Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the son of an agricultural mechanic on a collective farm, was born in Privolnoye in the Soviet Union on 2nd March, 1931.

Gorbachev's grandfather, Pantelei Yefimovich Gopkalo, was a staunch member of the Communist Party (CPSU) and was chairman of the village kolkhoz. In 1937 he was arrested by the NKVD Secret Police and charged with being a leader of an underground organization supporting Leon Trotsky. After enduring nearly two years of torture and imprisonment, his grandfather was released in December 1938.

In his memoirs Gorbachev argues this incident had a dramatic impact on his political development. His grandfather remained a committed communist and introduced his grandson to the works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels and Lenin (although not Leon Trotsky).

During the Second World War Gorbachev's village was occupied by the German Army. He later wrote: "I was fourteen when the war ended. Our generation is the generation of wartime children. It has burned us, leaving its mark both on our characters and in our view of the world."

Gorbachev worked as a combine harvest operator before studying law at Moscow University. While a student Gorbachev joined Communist Party (CPSU) and married Raisa Titorenko.

After leaving university Gorbachev became a full-time official with Komsomol (Communist Youth Organization). In 1955 Gorbachev he was appointed first secretary of the Komsomol Territorial Committee. Gorbachev made rapid progress and by 1960 he was the top Komsomol official in Stavropol. The following year he was a delegate from Stavropol to the 22nd Communist Party Congress in Moscow.

Gorbachev studied for a second degree at the Stavropol Agricultural Institute (1964-67) and in 1970 was appointed First Secretary for Stavropol Territory. His work in this post impressed Yuri Andropov, who was at that time the head of the Committee for State Security (KGB). Andropov now used his considerable influence to promote Gorbachev's career.

In 1971 Gorbachev became a member of Communist Party Central Committee. He later moved to Moscow where he became the Secretary of Agriculture. In 1980 Gorbachev became the youngest member of the Politburo and within four years had become deputy to Konstantin Chernenko.

On the death of Chernenko in 1985 Gorbachev was elected by the Central Committee as General Secretary of the Communist Party. As party leader he immediately began forcing more conservative members of the Central Committee to resign. He replaced them with younger men who shared his vision of reform.

In 1985 Gorbachev introduced a major campaign against corruption and alcoholism. He also spoke about the need for Perestroika (Restructuring) and this heralded a series of liberalizing economic, political and cultural reforms which had the aim of making the Soviet economy more efficient.

Gorbachev introduced policies with the intention of establishing a market economy by encouraging the private ownership of Soviet industry and agriculture. However, the Soviet authoritarian structures ensured these reforms were ineffective and there were shortages of goods available in shops.

Gorbachev also announced changes to Soviet foreign policy. In 1987 he met with Ronald Reagan and signed the Immediate Nuclear Forces (INF) abolition treaty. He also made it clear he would no longer interfere in the domestic policies of other countries in Eastern Europe and in 1989 announced the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aware that Gorbachev would not send in Soviet tanks there were demonstrations against communist governments throughout Eastern Europe. Over the next few months the communists were ousted from power in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and East Germany.

Gorbachev's attempts to make the Soviet Union a more democratic country made him unpopular with conservatives still in positions of power. In August 1991 he survived a coup staged by hard-liners in the Communist Party. Gorbachev responded by dissolving the Central Committee. However, with the Soviet Union disintegrating into separate states, Gorbachev resigned from office on 25th December, 1995.

As a child, I still found vestiges of the way of life that was typical for the Russian village before the Revolution and collectivization. Adobe huts with an earthen floor, and no beds at all: people slept either on planks fixed above the stove or on the pech (the Russian stove), with sheepskin coats or rags for a cover. In winter, the calf would be brought into the hut from the freezing cold. In spring, hens and often geese would be brought inside, there to expedite hatching. From a present-day point of view people lived in wretched poverty. The worst part was the back-breaking labour. When our contemporary advocates of peasants' happiness refer to the 'golden age' of the Russian countryside I honestly do not understand what they mean. Either these people do not know anything at all or they are deliberately misguiding others - or else their memory has totally failed them.

On a bookshelf knocked together in my grandfather Pantelei Yefimovich's house, I discovered a series of slim booklets: Marx, Engels and Lenin. There were also Stalin's Principles of Leninism and Kalinin's essays and speeches, while the other corner of the room was adorned by an icon with an icon-lamp: Grandmother was deeply religious. Under the icon, on a little home-made table, stood portraits of Lenin and Stalin. This 'peaceful co-existence' did not bother Grandfather in the least. He was not a believer himself, but he was endowed with admirable tolerance.

(a) He impeded harvesting operations and thus created conditions for the loss of grain. Pursuing the destruction of the kolkhoz livestock he artificially reduced the fodder base by ploughing up meadows which resulted in kolkhoz cattle starving;

(b) He obstructed the progress of the Stakhanovite movement in the kolkhoz by repressing Stakhanovites. On the basis of the facts stated heretofore he is charged with anti-Soviet activities: being an enemy of the CPSU (B) and of the Soviet system and having established ties with the members of an abolished anti-Soviet right-wing Trotskyist organization, he carried out their instructions of subversive acts at the 'Red October' kolkhoz which were aimed at undermining the economic well-being of the kolkhoz.

"You have been arrested on the charge of being a member of a counter-revolutionary right-wing Trotskyist organization. Do you plead guilty?"

"I do not plead guilty. I have never been a member of a counterrevolutionary organization."

"You're not telling the truth. The prosecution has at its disposal precise information about your membership of a counterrevolutionary right-wing Trotskyist organization. Give us truthful evidence in the case."

"I repeat, I have not been a member of a counterrevolutionary organization."

"You are lying. A number of people charged in this case testified against you, corroborating your counterrevolutionary activity. The prosecution insists on obtaining truthful evidence."

"I deny the accusations categorically. I don't know of any counterrevolutionary organization."

I remember well the winter evening when Grandfather returned home. His closest relatives sat around the hand-planed rustic table and Pantelei Yefimovich recounted all that had been done to him.

Trying to get him to confess, the investigator blinded him with a glaring lamp, beat him unmercifully, broke his arms by squeezing them in the door. When these 'standard' tortures proved futile, they invented a new one: they put a wet sheepskin coat on him and sat him on a hot stove. Pantelei Yefimovich endured this too, as well as much else.

Those who were imprisoned with him later told me that all the inmates of the prison cell tried to revive him after the interrogation sessions. Pantelei Yefimovich recounted all this just once - that very evening. Nobody ever heard him speak about it afterwards.

Since Father had left for the front, I had to take care of a multitude of household chores. In the spring of 1942 I also worked in the vegetable patch which provided food for the family. Later my main duty consisted in stocking up on hay for the cow and on fuel for the house. Our way of life had changed completely. And we, the wartime children, skipped from childhood directly into adulthood.

Towards the end of summer 1942 a wave of refugees from Rostov passed through our region. The people dragged themselves along, some carrying knapsacks or kit-bags, others pushing prams or handcarts, exchanging their goods for food. Herds of cows and horses as well as flocks of sheep were driven back from the advancing Germans.

