bykov, told me when he asked me to speak.

I stood to describe the Schumacher Center’s work to more fairly distribute access to land through regional community land trusts, thereby alleviating inequity and reducing conflict over the earth’s limited resources. 

And to describe our work to democratise and decentralise monetary issue so that nation states do not have the ability to issue unlimited debt to finance war.

The small town-hall group adjourned to attend a public awards ceremony that included a “Peace Concert” by the Russian National Symphony Orchestra. At the conclusion of the public event, Gorbachev strode up to me followed by his entourage, gave me a big bear hug, three kisses on the cheeks (Russian style), and said: “Good luck for your work.” 

It is a cherished memory.

This article by Gorbachev appeared in April 2020 TIME 100 Issue devoted to FINDING HOPE

It calls on nations to gather through the UN to finally take on demilitarising our countries, our politics, and our thinking, and instead join together to address our common enemies of climate change and inequity and disease.

The picture of Mikhail Gorbachev is from a poster on the stair wall at the Tabard Inn in Washington, DC. The son of owner Fritzi Cohen traded the poster for a pair of blue jeans when once in Moscow. Tabard staff member Jose Varela took a picture of the poster for our use in this newsletter.  When Fritz Schumacher dined at the Tabard Inn (table 24!) he named it a fine example of small is beautiful.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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