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Mikhail Gorbachev (born 02.03.1931) — Russian politician.

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in Privolnoye, Stavropol territory in North Caucasus, to a peasant family in a small village. His father was an agricultural mechanic on a collective farm. In 1942 at the age of 11 his district was occupied by the Germans, leading to 3 years of hardship during the Second World War. After spending time as an agricultural assistant in 1950 Mikhail Gorbachev enrolled as a law student in the University of Moscow. Here at university Mikhail Gorbachev became a full member of the Soviet Union Communist Party (CPSU). Also at university Mikhail met and married his life partner Raisa Maximova Gorbachev.

After receiving his degree in law in 1956 Mikhail made rapid progress within the Communist Party. By 1970 Mikhail had become the first Secretary for Stavropol territory, governing an area of 2.4 million people. By 1980 he had been made the youngest full member of the Politburo. After the death of Chernenko in 1985 M.Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party a position of enormous power.

During his period in office M.Gorbachev introduced several policies which revolutionised the internal and external affairs of the Soviet Union. Firstly Perestroika “or restructuring” involved opening up the Soviet economy to market forces. By 1987 private ownership of business was allowed for the first time since the 1920s. These reforms came partly out of the inefficiencies Gorbachev had seen in State controlled agricultural sectors. Due to the large scale inefficiencies within the Soviet economy the transformation to a market economy has often been a painful one. However after several years of inflation and falling GDP the Russian economy has started to stabilise and this policy is generally viewed favourably by the Russians.

In internal affairs Gorbachev introduced the concept of Glasnost (openness) this was a distinct break with the authoritarian past of the Soviet Union. Glasnost led to greater freedom of speech, freedom of worship and a reduction in State control over individual lives. Many 1000s of political prisoners were released during Gorbachev’s period in government. Ironically this greater freedom of speech was used to great effect later by the many critics of Gorbachev within the Soviet Union.

End Of The Cold WarIn the 1980s the Soviet economy was struggling due to the inefficiencies of a planned economy but also the huge sums spent on the arms race. Gorbachev felt the Soviet Union could no longer afford to spend such great sums on military spending and therefore sought a reduction the arms. This led to nuclear missile reduction treaties with America and effectively ended the Cold War which had dominated international relations since 1945. Western leaders such as R.Reagan, G.Bush and M.Thatcher spoke warmly of their impressions of this “new style” Russian leader. In 1989 the Soviet Army also retreated from Afghanistan, this had proved a contentious and costly war for the Soviets.

In 1988 Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would no longer follow the Brezhnev doctrine. The Brezhnev doctrine was formulated in 1968 and was used as a justification to maintain Communist control over the Warsaw Pact countries. (This was used during the military termination of the Prague Spring in 1969.) Effectively Gorbachev gave Eastern European countries the right to pursue their own political agenda. This more than any other policy had a remarkably quick and significant effect, drastically changing the European political map. Starting with Poland, the Eastern European countries experienced generally peaceful democratic revolutions, with Pro Soviet Communist parties being replaced by other democratic parties. Most symbolically in 1989 the Berlin Wall was torn down allowing East and West Germany to reunite. In recognition of Gorbachev’s role in bringing an end to the cold war he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1990.

Despite praise from outside the Soviet Union, Gorbachev had many enemies within the Soviet Union. On the one hand the “Conservatives” were alarmed at what they saw as the break up of the old Soviet Union. They wished to maintain the military and political power of the old Soviet Union. On the other hand “modernisers” led by Boris Yeltsin felt there was need for even quicker change in making the transition to a market economy. In 1991 Gorbachev was placed under house arrest by conservative critics, this was known as the August Coup. After 3 days Gorbachev was released, but on returning to Moscow his power had inexorably shifted away into the hands of Yeltsin. The Soviet Union and Politburo had become effetively defunct and Gorbachev resigned as President in 1991.

Since 1991 Gorbachev has made abortive attempts to return to politics but has never been able to gain significant popular support. Since then he had devoted his attention to projects such as the “Gorbachev Foundation” and the Green Cross International. The Green Cross international is an environmental organisation dedicated to attempting to solve key environmental problems.

Raisa, the wife of Gorbachev died of Leukemia in 1999. They had one daughter Irina Gorbachev.

