An Obituary for Mikhail Gorbachev

Bust of Mikhail Gorbachev
Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images

An Obituary for Mikhail Gorbachev

What was his greatest legacy? The answer may surprise you.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, died August 30 at 91 years old. Governing the world’s Eastern superpower from 1985 to 1991, Gorbachev is credited as one of the main architects of the end of the Cold War. He is remembered for introducing Western-style reforms into Soviet society. These include perestroika (his economic “restructuring” to a decentralized model) and glasnost (“openness” of freedom of speech and government transparency).

Gorbachev saw that the Soviet economy was struggling. His reforms were meant to save the dying system. But as dramatic as his changes were, they were too little, too late. Gorbachev is partially responsible for what most may remember him for: the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

The 1980s were a tumultuous time in Eastern Europe. Protests against the Communists quickly spread from Poland throughout the Eastern Bloc. Before, the Soviets were quick to stamp out movements threatening their supremacy in Eastern Europe. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev did so in Hungary in 1956. His successor, Leonid Brezhnev, did the same in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Gorbachev decided against a similar course of action. Without Moscow supporting them, the Communist regimes from East Germany to Bulgaria began to back down. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but this was only the beginning of the end. Emboldened by Moscow’s passivity, cries for independence spread to the republics of the ussr itself. On Dec. 25, 1991, Gorbachev announced his resignation as president of the ussr. He dissolved the office and passed all responsibilities to the new president of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. That night, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced by the Russian tricolor.

Meanwhile, East and West Germany reunified, forming modern Germany. Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Romania’s Communist dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, was ousted in a violent revolution. Within the ussr itself, the three Baltic states—Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia—were the first to declare independence. They are now integrated into the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Perhaps more than any other individual, Mikhail Gorbachev is responsible for the modern map of Europe.

Gorbachev’s legacy in Russia itself is divisive. Many are grateful for his granting of freedoms, but many more are sour for his destruction of the union. A 2017 survey found that more Russians disliked Gorbachev than admired him. Yet in the West, he was much idolized as the leader to bring freedom to Europe. Here are select quotes from European leaders in response to Gorbachev’s death:

“We won’t forget that perestroika had made it possible for Russia to be able to try to undertake the establishment of a democracy, that democracy and freedom were possible in Europe, that Germany could be unified, that the Iron Curtain disappeared.” –German Chancellor Olaf Scholz

“[Gorbachev was] a man of peace whose choices opened up a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history.” –French President Emmanuel Macron

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a trusted and respected leader. He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain. It opened the way for a free Europe. … This legacy is one we will not forget.” –European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen

“Mikhail Gorbachev’s historic reforms led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, helped end the Cold War, and opened the possibility of a partnership between Russia and nato. His vision of a better world remains an example.” –nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

Another aspect of his legacy—by far the most important—is also the most overlooked by world statesmen.

Europe looked at itself after World War ii, smoldering in the rubble of Adolf Hitler’s empire and its subsequent annihilation, and wanted a different, better way. To many Europeans, the solution to the troubles of the first half of the 20th century was to consolidate their economies and unite as a single global entity. This is the origin of the European Union.

The idea took off in Western Europe when West Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg founded the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. This eventually turned into the European Economic Community, the precursor to the EU, that the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Greece, Spain and Portugal would join. (Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016.)

There was one particularly thorny problem with European integration, however. That problem was the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin also had plans for Europe after World War ii. As his Red Army marched westward, he picked up the pieces of Hitler’s eastern empire and kept it for himself. He turned Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and eastern Germany into Communist puppet states loyal to Moscow. Yugoslavia and Albania eventually broke free from Soviet influence but remained Communist, not participating in European integration. Austria, Sweden and Finland, while democracies, were geographically close to the Eastern Bloc and pledged neutrality to avoid angering Moscow. The Soviet Union prevented half of Europe from participating in integration.

Gorbachev put an end to all of that. His reluctance to use force gave East Europeans the courage they needed to break away. And once the Soviet Union collapsed, most of these countries rushed to integrate into the EU.

Most of this is common knowledge. But what most don’t know is that modern European integration was prophesied in the Bible.

