Friday, December 7, 2018

Kazakhstan Leader’s Failure to Show Up at Beloveshchaya Paved Way for End of USSR

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 6 – Mikhail Gorbachev’s decision to hold Kazakh SSR leader Nursultan Nazarbayev in Moscow rather than to allow him to attend a meeting with the heads of the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Belarusian SSR in Beloveshchaya allowed the other three to dissolve the USSR as they did.

            That is because, the Belarusian leader and a representative of the Russian one who did say, those attending could act as the successors of those who created the USSR in 1922 and thus abolish it. Had Nazarbayev been present, that would not have been possible; and thus, in this case as in others, Gorbachev proved himself to be too clever by half and lost the USSR.

            That is just one of the revelations of a new book, Why the USSR Fell Apart. The Leaders of the Union Republics Remember (in Russian; Moscow: Individuum Press, 2018) based on interviews conducted by Arkady Dubnov, provides. Part of it has now been published by the Snob portal (

            The comments about Nazarbayev’s role in not showing up come from Gennady Burbulis, the then-state secretary of the RSFSR, and Stanislav Shushkevich, then head of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, who observes that today he is certain it was good that Nazarbayev didn’t show up because had he it “would have been complete bedlam.”

                Shushkevich also explains why he was asked to telephone Gorbachev about the decisions at Beloveshchaya while Yeltsin was asked to call US President George H.W. Bush. The Belarusian leader said Yeltsin and Kravchuk asked him to because he had “good relations” with Gorbachev; and the three agreed that Yeltsin should call Bush for the same reason.

            Three other parts of the Snob excerpt are especially interesting:

·         Askar Askayev, who later served as president of Kyrgyzstan, says that Gorbachev sent him to Washington in the fall of 1990 to ask the US for aid. He was warmly received, including in the Oval Office by the president, but the US didn’t give any assistance.

·         Nazar Suyunov, former deputy head of the Council of Ministers of Turkmenistan, says that an oath he and other tribal leaders made in Mecca in 1991 not to challenge Niyazov for the presidency are why they didn’t even though Niyazov conducted policies that benefited his tribe rather than all of the other four major ones.

·         Tengiz Sigua, prime minister in the government of Georgian President Gamsakhurdia, says that in October 1990, two Americans appeared in his office in the guise of journalists. One remained behind and said that many in the US believed the USSR would soon disintegrate and that Washington placed special hopes in the three Baltic countries and Georgia and wanted to provide aid in exchange for reforms.  Hearing this, Gamsakhurdia called Estonian Prime Minister Edgar Savisaar who “laughed” because the Americans were doing this for Georgia before Estonia.

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