Grandmother Vasilisa and grandfather Pantelei packed up their belongings and left for an unknown destination. The fuel tanks at the rural oil base were drained; all the fuel poured out into the shallow River Egorlyk. The crops in the field were set on fire.

On 27 July 1942 our troops withdrew from Rostov. It was a hurried retreat. Tired, glum soldiers passed through, their faces marked by sorrow and guilt. The explosions, the roar of heavy guns and the sound of shooting were approaching - as if circumventing Privolnoye on both sides. Together with the neighbours we dug out a trench in the river embankment and for the first time I saw the volley of the Katyusha guns: fiery arrows crossing the skies with a frightening whistling sound.

Khrushchev's secret speech at the XXth Party Congress caused a political and psychological shock throughout the country. At the Party krai committee I had the opportunity to read the Central Committee information bulletin, which was practically a verbatim report of Khrushchev's words. I fully supported Khrushchev's courageous step. I did not conceal my views and defended them publicly. But I noticed that the reaction of the apparatus to the report was mixed; some people even seemed confused.

I am convinced that history will never forget Khrushchev's denunciation of Stalin's personality cult. It is, of course, true that his secret report to the XXth Party Congress contained scant analysis and was excessively subjective. To attribute the complex problem of totalitarianism simply to external factors and the evil character of a dictator was a simple and hard-hitting tactic - but it did not reveal the profound roots of this tragedy. Khrushchev's personal political aims were also transparent: by being the first to denounce the personality cult, he shrewdly isolated his closest rivals and antagonists, Molotov, Malenkov, Kaganovich and Voroshilov - who, together with Khrushchev, had been Stalin's closest associates.

True enough. But in terms of history and 'wider polities' the actual consequences of Khrushchev's political actions were crucial. The criticism of Stalin, who personified the regime, served not only to disclose the gravity of the situation in our society and the perverted character of the political struggle that was taking place within it - it also revealed a lack of basic legitimacy. The criticism morally discredited totalitarianism, arousing hopes for a reform of the system and serving as a strong impetus to new processes in the sphere of politics and economics as well as in the spiritual life of our country. Khrushchev and his supporters must be given full credit for this. Khrushchev must be given credit too for the rehabilitation of thousands of people, and the restoration of the good name of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens who perished in Stalimst prisons and camps.

Khrushchev had no intention of analysing systematically the roots of totalitarianism. He was probably not even capable of doing so. And for this very reason the criticism of the personality cult, though rhetorically harsh, was in essence incomplete and confined from the start to well-defined limits. The process of true democratization was nipped in the bud.

Khrushchev's foreign policy was characterized by the same inconsistencies. His active presence in the international political arena, his proposal of peaceful co-existence and his initial attempts at normalizing relations with the leading countries of the capitalist world; the newly defined relations with India, Egypt and other Third World states; and finally, his attempt to democratize ties with socialist allies - including his decision to mend matters with Yugoslavia - all this was well received both in our country and in the rest of the world and, undoubtedly, helped to improve the international situation.

But at the same time there was the brutal crushing of the Hungarian uprising in 1956; the adventurism that culminated in the Cuba crisis of 1962, when the world was on the brink of a nuclear disaster; and the quarrel with China, which resulted in a protracted period of antagonism and enmity.

All domestic and foreign policy decisions made at that time undoubtedly reflected not only Khrushchev's personal understanding of the problems and his moods, but also the different political forces that he had to consider. The pressure of Party and government structures was especially strong, forcing him to manoeuvre and to present this or that measure in a form acceptable to such influential groups.

Europe is indeed a common home where geography and history have closely interwoven the destinies of dozens of countries and nations. Of course, each of them has its own problem, and each wants to live its own life, to follow its own traditions. Therefore, developing the metaphor, one may say: the home is common, that is true, but each family has its own apartment, and there are different entrances too.

The concept of a 'common European home' suggests above all a degree of integrity, even if its states belong to different social systems and opposing military-political alliances.

One can mention a number of objective circumstances which create the need for a pan-European policy:

(1) Densely populated and highly urbanized, Europe bristles with weapons, both nuclear and conventional. It would not be enough to call it a 'powder keg' today.

(2) Even a conventional war, to say nothing of a nuclear one, would be disastrous for Europe today.

(3) Europe is one of the most industrialised regions of the world. Its industry and transport have developed to the point where their danger to the environment is close to being critical. This problem has crossed far beyond national borders, and is now being shared by all of Europe.

(4) Integrative processes are developing intensively in both parts of Europe. The requirements of economic development in both parts of Europe, as well as scientific and technological progress, prompt the search for some kind of mutually advantageous cooperation. What I mean is not some kind of 'European autarky', but better use of the aggregate potential of Europe for the benefit of its peoples, and in relations with the rest of the world.

(5) The two parts of Europe have a lot of their own problems of an East-West dimension, but they also have a common interest in solving the extremely acute North-South problem.

Our idea of a 'common European home' certainly does not involve shutting its doors to anybody. True, we would not like to see anyone kick in the doors of the European home and take the head of the table at somebody else's apartment. But then, that is the concern of the owner of the apartment. In the past, the Socialist countries responded positively to the participation of the United States and Canada in the Helsinki Process.

Like everyone else, I often reflect on the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. How could this giant power crumble so quickly and so completely? There are many learned theories about it, but I think that underlying all of them is one elementary explanation: the system inhibited change. It fed on dead doctrine and prevented a natural replacement of leaders. When they finally tried to do something about it, it was too late for remedies.

In 1968 we ran into this dinosaur of a system still in working condition. The Politburo held together the external empire that Stalin had grabbed and saw to it that opposition arose nowhere. I had seen it in Dresden in March, and then in Moscow in May. What we were trying to do was beyond their comprehension.

The challenge was to maneuver around them long enough to make them accept us on civilized terms. I thought, optimistically, that we could prevail because their bullying would not exceed certain limits. The 1956 crushing of Hungary was way behind us: this was a different era. I think most of the world agreed with me.

Beyond the Soviets' empty phrases about "counterrevolution," the core of the dispute was not our social system but our political reforms. We believed that socialism - in our country at least - could not exist without democracy. But the Soviets wanted us to reinstitute their model of one-party dictatorship. Still, I did not believe that they would launch a war against us just because of this disagreement. After all, we were bound by a valid alliance treaty, and Czechoslovakia was avoiding anything that might throw doubt on her loyalty. Moreover, the Soviets had for years preached the principle of peaceful coexistence and noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries. Was it rational to expect that they would contradict all this by attacking us militarily? I did not think so, and I do not think I was a dreamer. I did not expect that they would commit an act that was bound to carry catastrophic consequences for their own cause (which it did as no one today would deny). And I simply did not expect the perfidy they were soon to display.

Today, peace means the ascent from simple coexistence to cooperation and common creativity among countries and nations.

Peace is movement towards globality and universality of civilization. Never before has the idea that peace is indivisible been so true as it is now.

Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences.