Mikhail Gorbachev

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Mikhail Gorbachev was a Soviet politician. Gorbachev served as the last general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1985–91) as well as the last president of the Soviet Union (1990–91). Both as general secretary and as president, Gorbachev supported democratic reforms. He enacted policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”), and he pushed for disarmament and demilitarization in eastern Europe. Gorbachev’s policies ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990–91.

Mikhail Gorbachev was named a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1971. In 1979–80 Gorbachev joined its supreme policy-making body (the Politburo), and in 1985 he was elected general secretary of the CPSU. In October 1988 General Secretary Gorbachev was elected to the chairmanship of the presidium of the national legislature (the Supreme Soviet). Shortly thereafter Gorbachev restructured the Soviet government to include a bicameral parliament. In 1989 the parliament elected from its ranks a new Supreme Soviet and made Gorbachev its chairman. In 1990 Gorbachev ran without opposition for president of the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Gorbachev played a key role in ending the Soviet Union’s post-World War II domination of eastern Europe. Gorbachev helped take down the long-standing Iron Curtain separating Eastern communist states and Western noncommunist states. In foreign affairs, Gorbachev cultivated friendlier relations with noncommunist states, including and especially the United States. Gorbachev worked with U.S. President Ronald Reagan to lessen the political and military tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. In so doing, Gorbachev helped end the Cold War. In 1990 Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize for his “leading role in the peace process” in Europe.

Mikhail Gorbachev resigned the presidency of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991. That same day, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. It was replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a free association of sovereign states founded by the elected leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus (Belorussia). The CIS began operations in early 1992. At that time, Boris Yeltsin was president of Russia. The Russian government under Yeltsin assumed many of the responsibilities of the former Soviet Union. Dissatisfaction with the Yeltsin administration prompted Gorbachev to run for president of Russia in 1996. Gorbachev’s bid for the presidency was unsuccessful: he earned less than 1 percent of the vote.

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Mikhail Gorbachev, in full Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, (born March 2, 1931, Privolnoye, Stavropol kray, Russia, U.S.S.R.), Soviet official, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1985 to 1991 and president of the Soviet Union in 1990–91. His efforts to democratize his country’s political system and decentralize its economy led to the downfall of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In part because he ended the Soviet Union’s postwar domination of eastern Europe, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1990.

Early life

Gorbachev was the son of Russian peasants in Stavropol territory (kray) in southwestern Russia. He joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) in 1946 and drove a combine harvester at a state farm in Stavropol for the next four years. He proved a promising Komsomol member, and in 1952 he entered the law school of Moscow State University and became a member of the Communist Party. He graduated with a degree in law in 1955 and went on to hold a number of posts in the Komsomol and regular party organizations in Stavropol, rising to become first secretary of the regional party committee in 1970.

General secretary of the CPSU: perestroika to the fall of the Soviet Union

Gorbachev was named a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1971, and he was appointed a party secretary of agriculture in 1978. He became a candidate member of the Politburo in 1979 and a full member in 1980. He owed a great deal of his steady rise in the party to the patronage of Mikhail Suslov, the leading party ideologue. Over the course of Yury Andropov’s 15-month tenure (1982–84) as general secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev became one of the Politburo’s most highly active and visible members; and, after Andropov died and Konstantin Chernenko became general secretary in February 1984, Gorbachev became a likely successor to the latter. Chernenko died on March 10, 1985, and the following day the Politburo elected Gorbachev general secretary of the CPSU. Upon his accession, he was still the youngest member of the Politburo.

Gorbachev quickly set about consolidating his personal power in the Soviet leadership. His primary domestic goal was to resuscitate the stagnant Soviet economy after its years of drift and low growth during Leonid Brezhnev’s tenure in power (1964–82). To this end, he called for rapid technological modernization and increased worker productivity, and he tried to make the cumbersome Soviet bureaucracy more efficient and responsive.

When these superficial changes failed to yield tangible results, Gorbachev in 1987–88 proceeded to initiate deeper reforms of the Soviet economic and political system. Under his new policy of glasnost (“openness”), a major cultural thaw took place: freedoms of expression and of information were significantly expanded; the press and broadcasting were allowed unprecedented candour in their reportage and criticism; and the country’s legacy of Stalinist totalitarian rule was eventually completely repudiated by the government. Under Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika (“restructuring”), the first modest attempts to democratize the Soviet political system were undertaken; multicandidate contests and the secret ballot were introduced in some elections to party and government posts. Under perestroika, some limited free-market mechanisms also began to be introduced into the Soviet economy, but even these modest economic reforms encountered serious resistance from party and government bureaucrats who were unwilling to relinquish their control over the nation’s economic life.

