In Memoriam: The Life of Mikhail Gorbachev

In Memoriam: The Life of Mikhail Gorbachev

( – Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev played a historic role in turning the stereotype of a Soviet ruler upside down at the end of the Cold War. As the last official leader of the USSR, he stepped into power in the wake of strict authoritarian rule under the likes of Leonid Brezhnev, Nikita Khrushchev, and Joseph Stalin. On August 30, Gorbachev passed away after a short illness. He was 91.

Some see Gorbachev’s policies as failures that led to the demise of a superpower. Others consider him a revolutionary who helped rid the world of the constant threat of nuclear war.

Born March 2, 1931, Gorbachev spent his life in service to the Soviet Union’s Communist Party. He joined right out of law school and was an active and vocal member in regional and then-national politics throughout his early career. He also served as agriculture commissioner and became a member of the Politburo, the party’s own governing council.

At just 52, Gorbachev stepped into power as the leader of the Soviet Union. The politician was anything but the typical premier. He had two popular policies. The first was openness, or “glasnost,” which allowed citizens and publishers the right to criticize and oppose their government. The second was called “perestroika,” a restructuring of Soviet economic and political systems that eventually led to the dissolution of the superpower in 1991.

While Gorbachev’s vision never transferred to economic prosperity, it transformed two continents and created a shift in worldwide policies. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions in 1990. The people of his own country never embraced him after the fall of the USSR — he received less than 1% of the vote in a presidential election in 1996. Gorbachev persisted as an influential public figure and speaker anyway, remaining active well into his 80s.

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