I consider the decision of your Committee as a recognition of the great international importance of the changes now under way in the Soviet Union, and as an expression of confidence in our policy of new thinking, which is based on the conviction that at the end of the twentieth century force and arms will have to give way as a major instrument in world politics.

I see the decision to award me the Nobel Peace Prize also as an act of solidarity with the monumental undertaking which has already placed enormous demands on the Soviet people in terms of efforts, costs, hardships, willpower, and character. And solidarity is a universal value which is becoming indispensable for progress and for the survival of humankind.

But a modern state has to be worthy of solidarity, in other words, it should pursue, in both domestic and international affairs, policies that bring together the interests of its people and those of the world community. This task, however obvious, is not a simple one. Life is much richer and more complex than even the most perfect plans to make it better. It ultimately takes vengeance for attempts to impose abstract schemes, even with the best of intentions. Perestroika has made us understand this about our past, and the actual experience of recent years has taught us to reckon with the most general laws of civilization.

This, however, came later. But back in March-April 1985 we found ourselves facing a crucial, and I confess, agonizing choice. When I agreed to assume the office of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central Committee, in effect the highest State office at that time, I realized that we could no longer live as before and that I would not want to remain in that office unless I got support in undertaking major reforms. It was clear to me that we had a long way to go. But of course, I could not imagine how immense were our problems and difficulties. I believe no one at that time could foresee or predict them.

Those who were then governing the country knew what was really happening to it and what we later called "zastoi", roughly translated as "stagnation". They saw that our society was marking time, that it was running the risk of falling hopelessly behind the technologically advanced part of the world. Total domination of centrally-managed state property, the pervasive authoritarian-bureaucratic system, ideology's grip on politics, monopoly in social thought and sciences, militarized industries that siphoned off our best, including the best intellectual resources, the unbearable burden of military expenditures that suffocated civilian industries and undermined the social achievements of the period since the Revolution which were real and of which we used to be proud - such was the actual situation in the country.

As a result, one of the richest countries in the world, endowed with immense overall potential, was already sliding downwards. Our society was declining, both economically and intellectually.

And yet, to a casual observer the country seemed to present a picture of relative well-being, stability and order. The misinformed society under the spell of propaganda was hardly aware of what was going on and what the immediate future had in store for it. The slightest manifestations of protest were suppressed. Most people considered them heretical, slanderous and counterrevolutionary

Such was the situation in the spring of 1985, and there was a great temptation to leave things as they were, to make only cosmetic changes. This, however, meant continuing to deceive ourselves and the people.

This was the domestic aspect of the dilemma then before us. As for the foreign policy aspect, there was the East-West confrontation, a rigid division into friends and foes, the two hostile camps with a corresponding set of Cold War attributes. Both the East and the West were constrained by the logic of military confrontation, wearing themselves down more and more by the arms race.

The mere thought of dismantling the existing structures did not come easily. However, the realization that we faced inevitable disaster, both domestically and internationally, gave us the strength to make a historic choice, which I have never since regretted.

Perestroika, which once again is returning our people to commonsense, has enabled us to open up to the world, and has restored a normal relationship between the country's internal development and its foreign policy. But all this takes a lot of hard work. To a people which believed that its government's policies had always been true to the cause of peace, we proposed what was in many ways a different policy, which would genuinely serve the cause of peace, while differing from the prevailing view of what it meant and particularly from the established stereotypes as to how one should protect it. We proposed new thinking in foreign policy.

Thus, we embarked on a path of major changes which may turn out to be the most significant in the twentieth century, for our country and for its peoples. But we also did this for the entire world.

We want to be an integral part of modern civilization, to live in harmony with mankind's universal values, abide by the norms of international law, follow the "rules of the game" in our economic relations with the outside world. We want to share with all other peoples the burden of responsibility for the future of our common house.

A period of transition to a new quality in all spheres of society's life is accompanied by painful phenomena. When we were initiating perestroika we failed to properly assess and foresee everything. Our society turned out to be hard to move off the ground, not ready for major changes which affect people's vital interests and make them leave behind everything to which they bad become accustomed over many years. In the beginning we imprudently generated great expectations, without taking into account the fact that it takes time for people to realize that all have to live and work differently, to stop expecting that new life would be given from above.

Perestroika has now entered its most dramatic phase. Following the transformation of the philosophy of perestroika into real policy, which began literally to explode the old way of life, difficulties began to mount. Many took fright and wanted to return to the past. It was not only those who used to hold the levers of power in the administration, the army and various government agencies and who bad to make room, but also many people whose interests and way of life was put to a severe test and who, during the preceding decades, had forgotten how to take the initiative.

Mikhail Gorbachev turns 90: The man that changed the world (PHOTOS)

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in 1931, the year Joseph Stalin tried to eliminate the peasant class with his &ldquoiron hand&rdquo: He put a ban on private farms, instead creating collective ones, while implementing policies of terror against those who did not agree. No one could have imagined back then that, six decades later, freedom would be enjoyed not only by private farmers, but by several dozen peoples and republics - all because of a boy from a Stavropol village in the North Caucasus.

4 years old Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev grew up in an ordinary peasant family, his youth spent in the field operating a combine harvester. He was all too familiar with the policy of collectivization. However, one of his grandfathers was actually the head of a kolkhoz (a Soviet collective farm), so the horrors of collectivization - the hunger, the arrests and the forced labor - did not affect his family.

Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev when they were a young couple

After the war (the family had spent four months under German occupation), Gorbachev graduated high school with honors, became a komsomol activist and even received the Order of the Red Banner of Labor, for helping his combine-operating father gather a record-breaking harvest.

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev gives a speech in 1973.

Vladimir Musaelyan, Eduard Pesov/TASS

That experience would later be put to good use. Gorbachev ended up taking the post of Minister of Agriculture of the USSR. But before then, he would put himself through the country&rsquos best university, the Moscow State University (MSU), where he studied to become a lawyer. This, according to him, was &ldquothe start of a prolonged process of re-envisioning the country&rsquos history&rdquo.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev and his wife Raisa Maksimovna planting a traditional Indian tree Ciampac.

Yuri Lizunov, Alexander Chumichev/TASS

In 1950, Gorbachev met his future wife Raisa, who would become his loyal partner and best friend. The wedding ceremony took place three years later in the canteen of the student dormitory where he lived.

Cuba's leader Fidel Castro and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989.

Gorbachev&rsquos party career took off from there. He garnered the loyalty of the &ldquosecond and third faces&rdquo of the country under Leonid Brezhnev - as well as being in the leader&rsquos good graces. The Communist Party nomenclature unofficially referred to him as the &ldquoBoss of Stavropol&rdquo.

Mikhail Gorbachev with Britain's Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Gorbachev assumed leadership in 1985. As General Secretary, he was very different from many of his predecessors. They did not have his strong health, nor his clarity of mind. At 54, he was relatively young for the post and his &ldquoyouthful&rdquo appeal, openness, education and willingness to mingle with the common people earned Gorbachev sympathy from the West, as well as his own people, who yearned for change. &ldquoAn all too unexpectedly normal human being,&rdquo Francois Sagan said of him.

