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Mikhail Gorbachev

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Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born March 2, 1931) was leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. His attempts at reform led to the end of the Cold War, but also inadvertantly caused the end of the political supremacy of The Communist Party in the Soviet Union and the dissolution of that same state.

He studied law at Moscow University[?], where he met his future wife, Raisa. They were married in September 1953 and moved to Mr. Gorbachev's home region of Stavropol in southern Russia when he graduated in 1955.

Mikhail Gorbachev joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1952 at the age of 21. In 1966, at age 35, he graduated from the Agricultural Institute as an agronomist- economist. His career moved forward rapidly, and in 1970 he was appointed First Secretary for Agriculture and the following year made a member of the Central Committee. In 1972, he headed a Soviet delegation to Belgium and two years later, in 1974, he was made a Representative to the Supreme Soviet, and Chairman of the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs. He was elevated to the Politburo in 1979. There, he received the patronage of Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB and also a native of Stavropol, and was promoted during Andropov's brief time as leader of the Party before his death in 1984.

His positions within the communist party created more opportunities to travel abroad that would profoundly affect his political and social views in the future as leader of the country. In 1975, he led a delegation to West Germany and in 1983 he headed a Soviet delegation to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and members of the Canadian House of Commons and Senate. In 1985, he traveled to Great Britain, where he met with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

On the death of Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev, at age 54, was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party on March 11, 1985. As the de facto ruler of the Soviet Union, he tried to reform the stagnating Communist rule by introducing Glasnost - openness, and Perestroika - restructuring, which were launched at the 27th Congress of CPSU in February 1986.

In 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine, and allow the Eastern European countries to turn to democracy, if they wished. He jokingly called his new doctrine the Sinatra Doctrine. This led to the string of revolutions in Eastern Europe throughout 1989 in which Communism collapsed. With the exception of Romania, the collapses were all peaceful ones. This effectively ended the Cold War, and for this Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1990.

But the democratization of the USSR and Eastern Europe tore away the power of the Communist party and himself, and an attempted coup by conservative elements occurred in 1991. During this time, he spent three days (August 19 to 21) under house arrest at a dacha in the Crimea before being freed and restored to power. But upon his return, Gorbachev found that support had swung over to his colleague, Boris Yeltsin. Further, Gorbachev was forced to sack large numbers of his Politburo and in several cases, arrest them. Those arrested for high treason include the 'Gang of Eight' that had led the coup.

Gorbachev was elected as the first executive president of the Soviet Union on March 15, 1990 but would later resign on December 25, 1991. Gorbachev is generally well regarded in the West for having ended the Cold War. However in Russia, his reputation is very low because it is perceived that he brought about the collapse of the country and is responsible for the misery that followed.

In 1997, Gorbachev starred in a Pizza Hut commercial made for the USA to raise money for the Perestroika Archives[?].

Gorbachev founded the Gorbachev Foundation[?] in 1992, and Green Cross International[?] in 1993. He became a member of the Club of Rome.

External Links

Further Reading

  • Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, Mikhail Gorbachev, Perennial Library, Harper & Row, 1988, trade paperback, 297 pages, ISBN 0-06-091528-5

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