Knowledge unlocks a world of possibilities The Robinson Library

Home About The Library Navigation Help Sitemap Terms of Use Contact Information

  General and Old World HistoryEastern EuropeRussiaSoviet Union, 1918-1991
 
Mikhail GorbachevMikhail Gorbachev

the last President of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931, in Privolnoje, in the Stavropol region of Russia. He grew up in the region and began his working and political career in the city of Stavropol, working at the Stavropol Agricultural Institute before entering Moscow State University to study law.

Gorbachev first joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952, and acted as First Secretary of the Stavropol Komsomol City Committee from 1955 to 1958. He was elected to the Central Committee of the Communist Party (CCCP) in 1971, and served as Secretary for the CCCP with responsibility for agriculture from 1978 to 1985. He became a protégé of Yuri Andropov, whose influence secured for Gorbachev full membership in the Politburo in 1980.

When Andropov succeeded Leonid Brezhnev as Soviet leader in 1982, Gorbachev became his second in command. After Andropov died in 1984, Gorbachev became chief lieutenant to Konstantin Chernenko. Upon Chernenko's death in 1985, Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party. In 1988, after Andrei A. Gromyko retired as President of the USSR, Gorbachev also assumed that title.

Gorbachev sought to reform Soviet society by introducing perestroika (Russian for "restructuring ") and glasnost ("openness") in political and cultural affairs. He also augmented the authority of the Soviet presidency and transferred power from the Communist Party to popularly-elected legislatures in the Union Republics. In international affairs, he withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan, normalized relations with China, signed a series of arms control agreements with the United States, and cooperated with the U.S.-led effort to oust Iraq from Kuwait.

For helping to end the "Cold War" and allowing former Soviet-bloc countries in Eastern Europe to oust their Communist regimes, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1990.

In 1991, with the Russian economy in a serious downturn, Gorbachev faced pressure from hard-line Communists, free-market reformers, nationalists, and secessionists seeking independence for their republics. The hard-liners staged a coup in August and placed Gorbachev under house arrest. Within three days, however, the reformers restored Gorbachev to power. He immediately resigned as General Secretary, suspended party activities, and placed reformers in charge of the military and KGB. By December 1991, most of the republics of the Soviet Union had either been granted or had declared their independence and the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. On January 1, 1992, Gorbachev officially retired to private life.

Although a private citizen, Gorbachev remained publicly active. Openly critical of the government's policies, he advocated a slower economic reform and the formation of a new confederated union to replace the Commonwealth of Independent States (formed after the break-up of the Soviet Union). In September 1992, Gorbachev refused to appear before Russia's Constitutional Court regarding President Boris Yeltsin's ban on the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The Yeltsin government forbade Gorbachev from traveling abroad until he appeared before the court, but this restriction was subsequently lifted after a wave of international protests. In June 1992 he was officially expelled from the CPSU for allegedly having contributed to its downfall. In December 1991, he established the Foundation for Social, Economic and Political Research (aka the Gorbachev Foundation) in Moscow, and has been its president since.

Gorbachev has written a number of books, including:

A Time for Peace (1985)
The Coming Century of Peace (1986)
Speeches and Writings (1986)
Peace Has No Alternative (1986)
Moratorium (1986)
Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World (1987)
The August Coup (1991)
My Stand (1992)
The Years of Hard Decisions (1993)
Memoirs (1995)
On My Country and the World (1999)


Afghanistan
China
United States
Nobel Peace Prize
Boris Yeltsin

Questions or comments about this page?

  The Robinson Library > General and Old World History > Eastern Europe > Russia > Soviet Union, 1918-1991

This page was last updated on February 21, 2015.

About This Site | Navigation Help | Sitemap | Terms of Use | Contact