General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee Mikhail Gorbachev is seen off from Kiev to Moscow by member of the CPSU Central Committee, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine Vladimir Shcherbitsky.

Vladimir Musaelyan, Eduard Pesov/TASS

&ldquoAgreeing at the time to take up, as it were, the governmental post of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, I understood, things can&rsquot go on like this and I will not allow myself to keep this position, if I don&rsquot have support in implementing core changes,&rdquo Gorbachev remembered. And change soon followed.

Mikhail Gorbachev and residents of the city in 1986.

The first order of business was to renew &ldquothe fight for sobriety&rdquo with an anti-alcohol campaign, which was a huge problem for a country practically dying out from vodka and its substitutes.

Former President Ronald Reagan and former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1992 on Reagan's Rancho del Cielo, north of Santa Barbara.

Once at the helm, Gorbachev met with U.S. President Ronal Reagan, marking the first time in many years that the two countries&rsquo leaders shook hands. This was the beginning of the end of the Cold War, as well as nuclear disarmament. A new day was dawning fast.

Mikhail Gorbchev driving the Kedr grain harvester combine.

Yuri Lizunov Eduard Pesov/TASS

Gorbachev took away the Communist Party&rsquos monopoly on power and began to clean house. Elections were instituted, following in the footsteps of democratic nations. Censorship was eradicated, along with a number of other harmful practices, including a state monopoly on exports.

George H. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev would meet with the American president a number of times. President George Bush would refer to the Soviet leader as &ldquothe architect of the perestroika&rdquo.

Yuri Lizunov, Alexander Chumichev/TASS

On April 7, 1988, Gorbachev began withdrawing Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

Mikhail Gorbachev and East Germany's state and Communist party leader Erich Honecker in 1987.

Two years later, he played a key role in German reunification and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In March of 1990, he became the first (and only, as it turned out) democratically elected president of the USSR.

Mikhail Gorbachev enters the lecture hall to deliver his long-delayed Nobel Peace lecture.

In recognition of his leading role in the peace process, Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, forever cementing his legacy.

Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan taking a walk in Red Square in 1988.

However, the policy of non-violence and democratization had other consequences, as well: Gorbachev is still blamed for the ensuing internal conflicts between Soviet republics, resulting in the ultimate breakup of the USSR.

Mikhail Gorbachev in October 2006.

After resigning in 1991, Gorbachev left big politics and set up the Gorbachev Fund and the International Green Cross, strongly opposing the first President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin. In 2014, speaking in front of MSU students, he admitted responsibility for the breakup of the Soviet Union: &ldquoI sought to preserve it, but was unsuccessful&hellip that is my burden to carry. Nobody took me off the job, I left of my own volition, because I just could not manage.&rdquo

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The Gorbachev lowdown

Born: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev 2 March 1931 in Stavropol Krai into a peasant family. Studied law at Moscow State University, where he joined the Communist party. Married to Raisa Titarenko, whom he met at university she died of leukemia in 1999. One daughter.

Best of times: Elected to the politburo in 1979 elected general secretary in 1985. His reshaping of Soviet strategy and his contribution to the end of the Cold War led to his being awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1990.

Worst of times: 1991: the collapse of the Soviet Union and his resignation. 1996: a failed run for the presidency.

What he says: "The market came with the dawn of civilisation and it is not an invention of capitalism. If it leads to improving the well-being of the people, there is no contradiction with socialism."

"It is better to discuss things, to argue and engage in polemics than make perfidious plans of mutual destruction."

What they say: "In the opinion of the committee, this peace process, which Gorbachev has contributed so significantly to, opens up new possibilities for the world community to solve its pressing problems across ideological, religious, historical and cultural dividing lines."

More information about: Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the southern Russian province of Stravropol Krai. Born to peasant farmers, he became active in the Communist Party and studied law at the Moscow State University. While at university he met and married Raisa Titarenko. The couple had one daughter, Irina.

Gorbachev returned to Stavropol after university and worked as a regional Communist Party official. Gorbachev studied for a second degree in agriculture and began to rise through the ranks of the provincial Communist Party.

Having made a name for himself as a regional moderniser and reformer, in 1978 he was summoned to Moscow and appointed to the agricultural central committee. Under the guidance of senior Communist Party officials Gorbachev was rapidly promoted to the Soviet Union’s executive committee, the Politburo.

Becomes General Secretary of the Soviet Union

By the 1980s the Soviet economy was in drastic need of reform. In 1985, after three elderly leaders died in quick succession, Gorbachev, a protégé of former Soviet leader Yuri Andropov, was appointed General Secretary and head of the Soviet Union. At 54 he was one of the youngest leaders and was seen as the new broom that could clean up the decrepit Soviet system.

Glasnost and Perestroika

Gorbachev hinged his efforts to revitalise the Soviet Union on two plans: glasnost (meaning openness) and perestroika (meaning restructuring). By relaxing bureaucracy and censorship Gorbachev hoped to transform the Stalinist Soviet regime into a more modern social democracy. While glasnost was widely celebrated, his attempts to restructure the Soviet economy largely floundered.

Gorbachev saw that vast sums of money were being poured into the military to keep up with the US. Desperate to free up this money, Gorbachev fostered a warmer relationship with the West. In a series of high-profile summits Gorbachev met President Reagan and the two men made important nuclear disarmament agreements. The thaw in relations effectively signalled the end of the Cold War.

The rise of nationalism

Inspired by glasnost, and comforted by Gorbachev’s refusal to use military power, several Warsaw Pact nations and Soviet republics declared their intentions to free themselves from Communist rule. By the end of his tenure the Berlin Wall had been pulled down and large republics such as Ukraine, Belorussia and Lithuania had declared their independence.

In 1991 reactionary hard-liners in the Communist Party, fearing the collapse of the Soviet Union, attempted to remove Gorbachev. Imprisoned in his dacha holiday home in the Crimea Gorbachev listened on the radio as the military attempted to seize control of the Russian parliament. Thwarted by the efforts of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and mass protests the coup failed. Gorbachev returned to Moscow but soon realised that the balance of power and popular support had shifted to Yeltsin.

The end of the Soviet Union

After the failed coup Yeltsin struck two blows that effectively ended the Soviet Union – and in the process the career of Gorbachev. First, as President of Russia, he banned all Communist Party activity on Russian soil. Secondly he, along with the presidents of Ukraine and Belorussia, signed a treaty to create a new commonwealth of republics. Without these key nations the Soviet Union was defunct. Gorbachev recognised the inevitable and resigned.

After forming several new parties and failing to win support, Gorbachev’s political career was over. In retirement he established the Gorbachev Foundation – a think-tank responsible for researching Russian political policies.

