According to Russian news media, Mikhail Gorbachev has passed away.
His endeavor to modernize communist rule in the Soviet Union unleashed forces that ultimately led to the collapse of the superpower.
According to the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, Gorbachev passed away following “a protracted and dangerous illness.” He was 91.
From 1985 until the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991, Gorbachev served as its leader. During that time, he introduced the perestroika and glasnost policies, which encouraged more political and economic openness.
He was rapidly overtaken by the reforms, which brought an end to the Cold War by causing the authoritarian Soviet state to fall, liberating Eastern European countries from Russian rule, and ending decades of East-West nuclear hostilities.
Last year, on the occasion of Gorbachev’s 90th birthday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had previously criticized Gorbachev’s policies, praised him as “one of the most brilliant statesmen of modern times who made a great impact on the history of our nation and the globe.”
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Gorbachev was hated by many people at home despite receiving the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending the Cold War because Russians held him responsible for the fall of the once-powerful Soviet Union. Gorbachev won fewer than 1% of the vote in the presidential election he ran in 1996.
Gorbachev stated in a 1992 interview with The Associated Press that he would repeat the process.
He declared, “I view myself as a guy who initiated the reforms that were essential for the nation, for Europe, and for the globe.”
Even if he didn’t seek to overthrow the Soviet regime, Gorbachev gave it a more contemporary, amiable appearance than his forerunners.
He was ultimately persuaded to dissolve the Communist Party in order to overthrow a totalitarian state that had seized control of Eastern Europe and spread communism globally by democratic campaigners led by Moscow’s mayor, Boris Yeltsin.
According to Paul D’Anieri, professor of political science at the University of California, Riverside, and author of the 2019 book “Ukraine and Russia,” Mikhail Gorbachev was possibly the most significant world leader since World War II.
“The fact that his reforms ultimately failed in Russia does not lessen the clarity with which he identified the problems in Soviet communism or the bravery with which he confronted them. More than a dozen countries and hundreds of millions of people gained freedom as a result of Gorbachev’s nearly successful solo effort to end the Cold War.”
Gorbachev served as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s general secretary and, in essence, its leader until becoming the country’s first and only president in 1990.
Under his leadership, the Soviet Union started to pull out of Afghanistan in 1988, capping a terrible 10-year war effort that claimed the lives of 1 million Afghan civilians and 15,000 Soviet soldiers.
He was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles between the two countries, which he accomplished with President Ronald Reagan.
The Soviet Union was dismantled a year later, the Eastern European group was released, and Yeltsin won the first free elections in more than 70 years, putting Gorbachev out of office. The Cold War, which began after World War II and was characterized by escalating hostilities between the United States and its allies against the Soviet Union and its puppet states, came to an end with Gorbachev’s retirement.
Gorbachev intended to turn around the Soviet Union’s fortunes, which had been destroyed by economic central planning and hindered by efforts to keep up with Reagan’s military buildup, which had angered the Soviets with its pursuit of a space-based anti-nuclear missile system. The two leaders decided to halt the production of nuclear weapons and get rid of some.
Gorbachev’s reforms were condemned at home as either being too little or too much, as everyday items became harder to find on store shelves, public unrest increased, especially in the Baltic and Caucasus states, and the country’s economic woes worsened.
As Moscow lost power, the Eastern Bloc countries renounced communism, and some Soviet-era puppet states claimed independence. Hardliners in the administration attempted an unsuccessful coup d’état in August 1991. They gave the Soviet Army the command to suppress protests in Moscow, but the soldiers rejected Yeltsin’s insistence.
Gorbachev tried to further alter the party after the coup attempt, but the democratic forces outnumbered him. One day before the Soviet Union fell apart, on December 25, 1991, he announced his resignation as president.
After Leonid Brezhnev’s death in 1982 and the two leaders who briefly succeeded him, Gorbachev’s ascent to power essentially matched that of Reagan, who had won office in 1980 in part due to a political platform that included virulent anti-communism. The two got together for five summits, the first of which took place in Geneva in 1985 as they sat around a fire with just translators present in an effort to identify common ground and forge ties between themselves and their respective nations.
The first accord to reduce nuclear weapons was struck in 1987 when they agreed to eliminate all nuclear-armed ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 310 to 3,100 miles.
In 1987, during his address at the Berlin Wall, Reagan famously referred to Gorbachev by name and demanded that the Soviet leader down the wall between the city’s east and west, which came to symbolize the Cold War.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, come here to this gate if you wish liberalization, peace, and prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe! Please open this gate, Mr. Gorbachev! Reagan yelled, “Mr. Gorbachev, pull down this wall!”
The wall was finally removed in 1990 after being allowed for transit between the two Berlins two years earlier, in 1989.
A Russian-Ukrainian peasant family in the village of Privolnoye, Krasnogvardeisky district, Stavropol territory, a rural area in the south of the Russian republic, gave birth to Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev on March 2, 1931.
Gorbachev concentrated on his Gorbachev Foundation after leaving office, which aimed to bring about reform in Russia. His 1953 bride Raisa passed away in 1999 after a battle with illness.