You're going with Gorbachev," the Moscow airport ticket clerk says scornfully. "If I had a gun I'd kill him myself." In Russia these days, such remarks are common. The last President of the former Soviet Union is reviled by many of those he once ruled. Free-market liberals disdain his vacillating support for economic reform; Communists and nationalists detest him for his role in ending the empire. No matter. Gorbachev is waging a quixotic race for Russia's presidency and this day is heading 700 miles south of the Kremlin to plead his case in Volgograd.

About 1,500 citizens pack the Palace of...

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