• Obituaries

News In Pictures: Mikhail Gorbachev also mourned in Japan

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa are interviewed by student reporters on a Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train in November 1995.

A self-proclaimed Japanophile, Gorbachev showed a fondness for Mt. Fuji, Shinkansen bullet trains and Japanese cuisine. He died on Aug. 30 at age 91.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Mikhail Gorbachev observes a moment of silence after laying flowers at the Peace Park in Nagasaki City in April 1991.

The statesman, who played a major role in bringing an end to the Cold War and strived for the abolition of nuclear weapons, visited the Peace Park in Nagasaki City in April 1991 during his presidency. In April the following year, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he visited Hiroshima City.

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa visit the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima City in April 1992.

“I was impressed that someone who was in a position to push the nuclear button visited the bomb site,” said Minoru Hataguchi, 76, a former director of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and an A-bomb survivor. “He was a great politician who was passionate about nuclear disarmament.”

It was through Gorbachev’s initiative while he was president that the visa-free exchange for visits to the northern territories was realized. Hirotoshi Kawata, the 87-year-old vice president of an organization of former islanders, said, “Although there was no actual progress toward the return of the territories, the door of friendship was opened and he understood the position of us former islanders.”

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Then Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and then Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu are seen after signing a joint statement in Tokyo in April 1991.

Itsuro Nakamura, professor emeritus of Russian politics at the University of Tsukuba, lauded Gorbachev for his boldness and compassion, and noted the stark difference with current Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He brought about a new era by advancing reforms while empathizing with the people,” Nakamura said. “Contrary to these principles, Putin’s administration proceeds on a path of human rights abuses and restricting freedom of speech while invading Ukraine. To halt the invasion, it is important for young people and politicians who carry on Gorbachev’s will to rise up.”

(The Yomiuri Shimbun)