Did he apologize? Russian artist paints ‘FORGIVE ME’ on canvas signed by Gorbachev & makes big money

A canvas featuring the signature of the first and last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the words “forgive me” added by a painter, sold for a whopping $183,000 in Moscow, reviving bitter memories of the USSR’s demise.

The painting was created in 2009 when Mikhail Gorbachev had a visiting lecture at a Moscow university. One of the students approached the late Soviet leader after the meeting, asking him to leave a signature and to draw something on a blank piece of canvas.

Gorbachev agreed to sign the canvas but refused to draw anything, telling the artist: “Do it yourself, you have enough fantasy.”

According to a Russian auction house which put the painting on sale, there was “only one feasible way to fill the blank white space,” namely to write the word “prostite” (‘forgive me’ in Russian) above Gorbachev’s signature.

The painting, which the auction house has called “an art provocation,” was sold for over 12 million Rubles ($183,000) on Wednesday but the message it sends goes far beyond its material price.

The words “forgive me” and the signature of a USSR president together reflect what some of older-generation Russians would probably like to hear – an apology for the USSR’s demise.

There’s a widespread sentiment in Russia and beyond that Gorbachev did little to nothing to prevent the Soviet Union from dissolving itself in 1991, or even deliberately pushed for dismantling the USSR.

Proponents of his cause, however, argue that he paved the way to mending ties with the West and helped the country to become freer during Perestroika.

That memory is still alive, according to latest studies. A 2018 poll by Levada Center revealed that 24 percent of Russians are ashamed of Gorbachev’s reforms. Notably, only 21 percent disapproved of Joseph Stalin’s heavy-handed rule. Overall, 46 percent regretted that the Soviet Union had to dissolve.

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