In foreign affairs, Gorbachev from the beginning cultivated warmer relations and trade with the developed nations of both West and East. In December 1987 he signed an agreement with U.S. Pres. Ronald Reagan for their two countries to destroy all existing stocks of intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles. In 1988–89 he oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after their nine-year occupation of that country.

In October 1988 Gorbachev was able to consolidate his power by his election to the chairmanship of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet (the national legislature). But, in part because his economic reforms were being obstructed by the Communist Party, Gorbachev tried to restructure the government’s legislative and executive branches in order to release them from the grip of the CPSU. Accordingly, under changes made to the constitution in December 1988, a new bicameral parliament called the U.S.S.R. Congress of People’s Deputies was created, with some of its members directly elected by the people in contested (i.e., multicandidate) elections. In 1989 the newly elected Congress of People’s Deputies elected from its ranks a new U.S.S.R. Supreme Soviet that, in contrast to its predecessor of that name, was a real standing parliament with substantial legislative powers. In May 1989 Gorbachev was elected chairman of this Supreme Soviet and thereby retained the national presidency.

Gorbachev was the single most important initiator of a series of events in late 1989 and 1990 that transformed the political fabric of Europe and marked the beginning of the end of the Cold War. Throughout 1989 he had seized every opportunity to voice his support for reformist communists in the Soviet-bloc countries of eastern Europe, and, when communist regimes in those countries collapsed like dominoes late that year, Gorbachev tacitly acquiesced in their fall. As democratically elected, noncommunist governments came to power in East Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia in late 1989–90, Gorbachev agreed to the phased withdrawal of Soviet troops from those countries. By the summer of 1990 he had agreed to the reunification of East with West Germany and even assented to the prospect of that reunified nation’s becoming a member of the Soviet Union’s longtime enemy, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In 1990 Gorbachev received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his striking achievements in international relations.

The new freedoms arising from Gorbachev’s democratization and decentralization of his nation’s political system led to civil unrest in several of the constituent republics (e.g., Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan) and to outright attempts to achieve independence in others (e.g., Lithuania). In response, Gorbachev used military force to suppress bloody interethnic strife in several of the Central Asian republics in 1989–90, while constitutional mechanisms were devised that could provide for the lawful secession of a republic from the U.S.S.R.

With the CPSU waning in power and steadily losing prestige in the face of the mounting impetus for democratic political procedures, Gorbachev in 1990 further accelerated the transfer of power from the party to elected governmental institutions. In March of that year the Congress of People’s Deputies elected him to the newly created post of president of the U.S.S.R., with extensive executive powers. At the same time, the Congress, under his leadership, abolished the Communist Party’s constitutionally guaranteed monopoly of political power in the Soviet Union, thus paving the way for the legalization of other political parties.

Gorbachev was conspicuously successful in dismantling the totalitarian aspects of the Soviet state and in moving his country along the path toward true representative democracy. He proved less willing to release the Soviet economy from the grip of centralized state direction, however. Gorbachev eschewed the totalitarian use of power that had traditionally worked to keep the Soviet economy functioning, but at the same time he resisted any decisive shift to private ownership and the use of free-market mechanisms. Gorbachev sought a compromise between these two diametrically opposed alternatives in vain, and so the centrally planned economy continued to crumble with no private enterprise to replace it. Gorbachev remained the undisputed master of the ailing Communist Party, but his attempts to augment his presidential powers through decrees and administrative reshufflings proved fruitless, and his government’s authority and effectiveness began a serious decline. In the face of a collapsing economy, rising public frustration, and the continued shift of power to the constituent republics, Gorbachev wavered in direction, allying himself with party conservatives and the security organs in late 1990.

But the Communist hard-liners who had replaced reformers in the government proved undependable allies, and Gorbachev and his family were briefly held under house arrest from August 19 to 21, 1991, during a short-lived coup by the hard-liners. After the coup foundered in the face of staunch resistance by Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin and other reformers who had risen to power under the democratic reforms, Gorbachev resumed his duties as Soviet president, but his position had by now been irretrievably weakened. Entering into an unavoidable alliance with Yeltsin, Gorbachev quit the Communist Party, disbanded its Central Committee, and supported measures to strip the party of its control over the KGB and the armed forces. Gorbachev also moved quickly to shift fundamental political powers to the Soviet Union’s constituent republics. Events outpaced him, however, and the Russian government under Yeltsin readily assumed the functions of the collapsing Soviet government as the various republics agreed to form a new commonwealth under Yeltsin’s leadership. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned the presidency of the Soviet Union, which ceased to exist that same day.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Who Is Mikhail Gorbachev?