Herbert W. Armstrong, editor in chief of our predecessor magazine, the Plain Truth, forecast that Europe would rise from the ashes of World War ii to become a superpower in its own right. He forecast that 10 nations would pool their resources together to become one giant superstate. He based his predictions on biblical prophecies like Revelation 13 and 17. These prophecies mention a “beast,” a biblical symbol of an empire (in this case, the Roman Empire; please read History and Prophecy of the Middle East for more information). Revelation prophesies that after the fall of Rome, the empire would rise consecutively seven times up to the return of Christ (Revelation 17:10, 14). History records six of these resurrections coming and going, meaning one more is to come. This last one would be formed by 10 European heads of government uniting as one (verses 12-13).

He wrote in his booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic Beast?: “The seventh head with its 10 horns, in the 17th chapter, will be, as the 17th chapter explains, the revival of the beast, the Roman Empire, ‘out of the bottomless pit’ by a ‘United States of Europe,’ or federation of 10 European nations centered within the bounds of the old Roman Empire (Revelation 17:12-18). This is actually beginning today!”

Mr. Armstrong wrote a letter to Plain Truth subscribers in July 1983 about the “coming sudden appearance of a resurrected ‘Holy Roman Empire’ in Europe—a union of 10 nations in Europe under one government, with one united military force. For 50 years I have been crying out to the world the Bible prophecies of this coming ‘United States of Europe’—a new united superpower perhaps more powerful than either the Soviet Union or the United States!”

Mr. Armstrong also forecast a few specifics about this coming “new united superpower.” He predicted Germany—the heart of the old Holy Roman Empire—would be the leading nation behind it. In 1954, he wrote: “Germany inevitably [will] emerge as the leader of a united Europe. … All Europe is actually ready—just waiting for the confidence-inspiring leader.”

He also predicted specifics based on a related prophecy in Daniel 2. Starting in verse 31 is a prophecy of four world-ruling empires symbolized as a giant statue made up of four different metals. The last of which, symbolized by iron, is the Roman Empire (verse 40). The statue had 10 toes (verses 41-43), symbolizing the same 10 kings of Revelation 17. Five of course were on one foot, and five on the other. Anciently, the Roman Empire was divided, with Rome controlling the western empire and Constantinople controlling the eastern empire. Mr. Armstrong predicted then that the last resurrection of the Roman Empire would be made up of five countries from Western Europe and five from Eastern Europe.

He wrote in 1980: “It now looks entirely feasible that Yugoslavia may be included in this revived Roman Empire. Also the pope’s native Poland and Romania, and possibly Hungary. Add Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. There will be a union of 10 nations in the general area of the medieval Roman Empire in the new united Europe.” In 1982, he said the following, commentating on Daniel 2: “Those 10 toes are the 10 divisions of 10 nations that are going to form the United States of Europe now, that is coming together right now. … Half of them [will be in] Eastern Europe and half in the west.”

Mr. Armstrong didn’t live to see this prophecy fulfilled; Eastern Europe was still under the Soviet bear paw. Through its puppet in East Germany, Moscow kept Germany divided. The Soviet Union held back these prophecies from being fulfilled.

Enter Mikhail Gorbachev. Because of him, Germany reunited. Because of him, Eastern Europe cast off the shackles of communism. Today, most of Eastern Europe is firmly integrated within the European Union. Germany is the most powerful country within the union. And judging by what European leaders are saying about Gorbachev at his death, they recognize the role he played in these events. They are pleased with how events played out because of him. Europe wouldn’t be what it is today because of him.

This then is the greatest legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev: He helped fulfill Bible prophecy—in a massive way. Mr. Armstrong met many world leaders during his life. Gorbachev was not one of them. But through his actions, Mikhail Gorbachev proved Mr. Armstrong’s predictions right.

The forecasts of Germany leading the EU and of Eastern Europe breaking free from the Russian orbit are only two of many Mr. Armstrong made. Using the Bible as his guide, he made prediction after prediction about the direction of world events. The decades after his death have seen many of these either fulfilled or in the process of such. The Trumpet made a compilation of Mr. Armstrong’s forecasts in our free booklet He Was Right. If you would like to learn more about Mr. Armstrong’s legacy in geopolitical forecasting, He Was Right is an indispensable resource. Request your free copy today.