"Writing about history and making history are two different things. Perestroika is a very difficult process, but it marked the transition from totalitarianism to free society," Mr. Gorbachev said Tuesday presenting his report, "Perestroika 20 Years Later", at his foundation.
Mr. Gorbachev, unpopular at home but highly popular in the West, recalled the milestones of perestroika - the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the return of academician Andrei Sakharov from exile, and rehabilitation of the victims of Stalin's repressions.
Mr. Gorbachev also said that the Russian people were changing their attitude to this historical period of time called Perestroika and to its chief architect.
According to an opinion survey conducted in view of the 20th anniversary of perestroika on the order of the Gorbachev Foundation, 91% of Russians today hail the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, 88% support the end of the cold war and 74% back the fall of the iron curtain and the right to free trips abroad.
Mr. Gorbachev also noted the positive dynamics in the Russian people's attitude to his own personality. According to him, 48% of citizens with higher education and only 19% of scarcely educated people approve of his political activity.
""Here is the gap between people with different levels of education, and it can be seen in all surveys," said Mr. Gorbachev. He mentioned the anti-alcohol campaign of 1985 among his mistakes, though adding that his program of cultural consumption of alcohol was a good idea.
Mr. Gorbachev's opening speech lasted nearly 40 minutes.
"It is my soft spot, but now it is too late for me to change - I will turn 75 nextyear," Mr. Gorbachev said apologizing for his lengthy speech.
He suggested to his perestroika colleagues that they speak in the "old men's manner", i.e. sitting.