Mikhail Gorbachev became a delegate to the Communist Party Congress in 1961. He was elected general secretary in 1985. He became the first president of the Soviet Union in 1990 and won the Nobel Prize for Peace that same year. He resigned in 1991, and has since founded the Gorbachev Foundation and remains active in social and political causes.

Early Life

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931, to a Russian-Ukrainian family in the village of Privolnoye, in the Krasnogvardeisky District near the Stavropol Territory of southern Russia.

Gorbachev’s parents were peasants. His father, Sergei, operated a combine harvester for a living. Sergei was drafted into the Russian Army when the Nazis invaded the USSR in 1941. Three years later, he was wounded in action and returned home to resume operating farm machinery. Sergei passed on his experience to his young son, Mikhail. Mikhail Gorbachev was a quick learner and showed an aptitude for mechanics. As a teenager, Gorbachev contributed to the family’s income by driving tractors at a local machine station. So hard a worker was he that, by the age of 17, Gorbachev was the youngest ever to win the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his active role in bringing in that year’s bumper crop. Gorbachev’s mother, Maria, exemplified this tireless work ethic with her lifelong toil on a collective farm.

The political climate during Mikhail Gorbachev’s upbringing was turbulent. In the 1930s, when Gorbachev was still very young, he suffered the trauma of seeing his maternal grandfather, Pantelei Gopkalo, arrested during the Great Purge. Gopkalo was accused of being a Trotskyite counterrevolutionary and was imprisoned and tortured for 14 months. To his family’s great relief, he was spared execution.The economic climate during Mikhail Gorbachev’s childhood was also one of turmoil. In 1933, southern Russia endured a major drought. Since the region depended on farming for both food and income, its residents suffered from famine, and many died of starvation.

As a child, Gorbachev had a passion for learning. When he graduated from high school with a silver medal in 1950, his father persuaded him to continue on to university. Gorbachev’s academic record was stellar, and he was accepted into Moscow University, the premier school in the Soviet Union, without having to take the entrance exam. The university even provided him with free living accommodations at a nearby hostel. Gorbachev graduated from Moscow University cum laude with a law degree in 1955 and shortly afterward returned to his hometown with his new wife, Raisa, a fellow Moscow University alumnus.

Early Political Involvement

Gorbachev had become a candidate member of the Communist party while he was in high school, but it wasn’t until 1952, when he was at Moscow University, that he was granted full membership. Once back in Stavropol after graduation, Gorbachev took a position at the Stavropol territorial prosecutor’s office. Soon after he began the job, Gorbachev ran into some old acquaintances. They remembered him from his involvement in the Young Communist League during high school. Because Gorbachev had shown himself to be dedicated and organized, they asked him to be the assistant director of propaganda for the territorial committee of the local Communist youth league.

Soviet premier Joseph Stalin had died two years prior, and the Soviet Union’s process of political restructuring created an exciting climate for young Communist Party activists. Eager to get involved, Gorbachev accepted the offer and resigned his position at the prosecutor’s office after just 10 days on the job.

Gorbachev steadily rose through the ranks of the Communist league. In 1956, he was made first secretary of the Stavropol City Komsomol Committee. In 1961, he was appointed as a delegate to the party congress. Throughout the 1960s, Gorbachev continued to advance his political position and increase his knowledge of agriculture and economics, eventually becoming the regional agricultural administrator and party leader. In 1980, Gorbachev made a critical advancement in his burgeoning political career when he became a full member of the Politburo, otherwise known as the Political Bureau of the Central Agency, the executive committee for numerous Communist Party factions.Cold War

In 1984, Gorbachev’s mentor at the Kremlin, Yuri Andropov, general secretary of the Communist Party, died. An important year in Gorbachev’s timeline, 1984 was also when he first met Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of Great Britain, with whom he would develop a strong relationship.