03/11 – Mikhail Gorbachev’s Election

Gorbachev (R) meeting with American president George H. W. Bush in 1991. (The Times of Israel)

On this day in 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Soviet Union (USSR). A former tractor driver, Gorbachev joined the Communist Party in his youth and attained a law degree during the Khrushchev Thaw of the 1950s and 60s. Unlike many of his counterparts, Gorbachev was highly educated and well-travelled (intellectuals were generally disparaged as elitist or bourgeois in Soviet society) additionally, he publicly admired foreign leaders like Canada’s Pierre Trudeau and spoke openly about the failings of the Soviet system. Despite these “flaws”, he managed to become the 8th – and final – leader of the USSR in 1985.

Russian workers in 1972. (The New York Review of Books)

Almost immediately, Gorbachev began changing things up. Nuclear disarmament treaties with the Americans were followed by the normalization of diplomatic relations with China and Western Europe later on, the Red Army was evacuated from Afghanistan. Perhaps his most famous reforms were those of glasnost(openness) and perestroika(restructuring): an effort to demystify the famously secretive (and undemocratic) Communist government, and reform the entire Soviet system based on the findings of several wide-reaching studies. These reforms helped reveal an incredibly inefficient economy and society that was essentially rotting from within, bankrupted by the Cold War arms race with NATO. Free elections in 1989 – a novelty in the USSR – critically weakened the Communist Party and made Gorbachev’s task of keeping the Union together next to impossible.

A map of the USSR in 1989. Following the dissolution of the Union, all Soviet Republics became independent the semi-autonomous regions, like Chechnya and Georgia, remained a part of the new Russian Federation. (Wikimedia Commons)

For obvious reasons, Gorbachev was and is a polarizing figure in Russian history. His character and actions seemed at odds with the state that, forged in bloodshed, murdered millions of its own citizens and morphed into one of the most oppressive security states the world has ever seen. Although Gorbachev had hoped to reform the USSR to the point of recovery, by the 1980s, it was simply too late. The USSR’s hulking, over-stretched economic and political infrastructure was out of money and fundamentally broken, and no amount of glasnost or perestroika would fix it. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Soviet System collapsed – followed by Communist Russia itself. Gorbachev’s well-intentioned reforms did not kill the USSR, nor did they “fix” it instead, his efforts likely helped bring a smooth and bloodless end to the dying Soviet Union.

Last Soviet leader Gorbachev marks 90th birthday in quarantine

Mikhail Gorbachev, the historic reformer who presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union, marked his 90th birthday in quarantine Tuesday and like everyone else is "tired" of virus restrictions, his spokesman said.

Congratulations poured in from around the world, with President Vladimir Putin, US leader Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all sending their best wishes, he added.

"He is in quarantine in hospital for the duration of the pandemic," Vladimir Polyakov, spokesman for the Gorbachev Foundation, told AFP.

"He is tired of this, like the rest of us."

In power between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev pushed for reforms to achieve "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (restructuring) but his policies eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

After the Berlin Wall fell, he won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for "the radical changes in East-West relations."

Gorbachev, the first Russian leader to reach the age of 90, will mark his birthday with family and friends and has already received a "heap" of messages from around the world, his spokesman said.

Gorbachev would talk to his family and friends in a socially-distanced setting, possibly by video link. "We've set everything up," Polyakov added.

He said that Gorbachev had passed the time in isolation "editing books and articles".

In his message earlier Tuesday, Putin described Gorbachev as an "outstanding" politician.

"You rightly belong to a series of bright and outstanding people, distinguished statesmen of the modern age who have significantly influenced the course of domestic and world history."

He praised Gorbachev's "energy and creative potential", noting he remained involved in social and humanitarian projects.

The two Russian leaders past and present have had a complicated relationship.

Gorbachev has alternated between subtle criticism of the former KGB officer and praising him for bringing a level of stability to Russia.

Putin for his part has dismantled much of what the Soviet leader worked to achieve in guaranteeing liberties like free speech.

He also famously referred to the Soviet collapse as "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century".

Merkel said the people of Germany would not forget Gorbachev's contribution to the country's reunification.

"Today you can look back on your life's work with pride," she said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and the British people "remain in admiration of the courage and integrity you showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion."

While Gorby -- as he is affectionately known outside Russia -- is feted in the West, his reputation at home remains controversial.

But even the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said Tuesday that Gorbachev had plenty to celebrate.

"He's the first leader in the country's thousand-year history who voluntarily resigned his post and remained alive and free," it said.

Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta suggested that the Soviet Union's demise was ultimately not his fault.

"Gorbachev came too late. It was very difficult to halt the destruction," it said.

"Gorbachev came too early. We were not ready then to appreciate and implement what was conceived," the newspaper added.

Information on the rapper

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (Russian: Михаил Сергеевич Горбачёв) was born on March 2nd, 1931, in Privolnoye, Russia. He is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, and as the first (and last) president of the Soviet Union from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991. He was the only general secretary in the history of the Soviet Union to have been born during the Communist rule.

Gorbachev became a candidate member of the Communist party while he was in high school, but it was not until 1952, when he was at Moscow State University, that he was granted full membership. Gorbachev steadily rose through the ranks of the Communist league, being elected as the general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985. During his term as general secretary, he was engaged with U.S. president Ronald Reagan in a costly race to amass nuclear weapons in space. 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.

After the events of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in the Ukraine on April 26th, 1986, Gorbachev and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the first-ever mutual agreement on nuclear weapons reduction. In 1989, Gorbachev organized elections that required Communist Party members to run against non-party members. On March 15th, 1990, the Congress of People's Duties elected him the first president of the Soviet Union. During his presidency, Gorbachev promoted more peaceful international relations. 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 15th, 1990.

Mikhail Gorbachev 90 years old: How world history was changed

At the moment people in Europe are living through a period of deep anxiety, caused by the pandemic and escalating strategic tensions between the US, Russia, China and Europe. In this light one should review the last 30 years of history, in particular the history of Germany’s reunification 1990 and the end of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe as a whole. The main architects of the coming into being of the “New World Order” were outstanding personalities like former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who succeeded to open the most fascinating chapter in history since the end of World War II.

The growing political opportunism as well as the obsession of some politicians in Germany who are fixated on “polling” results, namely the differentiation of what is judged with “likes” and “dislikes” in politics nowadays, should be compared with the political leaders who shaped the historical processes of the nineties. Despite his many political shortcomings and errors, Mikhail Gorbachev was key to change European history and is today one of the most respected world leaders still alive. At the occasion of his 90ieth birthday (02.03.21), a quite moving homage and interview was given by a close friend of Gorbachev, former foreign policy advisor of German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Dr. Horst Teltschik. His main emphasis is that it was Gorbachev who gave green light for German reunification and who brought about peace in Europe, by initiating a series of groundbreaking disarmament processes, that helped to ban the specter of nuclear war.

Timed with Gorbachev’s 90th birthday, there was also the publication of a new book by TV documentary film maker Ignaz Lozo: “Gorbachev: The man who changed the World.” The well- researched book is based on several interviews which the writer conducted with Mikhail Gorbachev during the last 28 years it also includes material based on interviews and background discussions with key architects of the German reunification, including German Foreign Minister Hans- Dietrich Genscher, as well as US Secretary of State, James Baker, aside the foreign policy advisors of Chancellor Kohl (Teltschik) and of Mikhail Gorbachev (Anatoly Chernyaev) and discussions with the respective Ambassadors (Blech and Terechov),as well as evaluation of essays, speeches and archive material.

