Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-2022), a leader who contributed greatly to world peace, passed away on August 30, 2022 after lengthy illness. He led the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991 and received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
Members of the Family Federation will remember him for his historic meeting with Father and Mother Moon in Moscow in April 1990, but also for his key role in the process that ended the Cold War in Europe. Gorbachev made an important decision when he abstained from sending Soviet troops to Eastern Europe around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain.
In his autobiography, Father Moon tells of his second meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, in Seoul on 24th March, 1994. That time, the founder of the Unification Movement said to the former Soviet leader,
“‘Mr. President, you did a great thing,’ I told him. ‘You gave up your post as general secretary of the Soviet Union, but now you have become the president of peace. Because of your wisdom and courage, we now have the possibility to bring world peace. You did the most important, eternal, and beautiful thing for the world. You are a hero of peace who did God’s work. The name that will be remembered forever in the history of Russia will not be ‘Marx,’ ‘Lenin,’ or ‘Stalin.’ It will only be ‘Mikhail Gorbachev.’”
In his autobiography, Father Moon describes the meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow as follows,
“In April 1990, I convened the World Media Conference held in Moscow. Unexpectedly, the Soviet government gave me head-of-state-level protocol, beginning at the airport. We were transported to the center of Moscow in a police-escorted motorcade. The car that carried me traveled on the yellow section of the road, which was used only by the president and state guests. This happened before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Soviet government afforded this exceptional treatment to me, an anti-communist.
At the conference, I gave an address praising the move toward perestroika. I said this revolution must be bloodless, and that it must be a revolution of the mind and spirit. The purpose of my visit was to attend the World Media Conference, but my mind was focused on meeting President Gorbachev.
At the time, President Gorbachev was popular within the Soviet Union, following the successes of his perestroika policies. I could have met the U.S. president ten times if I’d wanted to, but meeting President Gorbachev was much more difficult. I was concerned that even one meeting might be difficult to achieve. I had a message to give him, and it was important that I do this in person. He was reforming the Soviet Union, giving rise to the winds of freedom there, but as time passed, the swords of reform were being increasingly pointed at his back. If the situation were left unchecked, he was about to fall into great danger.
I explained, ‘If he does not meet me, he has no way to catch the wave of heavenly fortune, and if he cannot do that, he will not last long.’
Perhaps President Gorbachev heard this expression of my concern. The next day, he invited me to the Kremlin Palace. I rode in a limousine provided by the Soviet government and entered deep into the Kremlin. On entering the presidential office, my wife and I took our seats, and Cabinet ministers of the Soviet Union took seats next to us. President Gorbachev smiled a big smile and gave us an energetic explanation of the successes of his perestroika policies. Then he showed me into an anteroom, where we met one on one. I used this opportunity to give him the following message.
‘Mr. President, you have already achieved much success through perestroika, but that alone will not be sufficient for reform. You need to immediately allow freedom of religion in the Soviet Union. If you try to reform only the material world, without the involvement of God, perestroika will be doomed to fail. Communism is about to end. The only way to save this nation is to allow the freedom of religion. The time is now for you to act with the courage that you have shown in reforming the Soviet Union and become a president of the world who works to bring about world peace.’
President Gorbachev’s face hardened at the mention of religious freedom, as though he had not been expecting this. As one would expect from the man who had allowed the reunification of Germany, however, he quickly relaxed his expression and soberly accepted my words to him. I continued, saying, ‘South Korea and the Soviet Union should now open diplomatic relations. In that context, please invite South Korean President Roh Tae Woo to visit.’ I also explained a list of reasons why it would be good for the two countries to have diplomatic relations.
After I had finished all I wanted to say, President Gorbachev made a promise to me with a tone of certitude that I had not heard him express prior to that point.
‘I am confident,’ he said, ‘that relations between South Korea and the Soviet Union will develop smoothly. I, too, believe that political stability and the relaxation of tensions on the Korean peninsula is necessary. Opening diplomatic relations with South Korea is only a matter of time; there are no obstacles. As you suggested, I will meet President Roh Tae Woo.’
As I was about to leave President Gorbachev that day, I took off my watch and put it on his wrist. He seemed a little bewildered that I would treat him as I might an old friend. So I told him firmly, ‘Each time your reforms face difficulty, please look at this watch and remember your promise to me. If you do that, Heaven will surely open a path for you.’”
Featured image at the top: President Mikhail Gorbachev in the White House Library, Washington DC 8th Dec. 1987. Public domain image.