In “Why we’ll miss Mikhail Gorbachev,” an essay published in the Syracuse Post-Standard on Sept. 8, co-authors Professor of Government Sharon Rivera and Visiting Assistant Professor of Government David Rivera reflected on the Gorbachev and post-Gorbachev administrations and the time they spent in Russia in the 1990s. David Rivera was serving as the founding director of a Harvard-affiliated research center, and Sharon Rivera was doing field research for her doctoral dissertation at the University of Michigan, openly interviewing members of parliament and the federal bureaucracy.
The Riveras wrote that, “One of Gorbachev’s most significant achievements was the flowering of political and individual liberties during his rule.” They noted, however, that when they arrived in Moscow in 1994 for what would be a multi-year stay, “Gorbachev had been out of power for over two years, and his star had faded to a flicker.
“Shut out of power, all the former Soviet leader could do was run a small academic institution possessing a modest budget and facilities. The Gorbachev Foundation’s academic seminars were poorly attended, but this provided a benefit to us since it meant that we could sit around a medium-sized conference table just a few feet from the former Soviet leader. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his comments at those events were frequently defensive,” the Riveras recalled.
Their stay in Russia was one of several during the ensuing years as they continued their study and analysis of the country and its government. Given the current administration, the Riveras wondered, “We are unsure whether we will ever be able to travel to Russia again.”