Why we should be grateful

In a guest column (02.03.21, in www.t-online.de) Horst Teltschik, who was directly involved in the 1989/90 reunification events as advisor to Chancellor Kohl – and who from 1999-2008 was chairman of the Munich Security Conference – emphasized that especially Germans should remember gratefully the contributions made by Gorbachev. Teltschik recalled -as also Lozo describes in detail in his new book- that before Gorbachev came to power March 1985 as general Secretary of the Soviet CP, his three predecessors Leonid Brezhnev, Juri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko – average age 75- 78 years – had contributed to a significant deterioration of the domestic and economic situation in the SU, which they tried to deter from, by a policy of rearmament (SS 20) and a push for nuclear war.

Teltschik recalled that in the same year, there was the first summit meeting between American President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in November 1985 in Geneva: “This was not only the beginning of an important summit diplomacy between the two world powers …it was also the first signal for resuming disarmament and arms control negotiations between two world powers. This led to the most far reaching disarmament- and arms control agreements in history. 80% of all nuclear weapons got disarmed in a controlled way.” In light of today’s nuclear armament pushed by nuclear powers like China, India, North Korea and Iran (the latter one being on the edge of this) the question should be asked, who today “takes initiatives for a new round of disarmament and arms control negotiations?”

He underlined that Gorbachev was the one, who changed relations with his allied partners in the Warsaw Pact, by announcing to them that in the future they were solely responsible for the development of their nations and that he no more would interfere, as his predecessors had done (for example Brezhnev’s clamp down on the 1968 Prague spring). When Poland became democratic, the Soviet soldiers stayed in their barracks, Teltschik recalled. This was also the case 1989 when the then Hungarian Prime Minister Miklós Németh opened the borders for tens of thousands of DDR refugees to Austria. His actions were based on secret negotiations that he had conducted before with Gorbachev. When there were mass demonstrations in East Berlin and when the Berlin wall fell, Teltschik noted: “380.000 Soviet soldiers stationed in the DDR remained in their barracks.” He further underlined that we should not forget that at the end – in the frame of four years agreed upon with Gorbachev – “500.000 Russian troops from Central Europe, from Hungary, CSSR, Poland, including 380.000 from the DDR as well as 180.000 family members with the entire military equipment (680.000 tons of ammunition including nuclear weapons) had returned peacefully to the USSR!”

Gorbachev’s policy of “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” was aimed at accelerating economic reforms and at giving more political transparency. He was personally made responsible for the dramatic economic and supply crisis in the 90ies and for the dissolution of the USSR, which according to Teltschik “Gorbachev never had wanted. It was his successor Boris Jelzin who had the full responsibility for this.”(!) He added that during the German unification process Helmut Kohl did everything on a national and international level to support Gorbachev’s reform policy. “For more than 1 billion DM 1990 food and other supplies were delivered, billions of loans guaranteed as well as accommodations made for the return of the Soviet soldiers.”

Those, who criticize Gorbachev today, should take into account, that “after 70years of communist mismanagement Gorbachev lacked the political and economic “experts” that could define democracy and market economy and push it through operationally.” There were many foreign advisors, especially from the US. “But they often only contributed to more confusion, since they set different priorities.” According to Teltschik, it was thanks to Gorbachev, that a peaceful unification of both German states was made possible. Not one single shot was fired and Europe got unified!! No wall or fences are separating Europe and the overall East- West conflict was ended.

Gorbachev had the vision of a “Common European House” with the same security guarantee for all inhabitants. This vision was expressed in the Paris- Charta for a new Europe conference that in November 1990 was signed by 34 Heads of State and heads of government of the CSCE Member states. “This Charta defined the principles how a universal European peace order from Vancouver to Vladivostok should be shaped. Institutional agreements were made how to follow up on all this. Review conferences on different levels were agreed upon.”

Teltschik emphasized that “with President Gorbachev we had a very close and even friendly understanding. And when President Vladimir Putin gave a speech at the German Federal Parliament (2001), he got standing ovations. He spoke about Russia as a friendly European country. He tried to build bridges and there was indeed a positive perspective for the German – Russian relationship under Putin.” Given the growing distance that began to develop between Russia and the West – in the context of NATO’s eastward expansion, the Balkan war against Serbia (not mandated by the UN) as well as Ukraine conflict – it is possible, that “may be by the creation of a quite realistic free-trade zone from Lisbon to Vladivostok one could have avoided the conflict with the Ukraine.” Instead today there is too much and too often talk about sanctions. I principally don’t think that sanctions are good.” Teltschik is convinced that there should have been more discussions about “common initiatives.” More confidence building measures in direction of disarmament arms control and military cooperation are needed, “since we face a new process of rearmament.”

Looking back at the big changes under Gorbachev

The biography of Ignaz Lozo (Gorbatschow -Der Weltveränderer, Verlag Wbg Theiss 2021) contains an in depth profile of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, which sheds light on his childhood as well as on his carrier within the party apparatus of the Soviet Union and his actions as General Secretary of the CP. The book tries to give an answer to the paradox how it came, that a loyal Leninist and Communist, who up to the last moment of his presidential term believed in the principles of a “reformable” socialism, changed his political thinking, paving the way for the great historical accomplishments in Germany and the rest of Europe during the 1990ies. A special insight is given by Lozo who describes lively, what was discussed in Moscow and in the Northern Caucasus (July14-16 th 1990) between the Russian and German delegations, that led to the historical breakthrough also called “the miracle of the Caucasus”.

The date of the 14/15/16 th of July 1990 will never be forgotten since in those days history was written anew for Germany and the entire world. The two heads of state Gorbachev and Kohl met at a Soviet Dacha in the small Caucasian village Archys, today inhabited by not more than 600 inhabitants. The dacha – in former times serving as a holiday resort for Communist leaders – had been opened by former KGB chairman Andropov in 1978. In previous meetings, Lozo recalls, Gorbachev and Kohl had again and again exchanged memories about the terror and hardship that both had to live through during the Second World War. When Hitler’s German Army invaded the SU, Gorbachev was ten years old, Kohl just 11. This common childhood experience connected the two personalities very closely. It had been originally Gorbachev who during his visit in Bonn 1989 (June) had invited Kohl to visit Stavropol, where Gorbachev had started his political career after his law studies in Moscow followed by agricultural science studies.

Given the rapidly collapsing economy and imploding society, with stores being empty and a population exploding in rage, as documented by more and more strikes and protests, in July 1990 the aim of Gorbachev was primarily to organize short term help, alleviate misery domestically and win a long- term economic partner. The results of the summer meeting were breathtaking. According to Lozo the “post-war structure, the Cold War, all what was connected with Soviet thinking appeared obsolete, a new period was announced, a time of cooperation and even friendship.” At the NATO summit in London July 5/6 1990 NATO gave the line that the confrontation between the two blocks had ended and announced a new military strategy, as well as “new armed forces plans, which take revolutionary changes in Europe into account.” US President H.W. Bush in London had stated solemnly then: “I am happy to announce that my colleagues and I have begun with a large restructuration of NATO and we consider this a historical turning point. The London declaration shapes the relation towards our former enemy in a new way. Our alliance stretches its hand in friendship at those governments which during Cold War were confronting us.”

