USSR: The message on the moon.

USSR: The message on the moon. - The failed Soviet coup against Mikhail Gorbachev as we went to press was appalling news for the West. Reports said that the conservative communists initially displacing him included Minister of Defence Marshal Dimitri Yaz

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The failed Soviet coup against Mikhail Gorbachev as we went to press was appalling news for the West. Reports said that the conservative communists initially displacing him included Minister of Defence Marshal Dimitri Yazov and Alexei Tizyakov, president of the Association of State Enterprise, which speaks for the Soviet military-industrial complex.

This threw a sad irony on a popular Gorby joke picked up in Moscow by Management Today at the time of the Bush-Gorbachev summit in July, three weeks before the coup. (Prior knowledge needed for this joke is that Soviet cigarettes packets, too, carry a health warning.) It is evening, a few days before the Bush summit. President Gorbachev wanders out to see the moon embossed in large letters with "MARLBORO". Furious, he orders action.

The next night President Bush also takes to moon-gazing, and is appalled to see under "MARLBORO" the words "Made in the USSR". Also enraged, he demands action.

The next night Gorbachev reads "MARLBORO. Made in the USSR. Under the licence of Philip Morris." At his wits' end, he makes his coup de grace.

On the final pre-summit night Bush looks up again. The moon reads: "MARLBORO. Made in the USSR. Under the licence of Philip Morris. The Ministry of Defence warns you for the last time that smoking is dangerous for your health."

Alas, this same Ministry of Defence was not exactly backing the Soviet leader as presumed. It had even hinted that liberal politics were bad for Gorbachev's health. Perhaps that should have been stamped on the moon.

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