Gorbachev’s visit sets U abuzz

Erin Ghere

Aaron Kirscht — editor in chief
Nick Doty — project coordinator
Michelle Franta — copy chief
Craig Gustafson — associate editor
Erin Ghere — associate editor
V. Paul Virtucio — associate editor
Mike DeArmond — art director

University students and other Minnesotans stood in soggy weather, some eating cold boxed lunches, for two-and-a-half hours for a glimpse of his limousine.
The Minnesota Daily and other metro daily newspapers wrote incessantly about the visit for the three weeks prior to it.
But when Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, surprised everyone by stepping out of their limo to shake hands with people, any complaints bystanders had melted away.
Gorbachev visited the Twin Cities for only six hours on June 3, 1990, but the visit sparked many days of pre-arrival coverage and an eight-page extra edition by the Daily.
Even protesters stopped jeering and began cheering when the Soviet president faded into the crowd hoping to shake hands with the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner for just a moment, the Daily reported.

A press hurricane
The Minnesota Daily’s coverage of Gorbachev’s visit began rather small: a front page article announcing a possible stop by the Soviet president during his whirlwind Minnesota tour.
But two days before his arrival, the Daily devoted four pages of coverage to the pre-visit news.
Gorbachev’s trip was to begin in Washington D.C. on April 30, with a summit with then-President Bush beginning his cross-country tour. Gorbachev visited the Twin Cities from 1 to 7 p.m. on June 3, en route to San Francisco and Stanford University in California.
An editorial in the Daily several days after Soviet officials announced Gorbachev’s visit said, “the various media have given it an importance rivaling the second coming of Christ.”
“Gorbachev has not only defined his era,” the editorial said. “He, like few others in the world, is making history at this moment — a man who has brought the rabidly growing war machines in both the Soviet Union and the United States back to sanity.”

Gorbachev’s historic visit
By the time the final itinerary was set and the last-minute decisions had been made, members of the University’s community would meet Gorbachev on many legs of his tour.
Then-University President Nils Hasselmo was on a list of 30 people to say hello or goodbye to the Soviet leader; a University harpsichordist played at a luncheon for him; and the University symphonic wind ensemble played Soviet-composed music to Gorbachev at one of his many stops.
But when the day actually arrived, it was those standing outside the governor’s mansion, hoping for a glimpse of the legend as he drove by in his limousine, who were the most touched by his personability.
“In a surprise move at the (governor’s) mansion, Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, climbed out of their Soviet-made ZIL limousine a block away from the heavily secured house to mingle with people,” the front-page article of the Daily’s extra edition read.
“The crowd loved the spontaneity. They screamed and hollered at the international leader, reaching out to shake his hand while trampling fences and barricades along the way,” it described.

Gorbachev the leader
Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. He quickly set about creating the country he envisioned.
During the next six years, he also implemented two now-famous policies: glasnost, meaning openness, and perestroika, meaning restructuring.
Additionally, Gorbachev signed an agreement with President Reagan for both countries to destroy all existing stocks of intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles. In 1989, he oversaw the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan after nine years.
But his reforms did not come without opposition. From Aug. 19 to 21, 1991, Gorbachev and his family were held captive in their home as a hard-line communist coup tried to take control. Although unsuccessful, the coup left Gorbachev nearly powerless and he resigned the presidency on Dec. 25, 1991.
The Soviet Union ceased to exist the same day.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]