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By Mark Galeotti (auth.)

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Sample text

Nicholas saw himself foremost as a soldier, an 33 Gorbachev and his Revolution unwilling Tsar who saw in military discipline a chance to save and reform Russia. His traditional image has been of a militarist, a harsh and unbending tyrant, devoid of imagination. Of late, though, scholars have begun to redress the balance, uncovering a man who felt an outsider to the selfdeluding pageantry of court, and who became desperate to overcome the corruption and inefficiency undermining the state. His successor, Alexander II, is hailed as the 'TsarLiberator' who freed the peasants from serfdom, but the emancipation plans were actually drawn up during his predecessor's reign, by a commission Nicholas personally established.

Although he managed to say a few words and stand unaided, most viewers were rather more conscious of the watchful aides who hovered by him and the unusual appearance of the 'polling station', which turned out to be a hospital room decked out for the cameras. Gorbachev, by contrast, put on a confident performance worthy of a Western politician on the campaign trail, turning up to vote with his family and joking with the journalists as his granddaughter dropped his ballot in the box. At this eleventh hour, Chernenko was persuaded to adopt the one tactic which really could hurt Gorbachev: trying to cultivate a chosen successor of his own.

Farmers had lost their own land in the 1930s and since then had been forced into collective and state farms as employees, with no real incentive to work hard or improve their productivity. It is striking just how effective they could be when they had a real stake in the proceeds: the private plots ofland which represented no more than 3 per cent of the entire cultivated area accounted for almost a quarter of all fruit and vegetables produced. Not only were the farm workers alienated, they were having to cope with antiquated 31 Gorbachev and his Revolution and rusting machinery for which there was no more money to buy replacements.

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