Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev[note 2] (born 2 March 1931) is a
Russian and formerly Soviet politician. The eighth and last leader of
the Soviet Union, he was General Secretary of its governing Communist
Party from 1985 until 1991. He was the country's head of state from
1988 until 1991, serving as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme
Soviet from 1988 to 1989, Chairman of the
from 1989 to
President of the Soviet Union
President of the Soviet Union
from 1990 to 1991.
Ideologically, he initially adhered to
the early 1990s had moved toward social democracy.
Of mixed Russian and Ukrainian heritage, Gorbachev was born in
to a poor peasant family. Growing up under
the rule of Joseph Stalin, in his youth he operated combine harvesters
on a collective farm before joining the Communist Party, which then
as a one-party state according to
Marxist-Leninist doctrine. While studying at Moscow State University,
he married fellow student Raisa Titarenko in 1953 prior to receiving
his law degree in 1955. Moving to Stavropol, he worked for the
youth organisation and, after Stalin's death, became a keen
proponent of the de-Stalinization reforms of Soviet leader Nikita
Khrushchev. He was appointed the First Party Secretary of the
Regional Committee in 1970, in which position he oversaw
construction of the Great
Canal. In 1978 he returned to
Moscow to become a Secretary of the party's Central Committee and in
1979 joined its governing Politburo. Within three years of the death
of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, following the brief regimes of Yuri
Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, the Politburo elected Gorbachev as
General Secretary, the de facto head of government, in 1985.
Although committed to preserving the Soviet state and to its socialist
ideals, Gorbachev believed significant reform was necessary,
particularly after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He withdrew from the
and embarked on summits with United States
to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War.
Domestically, his policy of glasnost ("openness") allowed for enhanced
freedom of speech and press, while his perestroika ("restructuring")
sought to decentralise economic decision making to improve efficiency.
His democratisation measures and formation of the elected Congress of
People's Deputies undermined the one-party state. Gorbachev declined
to intervene militarily when various
Marxist-Leninist governance in 1989–90. Internally, growing
nationalist sentiment threatened to break up the Soviet Union, leading
Marxist-Leninist hardliners to launch the unsuccessful August Coup
against Gorbachev in 1991. In the wake of this, the Soviet Union
dissolved against Gorbachev's wishes and he resigned. After leaving
office, he launched his Gorbachev Foundation, became a vocal critic of
and Vladimir Putin, and campaigned
for Russia's social-democratic movement.
Widely considered one of the most significant figures of the second
half of the 20th century, Gorbachev remains the subject of
controversy. The recipient of a wide range of awards—including the
Nobel Peace Prize—he was widely praised for his pivotal role in
ending the Cold War, curtailing human rights abuses in the Soviet
Union, and tolerating both the fall of Marxist–Leninist
administrations in eastern and central Europe and the reunification of
Germany. Conversely, in
he is often derided for not stopping
the Soviet collapse, an event which brought a decline in Russia's
global influence and precipitated an economic crisis.
1 Early life
1.1 Childhood: 1931–1950
1.2 University: 1950–1955
2 Rise in the Communist Party
Stavropol Komsomol: 1955–1969
2.2 Heading the
Stavropol Region: 1970–1977
2.3 Secretary of the Central Committee: 1978–1984
3 General Secretary of the CPSU
3.1 Early years: 1985–1986
3.1.1 Domestic policies
3.1.2 Foreign policy
3.2 Further reform: 1987–1989
3.2.1 Domestic reforms
3.2.2 Forming the Congress of People's Deputies
3.2.3 Relations with China and Western states
3.2.4 The nationality question and the Eastern Bloc
3.3 Presidency of the Soviet Union: 1990–1991
German reunification and the Iraq War
3.3.2 Internal crisis and the coup
3.4 Final collapse
4.1 Initial years: 1991–1999
4.2 Promoting social-democracy in Putin's Russia: 1999–2008
4.3 Growing criticism of Putin: 2008–
5 Political ideology
6 Personal life
7 Reception and legacy
7.1 Orders, decorations, monuments, and honours
9 See also
12 External links
Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the village of Privolnoye,
Stavropol Krai, then in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist
Republic, one of the constituent republics of the Soviet
Union. At the time, Privolnoye was divided almost evenly
Russians and ethnic Ukrainians. Gorbachev's
paternal family were ethnic
Russians and had moved to the region from
Voronezh several generations before; his maternal family were of
ethnic Ukrainian heritage and had migrated from Chernigov.
His parents named him Victor, but at the insistence of his mother—a
devout Orthodox Christian—he had a secret baptism, where his
grandfather christened him Mikhail. His relationship with
his father, Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev, was close; his mother, Maria
Panteleyevna Gorbacheva (née Gopkalo), was colder and
punitive. His parents were poor, and lived as
peasants. They had married as teenagers in
1928, and in keeping with local tradition had initially
resided in Sergei's father's house, an adobe-walled hut, before a hut
of their own could be built.
Gorbachev and his Ukrainian maternal grandparents, late 1930s
Soviet Union was a one-party state governed by the Communist
Party, and during Gorbachev's childhood was under the leadership of
Joseph Stalin. Stalin had initiated a project of mass rural
collectivisation which, in keeping with his Marxist-Leninist ideas, he
believed would help convert the country into a socialist
society. Gorbachev's maternal grandfather joined the
Communist Party and helped form the village's first kolkhoz
(collective farm) in 1929, becoming its chair. This farm
was twelve miles outside Privolnoye village and when he was three
years old, Gorbachev left his parental home and moved into the kolkhoz
with his maternal grandparents.
