In a SPIEGEL interview, Mikhail Gorbachev, 80, discusses the last days of the Soviet Union, his failure to resolve problems with the Communist Party and the ensuing bloodshed he says still troubles him today. He also accuses Vladimir Putin of pulling the country "back into the past."
SPIEGEL: Mikhail Sergeyevich, you turned 80 this spring. How do you feel?Gorbachev: Oh, what a question. Do you have to ask me that? I've gone through three operations in the last five years. That was pretty tough on me, because they were all major operations: First on my carotid artery, then on my prostate and this year on my spine.
SPIEGEL: In Munich.
Gorbachev: Yes. It was a risky procedure. I'm grateful to the Germans.
SPIEGEL: But you look good. We saw you before the operation.
Gorbachev: They say you need three or four months to get back to normal after an operation like that. Do you remember the book "The Fourth Vertebra," by the Finnish author Martti Larni? It is a wonderful book. In my case it was the fifth (vertebra). I've started walking again, but every beginning is difficult.
SPIEGEL: And yet you are back in politics, and you're even making headlines again. Why don't you finally sit back and relax?