RAISA MAXIMOVNA became the first wife of the head of the Soviet state to break the principle "don't stand out." But in her own country this attitude was met with a lack of understanding, even hostility, not only from party officials but also from "ordinary Soviet citizens" who were shocked to see a real first lady who could dress with taste. Envy followed her until August 1991 when people saw her as a woman who supported her husband during his isolation in Foros at the cost of her own health. Yes, she made mistakes. But what she did overbalances all reproaches. She was never accused of corruption or law abuses, she will remain in history as an honest person. Loss of her position as a first lady and rumours did not break her. She did so much to help Chernobyl children, schools and orphanages. People who knew her remember her as an outstanding woman. Woman with a capital letter.
SHE WAS the first real Soviet woman to become a real first lady. And she remains the last first lady. Hers was the nicest Kremlin face in the passing century. She was lucky to have her husband but he was also lucky to have her. It was the strangest Kremlin couple one can imagine: they looked decent and behaved decently in everyday life. His South Russian accent in speech and her tedious teacher's manner of speech were hidden from the world by language barriers, but nobody felt shame.
SHE LEFT. She was a woman, a wife who turned the world around. Our grey Soviet world and not only our world. The world suddenly saw a different Soviet woman, she was refined, elegant. She was loved and that was felt in everything. Gorbachev was the person who saved us, who brought something fresh into our life. Raisa was at his side. She caused envy, perhaps because she was independent. She belongs to history beside Gorbachev. The first inclination of perestroika in 1985 was the General Secretary who could speak without reading from a paper in his hands. The second was his wife, a nice woman always by his side. The Gorbachevs broke Stalin' s tradition to keep the wives of the leaders out of the public life. They committed a mini-revolution. They caused respect and irritation in the realm of public opinion just because they made their mini-revolution and we did not. This Russian family stayed together after they lost their position and supported each other through all troubles and all blows. They were together until the very end. It is not only his personal loss. We will always remember her. She showed the world another Russia. Good-bye, our first lady.