On the 14 th July 1990 the German airplane from Bonn arrived in Moscow, where next day talks began in the Foreign Ministry. In the two discussions between Gorbachev and Kohl were the two interpreters Andreas Weiß and Ivan Kurpakov, as well as their two respective advisors: Horst Teltschik and Anatoly Chernyaev. Helmut Kohl wrote about this meeting in his memoirs that he had told Gorbachev that we are at the beginning of historically significant years and that when the occasion is there, one should grasp the opportunity and use the chance. During the almost two hour summit Gorbachev was calm, stating that a reunified Germany could be member of NATO and according to the protocol, he repeated this statement once more. At a later press conference in Moscow he avoided to talk about it and just declared that “all is in motion.”

From Moscow there was then a 1500 km flight to Stavropol in Northern Caucasus. Here in 1955 Gorbachev had started his political carrier at the age of 24 years as an active organizer of the CP and agricultural expert. In August 1942 and January 1943 Stavropol had been under German occupation and many people had to flee from the invaders. This visit was symbolically important. At the War Dead Memorial Monument Gorbachev and Kohl were surrounded by hundreds of citizens, among them many veterans and a veteran speaker made an appeal to Gorbachev and Kohl to do everything so that “Germans and Soviets become partner” and don’t bring about suffering.

Meeting at the Dacha in Archys

Having arrived at the tiny village Archys with their respective delegations (not more than 10 people on each side) Gorbachev and Kohl had the opportunity to go for walks in a very relaxed atmosphere, both wearing blue knitted jackets and sweaters, walking through a beautiful landscape, while preparing the negotiation agenda. Chancellor Kohl at that time spoke about a “Great treaty” including long term cooperation between the SU and Federal Republic, especially economic cooperation. The delegations from both sides negotiated for almost 4 hours in the Dacha dining room (Archys), which at the end resulted in the sovereignty of all of Germany, Lozo recounts. Concerning the withdrawal of soviet troops they agreed on a time frame between three to four years. For Gorbachev Archys became “a singular symbol of German Reunification on soviet soil. In this wonderful environment we settled the Germany unity.”

In the City of Mineralnye Vody, before the German delegation left on July 16 th , Kohl and Gorbachev addressed the world press. Gorbachev asked Kohl to start the press conference, who noted with satisfaction eight points which the two sides had agreed upon, including that reunified Germany which includes the Federal Republic, the DDR and Berlin but no more former areas like East Prussia, Silesia and Pomerania. With the finalizing of unity, the rights of the four victorious powers USA, SU, GB and France should end and Germany acquire full sovereign status. “The reunified Germany can freely decide on its sovereignty, whether and which alliance it wants to join. I have declared as concept of the government for a reunified Germany, that a reunified Germany wants to be member of the Atlantic Alliance and I am sure that this also corresponds to the intention of the government of the DDR,” Kohl said at that occasion. Gorbachev from his side emphasized that the Warsaw Pact had made the first step with the change of its military doctrine, underlining that “what happened in London (NATO summit) was the beginning of a new historical development.” At the farewell Gorbachev told the delegation that the visit was “the most important international event connected with fundamental changes in the European and World Politics.”

Finding a solution to the historical paradox

Two and half months after the fall of the Berlin wall (10 th November 1989), Gorbachev gave up the principle of two German states. Lozo reports that on Friday 26th January 1990 in his office in the Central Committee building (with 6 people present) the decision was made in favor of a reunified Germany- that was kept secret for two weeks. At that meeting Akhromeyev (Chief of Staff) stated that “the days of the SED are numbered …We must get used to the fact that Germany gets reunified,” while Ryshkov said that “all state structures of DDR are destroyed. To want to save DDR is unrealistic.” Gorbachov ordered Akhromeyev to work out a withdrawal plan for the Soviet Army from the DDR. They also discussed the concept of a negotiating group consisting of a negotiation group of victory powers and the two German states- later called 2 + four. Gorbachev had hoped that the citizens of DDR would desire a “renewed socialism” but the majority wanted more reunification according to Gorbachev’s advisor Chernyaev in an interview with Lozo: “This was key for Gorbachev’s change.”

The fall of the Soviet Union

A major mistake by Gorbachev -as Lozo notes in his book several times- was that right after 1985 he promoted Boris Jelzin (from Sverdlovsk) and had him come to Moscow. Jelzin – it turned out later – with his constant attacks against the Nomenklatura and Gorbachev’s Glasnost and Perestroika policy for being too slow- did everything to undermine Gorbachev’s authority until Gorbachev’s resignation end of December 1991. Jelzin’s populism provoked actions such as the strange “August Putsch 1991” with tanks rolling in front of the White House. The putsch, declaring a state emergency, had been secretly staged by hardliners and Gorbachev opponents within the government. During this putsch Jelzin stylized himself as the heroic fighter for freedom against the coup plotters, while Gorbachev was kept imprisoned with his family on the Crimea, being cut off from communication with Moscow. The putsch got finally clamped down. In those days Gorbachev was totally on the defensive, being confronted with growing unrest within the SU (Baltic States, Armenia/ Azerbaijan conflict, upheaval in Tiflis, mass protests and strikes).

While it was Gorbachev’s aim was to preserve the Federal State and get a new Union Treaty, Jelzin wanted an alliance of states. On December 7th 1991 Jelzin, Stanislav Shushkevich (White Russia) and Leonid Kravchuk (Ukraine) secretly met in the Villa Viskuli near Brest. Gennadi Burbulis, vice Prime Minister of the Soviet Republic Russia, declared at that occasion that the “three treaty partners declare that the Soviet Union as a subject of international law and as geopolitical reality has ceased to exist.” The three republics gave the order to work out the founding treaty for the Association of Independent states “CIS” (GUS). On 8th December the three republican leaders signed the historical document, and in the same night they called US President Bush as well as President Gorbachev, who resigned on the 25 th of December 1991.Under Jelzin’s presidency an era of chaos and anarchy began, where with the help of a “voucher system,” the backbone of Soviet industry got sold out to the Oligarchs.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was the first president of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his leadership role in ending the Cold War and promoting peaceful international relations. He also received many other awards for his work including the St. Andrew Award from Russia, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and the Indira Gandhi Prize.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Russia on March 2, 1931. His father Sergei Gorbachev, and his mother, named Maria Panteleyeva. His parents were peasants. As a child, Mikhail had a passion for learning. He also worked in agriculture while attending school. His father operated a combine harvester for a living. Sergei passed his experience to his son, Mikhail. Mikhail was a quick learner and showed an aptitude for mechanics. As a teenager, he contributed to the family’s income by driving tractors at a local machine station.