Becoming General Secretary

In 1985, when Andropov’s successor, Konstantin Chernenko, also died, Gorbachev was elected general secretary of the Communist Party. Gorbachev inherited the issues that Andropov and Chernenko had been struggling to tackle, including serious domestic problems and escalating Cold War tensions. But Gorbachev’s youthful energy and enthusiasm gave the Soviet Union hope that a new generation of leaders geared toward positive change had taken charge.


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During his term as general secretary, Gorbachev was engaged with U.S. president Ronald Reagan in a costly race to amass nuclear weapons in space. The expense put further stress on the already suffering Soviet economy. Gorbachev worked diligently to create reforms that he believed would improve the Soviet standard of living. By providing more freedom and democracy to Soviets, he strove toward “glasnost” and “perestroika,” openness and restructure. He worked toward establishing a market economy that was more socially oriented. Gorbachev’s reforms were also geared toward increasing productivity and reducing waste.

Even a couple of years prior to his appointment, Gorbachev had attempted to improve Soviet relations with the leaders of Western nations. Ronald Reagan was initially distrustful, but when he met with Gorbachev at the first Geneva arms summit in November 1985, Reagan was surprised to find that “there was warmth in [Gorbachev’s] face and style.” Reagan recognized “a moral dimension in Gorbachev.” Thatcher said of the Soviet leader, «I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together.» Over the next three years, Reagan and Gorbachev met at four additional summits, during which their relationship further warmed as they collaborated on bringing the Cold War to a close. Besides Reagan and Thatcher, during this period Gorbachev also cultivated strong ties with West German chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Unfortunately, U.S.-Soviet relations took a major hit when the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the Ukraine on April 26, 1986. The Soviet Union failed to release a full report until more than two weeks after the event. In light of Gorbachev’s policy of “openness,” some considered his reaction hypocritical.

During the 1985 summit in Geneva and the October 1986 Reykjavik summit, the strain between Gorbachev and Reagan was apparent. The two disagreed over the development of a Strategic Defense Initiative, which Reagan wanted and Gorbachev didn’t. Both summits ended in stalemates. At the end of 1987, Gorbachev gave in to Reagan’s argument. At this point, the Soviet Union’s economy was in crisis. Gorbachev’s economic reforms weren’t working. In 1987, Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the first-ever mutual agreement on nuclear weapons reduction. The Soviet Union welcomed some desperately needed relief from the expenses of the space race.


Included among Gorbachev’s key political reforms was a new, more democratic election system. In 1989, he organized elections that required Communist Party members to run against non-party members. He revoked the Communist Party’s special status as set forth in the USSR’s constitution. State power was handed over to the Congress of People’s Deputies of the USSR, the Soviet Union’s first parliament, based on democratic elections. On March 15, 1990, the Congress of People’s Deputies elected Gorbachev the first president of the Soviet Union.

During his presidency, Gorbachev promoted more peaceful international relations. He ordered Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. Through his peaceful negotiations with President Reagan, Gorbachev was also instrumental in ending the Cold War. He is likewise credited for his crucial role in the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent reunification of Germany. For his excellent leadership and his contributions to the overall betterment of world development, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990.

In addition to fielding conflicts with other nations, Gorbachev tackled pressing issues within the Soviet Union. Different ethnic groups within the USSR had begun to wage war against one another, while other groups, such as Ukrainians and Lithuanians, demanded that they become independent nations. As Gorbachev was grappling with these fractures, along with a still flailing Soviet economy, a new rival leader came on the scene. Boris Yeltsin, a former Communist Party member, emphasized radical changes to the economy. In the summer of 1991, Yeltsin was voted president of the Russian Republic. Gorbachev now faced the problem of how to balance the shared power between him and the opposing leader.

In August 1991, while Gorbachev was vacationing in the Crimea, Communist conservatives captured him in a coup to seize power. Ironically, among the Communist Party conservatives who organized the coup was Prime Minister Pavlov, whom Gorbachev had hired to help him balance power with Yeltsin. Despite his opposing leadership, Yeltsin manned a resistance against the coup, and the coup ultimately failed. Upon Gorbachev’s return home, rumors circulated that he may have been in cahoots with the coup leaders. The public grew distrustful of Gorbachev and was increasingly supportive of Yeltsin, whom they now viewed as a hero.

By Christmas 1991, the Soviet Union had crumbled. Gorbachev inevitably stepped down from his position as president of the Soviet Union, handing over complete power to Yeltsin.