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COLUMN ONE : The Rise and Fall of Gorbachev : The former farm boy who introduced dramatic reforms upon his rise to power ended up out of sync with social, political forces he had released.

December 26, 1991|JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"When society was given freedom, it could not recognize itself, for it had lived too long, as it were, beyond the looking glass," he said.

In the fall of 1990, Gorbachev tried to slam on the brakes, to reverse some of the economic and social forces he had freed from the bottle where terror and repression had kept them.

Since the failure of the August putsch, Gorbachev had been trying to fashion a new modus vivendi with Yeltsin and the leaders of the other republics by enlisting them for a new collective executive, the State Council, that would have replaced the national government as the supreme power in the land.

By then, however, the Kremlin and Gorbachev himself were too discredited, and secessionist tendencies too pronounced in many republics, for the scheme to work. As the end of his leadership drew near, Gorbachev at one point declared, "I am the center."

When Yeltsin and his colleagues in the other republics agreed last weekend to put an end to that central government, it meant the end of the Gorbachev Era.

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