A Russian and his Wife in London

Mr Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife were on an 8 day ‘tour’ of the West that was discribed at the time as the longest by any statesman from the Iron Curtain.

It was on Tuesday 16th December 1984 that the man strongly forecast as being the next leader of the Soviet Union had a meeting with Margaret Thatcher the then British Prime Minister.  They spent some five hours in what were called, according to British Government officials, “very friendly” talks and discussions.   Soviet officials, though, were less positive saying simply that the talks were “business-like”.

Once the talking was over Mr Gorbachev and his wife Raisa were reported as having ‘enjoyed sightseeing in London’.  The couple, followed by a large security entourage, visited the British Library and saw the seat where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital.

We are also told that they visited the library from where Lenin first produced his newspaper Iskra in 1903.  In 1901, Harry Quelch arranged for the SDF to print Vladimir Lenin’s Iskra newspaper which had been banned in Russia. A thin partition was installed in a small corner of the printing works and Quelch was forced to “squeeze up” into these cramped quarters as a makeshift editorial office to make room for the Russians. There was only room for a small writing desk with a bookshelf above it and a single chair.

Raisa, his wife, was making her first visit to Western Europe and spoke very little English but, as far as Mrs Thatcher said later in her book ‘The Downing Street Years’ her husband Mikhail knew none.  Mrs T was certainly taken by Raisa recording that she was ‘dressed in a smart Western style outfit, a well tailored grey suit with a white stripe – just the sort I could have worn myself I thought’.


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