The former president of the USSR and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mikhaïl Gorbatxov, had a special relationship with Barcelona, ??the city he visited on several occasions, during the Olympic stage and later to participate in the Forum of Cultures of 2004
On his first visit, on October 28, 1990, the last president of the Soviet Union paid a visit, accompanied by his wife, Raisa Gorbatxova, to the stadium facilities and the Olympic Ring de Montjuïc, the Picasso Museum, and attended a reception at the Palau de Pedralbes, sporting a Cobi badge, the Olympic mascot of the Barcelona Games, on his lapel. In the institutional declaration of welcome to the city, the mayor Pasqual Maragall put Barcelona at the disposal of "all the tasks in favor of peace and friendship between the cities and the citizens of the new Europe" symbolized by Gorbachev . A leader who, Maragall also pointed out in his statement, "has revealed in the vast majority of Barcelona residents a lively sympathy and a warm adherence to his admirable task of promoting political, economic and cultural openness in the Soviet Union". In fact, Barcelona and the city of Leningrad had already signed a twinning agreement, with growing collaboration in the cultural field between both metropolises.
Impressed by the affection of Barcelona
After that first visit to the Catalan capital, Pasqual Maragall wrote two articles in La Vanguradia, where he explained that Gorbachev, also known as Gorbi, had been impressed by the city and by the affection of the people of Barcelona. The mayor also recalled some words of Gorbatxov himself during his stay in Barcelona: "We only had a few hours to visit this city and I would like to say that from these moments a firm desire to return to Barcelona was born, to have the opportunity to walk its streets again without attracting so much attention. We may have that opportunity, because we all have the right to retire, but hopefully we can do it before that time."
Maragall also praised the figure of the Soviet president stating, in the article "Barcelona with Gorbatxov", published on August 22, 1991, that "Mikhail Gorbachev's great merit has been to understand the need for detente and disarmament on a large scale worldwide". In addition, Maragall showed Barcelona's clear support for the economic and political reforms promoted by Gorbachev's perestroika, when the coup attempt in the Soviet Union had just taken place. "Cities have a limited role in international politics. In this sense, Barcelona will scrupulously follow the line set by the State Government and the sentiments expressed by the Catalan authorities. But the mayor of Barcelona cannot fail to express at this historical moment the majority sentiment of Barcelona residents and to ask that reason and the law once again reign over the destinies of the Soviet peoples, very particularly those of the sister city of Leningrad", said the then mayor of Barcelona.
Years later, Gorbachev returned to Barcelona to twice attend the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004. He participated in the inaugural conference of the "Dialogues of the Earth" cycle as president of the Green Cross International organization, and in a of the sessions of the cycle "141 questions for 141 nights" under the title: "And if we do a global perestroika?". In addition, he visited the Palau de la Generalitat, then with Pasqual Maragall as president of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
From the Catalunya Europa Foundation - Pasqual Maragall Legacy, we regret the loss last August 30 of a firm defender of peace, dialogue and democratic openness.
In the Pasqual Maragall Digital Archive promoted by the Catalunya Europa Foundation, you can consult the institutional statement welcoming Gorbachev, as well as the two articles that Pasqual Maragall published in La Vanguardia on the occasion of the Soviet leader's first visit to Catalonia.
Photos from the Fundació Catalunya Europa Foundation, the Generalitat de Catalunya and photographer Danny Caminal from El Periodico (during the visit to the Barcelona Forum 2004).