Russia’s Real Heroes

The photo in the Washington Times was startling: It showed Gorbachev being carried away, lying on his side, his eyes glazed, his limbs stiff. I looked closer and saw it wasn't the real Gorbachev. It was a statue from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in Amsterdam. Employees were removing it from the tableau of world leaders. It was symbolically appropriate. Days later, the red flag, with the hammer and sickle of communism, was lowered over the Kremlin, and Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union. Western leaders were quick to eulogize him. President Bush praised Gorbachev for opening the gates to freedom. Former President Reagan saluted him. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher hailed his contribution to world peace. American universities are inviting him to join their faculties. A writer for the Washington Post even compared him with Moses, who led his people out of slavery. The irony is that they're all praising Gorbachev for something he didn't mean to do. He never meant to end communism, only to reform it. As recently as the August coup, Gorbachev pronounced himself a dedicated communist. No, Gorbachev didn't destroy the communist empire. It was cut out from under him. The real work was done by millions of individual men and women who have stood up to communism over the past seventy years--and whose reward, often as not, was a stint in the GULAG, where they were beaten and starved. In 1990, when I travelled to the Soviet Union, I met some of them. People like Aleksandr Goldovich, a physicist who was caught trying to escape the Soviet Union by rowboat. For that, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. I met Mr. Goldovich in the notorious prison Perm Camp 35, in the Ural Mountains, surrounded by miles of frozen Siberian wasteland. His cell was something out of the Middle Ages--a dark concrete hole that looked more like a cave than a cell. Nothing in it but a wooden bench and a dim light. Mr. Goldovich was gaunt and lean. But he had a radiant smile. The KGB insisted on filming our interview. Mr. Goldovich looked straight into the camera and fearlessly described years of torture and abuse. I marveled at his courage. And then I saw where it came from. Above the door, etched into the concrete, was a cross. A symbol of the spiritual power that sustained Mr. Goldovich through his years in prison. Before I left that dank cell, we prayed together. And I knew that I had met one of the real heroes of the revolution. Today, Gorbachev is being eulogized as though he personally ushered democracy into the old Soviet Union. In reality, he was just a reforming communist whose reforms got out of hand. In fact, when he saw where they were heading, he fired the reformers in his inner circle and hired a group of hard-liners--the same group that staged the coup attempt and tried to bring back old-style communism. So I'd like to hear a little less about Gorbachev these days and a lot more about men and women like Aleksandr Goldovich, who stood for the truth and were willing to pay the price--who undermined communism at its foundations. They're the ones we should be thanking. They are the true heroes of the revolution.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary