Television Speech by USSR President Gorbachev as he relinquished power on 25/12/1991

An appeal to Soviet citizens. Speech on television by the President of the USSR on December 25, 1991

Dear compatriots! Fellow citizens!

Due to the current situation with the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, I terminate my activity as President of the USSR . I am making this decision for reasons of principle. [В силу сложившейся ситуации с образованием GlossarСодружества Независимых Государств я прекращаю свою деятельность на посту GlossarПрезидента СССР. Принимаю это решение по принципиальным соображениям]

I firmly stood for the independence of peoples, for the sovereignty of the republics. But at the same time and for the preservation of the union state, the integrity of the country.

Events took a different course. The line on the dismemberment of the country and the separation of the state prevailed, with which I cannot agree.

And after the Alma-Ata meeting and the decisions made there, my position on this matter has not changed.

In addition, I am convinced that a decision of this magnitude should have been made on the basis of the will of the people.

Nevertheless, I will do everything in my power to ensure that the agreements signed there lead to real harmony in society, facilitate the way out of the crisis and into the reform process.

Speaking before you for the last time as President of the USSR, I consider it necessary to express my assessment of the path traveled since 1985. Moreover, there are many contradictory, superficial and biased judgments on this score.

Fate decreed that when I was at the head of the state, it was already clear that something was wrong with the country. There is a lot of everything: land, oil and gas, other natural resources, and God did not offend him with his mind and talents, but we live much worse than in developed countries, we are lagging behind them more and more.

The reason was already visible – society was suffocating in the grip of the command-bureaucratic system. Doomed to serve the ideology and bear the terrible burden of the arms race, it is at the limit of the possible.

All attempts at partial reforms – and there were many of them – failed one after another. The country was losing perspective. It was impossible to live like this. It was necessary to radically change everything.

That is why I have never regretted that I did not take advantage of the post of Secretary-General only to “reign” for several years. I would consider it irresponsible and immoral.

I understood that initiating reforms of such a scale and in a society like ours is the most difficult and even risky business. But even today I am convinced of the historical correctness of the democratic reforms that began in the spring of 1985.

The process of renewal of the country and fundamental changes in the world community turned out to be much more complicated than one might have expected. However, what has been done must be appreciated.

– Society got freedom, liberated itself politically and spiritually. And this is the most important achievement, which we have not yet fully realized, and because we have not yet learned how to use freedom. Nevertheless, work of historical significance has been done:

– The totalitarian system, which deprived the country of the opportunity to become prosperous and prosperous for a long time, was liquidated;

– A breakthrough was made on the path of democratic transformations. Free elections, freedom of the press, religious freedoms, representative bodies of power, and a multi-party system have become real. Human rights were recognized as the supreme principle;

– A movement towards a multi-structured economy has begun, the equality of all forms of ownership is being established. As part of the land reform, the peasantry began to revive, farming appeared, millions of hectares of land are given to rural residents and townspeople. The economic freedom of the producer was legalized, and entrepreneurship, corporatization, privatization began to gain momentum ;

– When turning the economy towards the market, it is important to remember that this is done for the sake of man. In this difficult time, everything must be done for his social protection, especially for the elderly and children.

We live in a new world:

– The “cold war” is over, the arms race and the insane militarization of the country, which have disfigured our economy, public consciousness and morality, have been stopped. The threat of a world war has been removed.

I want to emphasize once again that during the transitional period everything was done on my part to maintain reliable control over nuclear weapons.

– We opened up to the world, turned out to be from interference in other people’s affairs, from the use of troops outside the country. And they answered us with trust, solidarity and respect.

– We have become one of the main strongholds for the reconstruction of modern civilization on a peaceful, democratic basis.

– Peoples, nations have received real freedom to choose the path of their self-determination. The search for a democratic reform of the multinational state has brought us to the brink of concluding a new Union Treaty .

All these changes required tremendous tension, took place in an acute struggle, with growing resistance from the forces of the old, obsolete, reactionary – both the former party and state structures, and the economic apparatus, and our habits, ideological prejudices, equalizing and dependent psychology. They came across our intolerance, low level of political culture, fear of change. This is why we wasted a lot of time. The old system collapsed before the new one could work. And the crisis of society has become even more aggravated.

I am aware of my dissatisfaction with the current difficult situation, of the sharp criticism of the authorities at all levels and of my personal activities. But I would like to emphasize once again: cardinal changes in such a huge country, and even with such a legacy, cannot pass painlessly, without difficulties and upheavals.

The August putsch brought the general crisis to the extreme. The most destructive thing in this crisis is the disintegration of statehood. And today I am worried about the loss by our people of the citizenship of a great country – the consequences can be very grave for everyone.

It seems vitally important to me to preserve the democratic gains of recent years. They have suffered through our entire history, our tragic experience. They should not be discarded under any circumstances and under any pretext. Otherwise, all hopes for the best will be buried.

I speak about all this honestly and directly. This is my moral duty.

Today I want to express my gratitude to all citizens who supported the policy of renewal and got involved in the implementation of democratic reforms.

I am grateful to statesmen, political and public figures, millions of people abroad – those who understood our ideas, supported them, went to meet us, to sincere cooperation with us.

I leave my post with dismay. But also with hope, with faith in you, in your wisdom and fortitude. We are the heirs of a great civilization, and now it depends on each and every one to revive it to a new modern and worthy life.

I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart those who during these years stood with me for a legal and good cause. Surely some mistakes could have been avoided, much had been done better. But I am sure that sooner or later our common efforts will bear fruit, our peoples will live in a prosperous and democratic society.

I wish you all the very best.

Gorbachev, M., Life and Reforms, in 2 volumes, vol. 1, Moscow 1995, p. 5-8.

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