October 1, 2022

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who dismantled the Iron Curtain, died


Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, has died aged 91.

Gorbachev Russian state news agencies reported that he died after a long illness.

“Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev died this evening after a severe and prolonged illness,” the Central Medical Hospital reported RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

Credited with introducing major political and economic reforms in the Soviet Union and helping to end the Cold War, he had been suffering from ill health for some time.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RIA Novosti.

Putin will send a message to Gorbachev’s family and friends on Wednesday, RIA Novosti added.

Gorbachev, Larry King, was asked how he wanted history to judge him. Check out his answer

With his outgoing and charismatic personality, Gorbachev broke the mold of Soviet leaders. Almost from the beginning of his leadership, he pushed for significant reforms so the system would function more efficiently and democratically. Hence the two key phrases of the Gorbachev era: “Klasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring).

“I started these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy and no bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens,” he later said.

He will be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Gorbachev Foundation.

Gorbachev had humble beginnings: he was born into a farming family near Stavropol on March 2, 1931, and as a boy, he did farm work alongside his studies, working with his father, a combine harvester operator. Later in life, Gorbachev said, “I was especially proud of my ability to detect a flaw in a connection immediately, by the sound of it.”

He became a member of the Communist Party in 1952 and graduated from Moscow University with a law degree in 1955. It was here that he met and married fellow student Raisa Tydarenko.

In the early 1960s, Gorbachev became head of the Department of Agriculture for the Stavropol region. By the end of the decade he had risen above the party ranks in the region. He came to the attention of Mikhail Suslov and Yuri Andropov, members of the Politburo, the main policy body of the Soviet Union’s communist region, who in 1971 elected him to the Central Committee and organized foreign trips for their rising star. .

In 1978, Gorbachev returned to Moscow, and the following year he was elected a candidate member of the Politburo. His stewardship of Soviet agriculture was unsuccessful. As he felt, the collective system was fundamentally flawed in more ways than one.

A full member of the Politburo since 1980, Gorbachev gained greater influence in 1982 when his mentor Andropov, Leonid Brezhnev, became general secretary of the party. He built a reputation as an opponent of corruption and incompetence, finally rising to the top of the party in March 1985.

Hoping to shift resources to the civilian sector of the Soviet economy, Gorbachev began advocating for an end to the arms race with the West.

During his six years in office, however, Gorbachev always seemed to move too fast for the party establishment — which saw its privileges threatened — and too slow for radical reformers, who believed in abolishing the one-party state and command. economy.

In a desperate attempt to stay in control of the reform process, he downplayed the depth of the economic crisis. He seemed to have a blind spot for the authority of the national question: in the late 1980s glasnost had always made loud calls for independence from the Baltic and other Soviet republics.

He succeeded in foreign policy, but primarily from an international perspective, where other world leaders are taking note. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called him “a man with whom one could do business”.

In 1986, in a face-to-face meeting with US President Ronald Reagan at a summit in Reykjavík, Iceland, Gorbachev presented a stunning proposal: the removal of all long-range missiles from the US and the Soviet Union. It was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 “for his important role in the peace process that characterizes major parts of the international community today”.

The resulting agreement, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, remained a pillar of arms control for three decades until, in 2019, the United States formally withdrew and the Russian government said it had been consigned to the dustbin.

Gorbachev spoke during a visit to Ottawa, Canada in 1990.

Although Gorbachev’s arms control agreements with the United States were seen as in the Soviet interest, the secession of some of the countries of Eastern Europe, followed by German reunification and NATO membership for a newly united Germany (West Germany was formerly in NATO), angered old-school communists.

In August 1991, the hard workers had had enough. With Gorbachev on vacation in the Crimea, they staged a rebellion. Russia’s leader, Boris Yeltsin, the leader of the largest Soviet republic, was a fierce critic of Gorbachev’s half-hearted reforms, but nevertheless came to his rescue, defeating the conspirators.

But throughout the Soviet Union, republics — one after another — declared independence, and on December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president. As he read his resignation speech, Gorbachev defined what his legacy would be: “The country is free, politically and spiritually liberated, and that is the most important achievement.”

The red flag flying over the Kremlin, the symbol of the Soviet Union, was lowered. The Soviet Union ended and Yeltsin was in control. “We live in a new world,” Gorbachev said.

In April 2012, CNN’s Christian Amanpour he asked Did Gorbachev cause the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Gorbachev said There was nothing in his speeches that supported its destruction “until the very end”: “The collapse of the trade union was the result of Soviet nomenclature, bureaucracy and Yeltsin’s betrayal. He talked about cooperating with me, working with me on a new trade union contract, he signed the draft trade union contract, launched that contract. But the same At times, he worked behind my back.

In 1996 Gorbachev ran against Yeltsin for the Russian presidency, but received less than 1% of the vote.

Three years later, Gorbachev lost the love of his life – his wife of 46 years, Raisa – to cancer. The couple had a daughter, Irina. “I’ve always been very calm and balanced in bad moments. But now she’s gone – I don’t want to live. The focal point of our lives is gone,” he said.

But Gorbachev was devoted to nuclear disarmament, the environment, poverty — and in his wife’s memory, he founded the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation with his family to fight childhood cancer.

Earlier, he founded the Green Cross – to tackle ecological issues – and the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, or the Gorbachev Foundation. In 2011, Gorbachev launched the annual “Gorbachev Awards” to celebrate “those who have changed the world for the better”.

Gorbachev’s involvement in Russian politics continued. He was the head of the Social Democratic Party of Russia from 2001 until his resignation in 2004 after conflict with the party’s leadership and leadership.

In 2007, he became the leader of a new Russian political movement – the Union of Social Democrats, which formed Russia’s opposition Free Democratic Party.

he told CNN’s Christian Amanpour In 2012 he acknowledged that Russian democracy was “alive” but added: “It’s ‘good’… not so. I’m alive, but I can’t say I’m good.” Democratic institutions in Russia are not functioning efficiently because ultimately they are not free. ” he explained.

In an interview with CNN in 2019, Gorbachev said the United States and Russia should try to avoid a “new Cold War” emerging despite worsening tensions. “This could turn into a hot war, which could destroy our entire civilization. This must not be allowed,” he said.

Reagan asked about the demise of the 1987 pact he had signed with Gorbachev expressed a belief Such arms control agreements could be revived.

“All the contracts out there are protected, not destroyed,” he said. “But these are the first steps to destruction [that which] He added that the ultimate goal of arms control should be the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.

Gorbachev’s post-Soviet career included some surprises, with appearances in Pizza Hut and Louis Vuitton ads. In 2004, Gorbachev won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for “Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf / Beintus: Wolf Tracks”, a recording with former US President Bill Clinton and actress Sophia Loren.

Other awards include the US National Constitution Center’s 2008 Liberty Medal and Russia’s highest honor, the Order of St. Andrew, which was presented to him by then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011 on his 80th birthday.

But to the end, Gorbachev was a leader more respected abroad than at home. In Russia, he was vilified by some for destroying the Soviet empire and for moving too slowly to free his nation from the grip of communism. However, in the West, he remains a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for ending the Cold War.

This story has been updated to reflect Gorbachev’s death at age 91.