The economic climate during his childhood was also one of turmoil. Southern Russia suffered a major drought. Since the region depended on farming for both food and income, its residents suffered from famine, and many died of starvation.

Mikhail graduated from high school with a silver medal in 1950. In 1955 he went to Moscow University where he received a degree in law. He also met his wife Raisa Titorenko there and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev

Political Involvement & Presidency:

After graduating, Mikhail Gorbachev first worked as a member of the Communist Youth Organization. Next to several years, he became a leader in the Communist Party. First, in 1970, Mikhail became First Secretary for the entire Stavropol territory. Following year, in 1971, he moved to Moscow as the Secretary of Agriculture. In 1980 he was selected to be a member of the Politburo, the most powerful group in the Communist Party. Mikhail Gorbachev was the youngest member of the Politburo.

When Mikhail Gorbachev took over as leader, the Soviet economy was struggling. He wanted to reform the economy as well as the government. To do this he needed support, so he began to replace some of the older members of the politburo with younger men who shared his vision.

Mikhail Gorbachev also made attempts to end the Cold War and improve relations with the west. He met with United States President Ronald Reagan and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces-INF (in 1987) treaty regarding nuclear weapons. He also removed Soviet troops from Afghanistan ending the Soviet Afghanistan War.

Mikhail also indicated that the Soviet Union would no longer interfere with other countries in Eastern Europe. This caused a huge change in the world. Without the dread of the Soviet Union, countries such as Eastern Germany, Poland, and Hungary got rid of their communist governments. They tried to improve relations with France, UK, and West Germany like previous Soviet leaders, he was interested in pulling Western Europe away from U.S. influence.

He continued to pursue good relations with China to heal the Sino-Soviet Split. In 1989 he visited Beijing and there met its leader Deng Xiaoping Deng shared Gorbachev’s belief in economic reform but rejected calls for democratization. For his excellent leadership and his contributions to the overall betterment of world development, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990.

Although Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms allowed for more freedom, many states used this freedom to protest and eventually claim independence from the Soviet Union. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had collapsed. By Christmas, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down from his position as president of the Soviet Union, and the Union was split into separate countries.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s 4 main achievements in the international arena

&ldquoA leader must pay attention to domestic affairs and have serious leverage at home,&rdquo Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs journal, says while talking about Mikhail Gorbachev. &ldquoAnd if a leader, however popular abroad, doesn&rsquot enjoy enough support at home&hellip well, Gorbachev&rsquos example proves that this is a weak position.&rdquo

Indeed, Mikhail Gorbachev&rsquos USSR, suffering from severe economic crises, wasn&rsquot a stable state and, despite all his efforts, fell apart, which is hardly a compliment as a leader. And it leads to many Russians doubting Gorbachev&rsquos legacy: in 2016, 58% believed he &ldquoplayed a negative role in Russia&rsquos history.&rdquo

At the same time, while his domestic policy was questionable, on the international arena Gorbachev made many changes (some would argue for the better), given that before him, the Cold War was at its peak, with Moscow and Washington on the brink of war. Here&rsquos what he did.

1. Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

The last Soviet troop column crosses Soviet border after leaving Afghanistan.

For nine years (Dec. 1979 &ndash Feb. 1989), the USSR had been burdened by the Afghan War, where it tried to guarantee the continued power of the pro-Soviet government. The Afghan War became &ldquothe USSR&rsquos own Vietnam&rdquo, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor of U.S. president Jimmy Carter, once said, and cost 15,000 Soviet lives.

So Gorbachev ended it: in February 1989, the Soviet military contingent left Afghanistan for good. &ldquoWe finished this grim chapter,&rdquo Gorbachev recalled 30 years later. &ldquoEveryone [in the government] agreed: it&rsquos impossible to solve the Afghan problem by military means.&rdquo

What followed: The pro-Soviet government fell in no time, but the war wasn&rsquot over, as the Taliban took over again, which led to the U.S. invading Afghanistan in 2001. 30 years on, Afghanistan is still not at peace.

2. Adoption of &ldquothe Sinatra doctrine&rdquo

Fall of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, celebrated by the locals.

In October 1989, commenting on Mikhail Gorbachev&rsquos new approach towards the socialist states of Eastern Europe, Soviet Foreign Ministry&rsquos spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said jokingly: &ldquoWe now have the Frank Sinatra doctrine. He has a song, My Way. So every country decides on its own which road to take.&rdquo

That meant Moscow was no longer eager (or able) to support the Communist governments in such countries as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, no matter what: from that moment on, the Eastern Europe was free to choose its own way.

What followed: It&rsquos unclear if it was expected, but the Warsaw Pact countries turned out to be fed up with socialism to such an extent that, by the end of 1989, communist governments were falling everywhere. In 1991, the military organization of the East Bloc, the Warsaw Pact, officially ceased to exist.

3. &lsquoLetting&rsquo the Berlin Wall fall

&ldquoMr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!&rdquo U.S. President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet leader in 1987, during a speech in Berlin, a city that had been cut in two by a wall separating West and East Germany, since 1961. Reagan knew who to talk to: the USSR was East Germany&rsquos political sponsor and had a serious military contingent deployed in the country.

And Gorbachev reacted to his call &ndash not with words, but with action. By late 1989, there was no sense in the wall&rsquos existence: as Hungary opened borders with Austria (the Sinatra doctrine in action!), one could get from East Germany to West via Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria. On November 9, 1989, East German authorities opened the border and the wall was brought down.

&ldquoNot only did we not try to use the power of the Soviet battalions deployed in the GDR &ndash we did everything possible for this process to go peacefully,&rdquo Gorbachev noted in 2019. &ldquoHow could we prevent the GDR from uniting with the FRG if the GDR&rsquos people wanted it?&rdquo

What followed: Germany reunified fully in 1990. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the day the Berlin Wall fell &ldquothe moment of happiness&rdquo for all Germans.

4. Reducing nuclear armaments

Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush in 1991.

One of Gorbachev&rsquos most important achievements was slowing down the nuclear armaments race (if not stopping it entirely). In 1987, he and Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty, which banned both Soviet and American missiles with ranges of 500&ndash5,500 km (short- and intermediate-range). For the first time in the world&rsquos history, two nuclear superpowers obliged themselves to get rid of a whole class of weapons, making Europe a far safer continent.

The other crucial Soviet-American treaty of Gorbachev&rsquos era was the START-I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), signed in 1991, just months before the USSR fell apart. The START-I treaty limited the two powers to have a maximum of 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 carriers (ballistic missiles and bombers), which led to the largest removal of nuclear arms in history.

&ldquoSuch openness in the most secret field, between former opponents, was unprecedented,&rdquo Vladimir Dvorkin, former Gorbachev&rsquos associate, wrote. &ldquoEven close allies such as the U.S., Britain and France never reached such a deal.&rdquo

What followed: The U.S. left the INF Treaty in 2019. As for START, the newest version of it (signed by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in 2010) is to last at least until 2021.

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Watch the video: Ο Μιχαήλ Γκορμπατσόφ έγινε 90 ετών


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