Cold War hero Gorbachev arrives to break the ice at house party

HAMPSTEAD was honoured to play host to one of the most important world leaders on Tuesday – Mikhail Gorbachev

Katie Davies

HAMPSTEAD was honoured to play host to one of the most important world leaders on Tuesday - Mikhail Gorbachev.

The man who almost single-handedly brought an end to the Cold War with his Glasnost and Perestroika gave a speech to the glitterati of London and Moscow at the former Toprak Mansion on The Bishops Avenue.

The evening was to celebrate 30 years of local estate agent Glentree which has links to the former ruler through his late wife's charitable trust - the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation.


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Mr Gorbachev talked of how he and the estate agent both worked up from humble beginnings and also the strong links he saw returning to Britain and Russia after more recent, frostier relations.

"I came from a peasant family so I know the value of working hard. Through the war, it was occupied by the Nazis and a few members of the Gorbachev family did not return," he said.

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"I remember the horrors of oppression under Stalin. After I graduated High School, I was admitted to Moscow University.

"I remember travelling there by train and seeing all of the cities destroyed. Perhaps at that time something happened to me - caused a repugnance to war and I never forgot where I came from.

"To me, it was always very easy to talk to working people, farmers, workers - whatever community in any place. I had been able to bring people together even when I was a young man.

"It is very important that the problems between our two countries are overcome and I am sure they will be. The common interests of our countries means these things should be set aside and I think that is going to happen.

"If we work together in our common interests and understanding, I think any problem can be dealt with step by step."

Mr Gorbachev also paid homage to his audience - making a joke of the likes of Abramovich and other Russian business moguls for their migration to the UK.

"We have good economic co-operation, excellent trade around £15bn, we have good cultural relations with Britain, many Russians live here, have their children educated here and bring their money here. You better be careful, they may buy everything up. That was a joke," he laughed.

Glentree threw the party in the now renamed Royal Mansion which it sold for £50million in January to Kazakhstani billionaire Hourieh Peramaa.

Weeks before the mammoth sale, Glentree also sold Israeli diamond merchant Lev Leviev, who attended the party, a £32million home in the next road.

Several unlikely celebrities were also in attendance to hear the former Russian head of state's speech, including 1980s pop star Sinitta, party girl actress Tara Reid and former EastEnder Billy Murray.

Despite the rather whimsical crowd, Mr Gorbachev insisted on talking politics and said that the West should have more patience with Russia.

"Give us time to sort things out. We have to build democracy," he said.

"You can't create democracy like instant coffee - it has to grow up. When I speak about these things in America, I say, 'You want us to have a democracy like yours - we don't want a democracy exactly like yours.'

"We want a better democracy but the second point is that you overestimate our ability.

"It took 200 years to build the kind of democracy you have here and you want us to do it in 200 days."

katie.davies@hamhigh.co.uk

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