The country was then experiencing the famine of 1932–33, in which
two of Gorbachev's paternal uncles and an aunt died. This
was followed by the Great Purge, in which individuals accused of being
"enemies of the people"—including those sympathetic to rival
Marxism like Trotskyism—were arrested and
interned in labour camps, if not executed. Both of Gorbachev's
grandfathers were arrested—his maternal in 1934 and his paternal in
1937—and both spent time in
Gulag labour camps prior to being
released. After his December 1938 release, Gorbachev's
maternal grandfather discussed having been tortured by the secret
police, an account that influenced the young boy.
Following on from the outbreak of the
Second World War
Second World War in 1939, in
June 1941 the German Army invaded the Soviet Union. German forces
occupied Privolnoe for four and a half months in 1942.
Gorbachev's father had joined the Soviet
Red Army and fought on the
frontlines; he was wrongly declared dead during the conflict and
fought in the
Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk before returning to his family,
injured. After Germany was defeated, Gorbachev's parents
had their second son, Aleksandr, in 1947; he and Mikhail would be
their only children.
The village school had closed during much of the war but re-opened in
autumn 1944. Gorbachev did not want to return but when he
did he excelled academically. He read voraciously, moving
from the Western novels of
Thomas Mayne Reid
Thomas Mayne Reid to the work of Vissarion
Belinsky, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Mikhail
Lermontov. In 1946, he joined Komsomol, the Soviet
political youth organisation, becoming leader of his local group and
then being elected to the
Komsomol committee for the
district. From primary school he moved to the high school
in Molotovskeye; he stayed there during the week while walking the
twelve miles home during weekends. As well as being a
member of the school's drama society, he organised
sporting and social activities and led the school's morning exercise
class. Over the course of five consecutive summers from
1946 onward he returned home to assist his father operate a combine
harvester, during which they sometimes worked 20-hour
days. In 1948, they harvested over 8000 centners of grain,
a feat for which Sergey was awarded the
Order of Lenin
Order of Lenin and his son the
Order of the Red Banner of Labour.
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I would consider it a high honor to be a member of the highly
advanced, genuinely revolutionary
Communist party of Bolsheviks. I
promise to be faithful to the great cause of Lenin and Stalin, to
devote my entire life to the party's struggle for Communism.
— Gorbachev's letter requesting membership of the Communist
In June 1950, Gorbachev became a candidate member of the Communist
Party. He also applied to study at the law school of
Moscow State University
Moscow State University (MSU), then the most prestigious university in
the country. They accepted without asking for an exam, likely because
of his worker-peasant origins and his possession of the Order of the
Red Banner of Labour. His choice of law was unusual; it
was not a well-regarded subject in Soviet society at that
time. Aged 19, he travelled by train to Moscow, the first
time he had left his home region.
In the city, he resided with fellow MSU students at a dormitory in
Sokolniki District. He and other rural students felt at
odds with their Muscovite counterparts but he soon came to fit
in. Fellow students recall him working especially hard,
often late into the night. He gained a reputation as a
mediator during disputes, and was also known for being
outspoken in class, although would only reveal a number of his views
privately; for instance he confided in some students his opposition to
the Soviet jurisprudential norm that a confession proved guilt, noting
that confessions could have been forced. During his
studies, an anti-semitic campaign spread through the Soviet Union,
culminating in the Doctors' plot; Gorbachev publicly defended a Jewish
student who was accused of disloyalty to the country by one of their
At MSU, he became the
Komsomol head of his entering class, and then
Komsomol's deputy secretary for agitation and propaganda at the law
school. One of his first
Komsomol assignments in Moscow
was to monitor the election polling in
Krasnopresnenskaya district to
ensure the government's desire for near total turnout; Gorbachev found
that most of those who voted did so "out of fear". In
1952, he was appointed a full member of the Communist
Party. As a party and
Komsomol member he was tasked with
monitoring fellow students for potential subversion; some of his
fellow students said that he did so only minimally and that they
trusted him to keep confidential information secret from the
authorities. Gorbachev became close friends with Zdeněk
Mlynář, a Czechoslovak student who later became a primary ideologist
of the 1968
Prague Spring. Mlynář recalled that the duo remained
committed Marxist-Leninists despite their growing concerns about the
Stalinist system. After Stalin died in March 1953,
Gorbachev and Mlynář joined the crowds amassing to see Stalin's body
laying in state.
Gorbachev studied at
Moscow State University
Moscow State University from 1950 to 1955
At MSU, Gorbachev met Raisa Titarenko, a Ukrainian studying in the
university's philosophy department. She was engaged to
another man but after that engagement fell apart, she began a
relationship with Gorbachev; together they went to
bookstores, museums, and art exhibits. In early 1953, he
took an internship at the procurator's office in Molotovskoye
district, but was angered by the incompetence and arrogance of those
working there. That summer, he returned to Privolnoe to
work with his father on the harvest; the money earned allowed him to
pay for a wedding. On 25 September 1953 he and Raisa
registered their marriage at Sokolniki Registry Office;
and in October moved in together at the Lenin Hills
dormitory. Raisa discovered that she was pregnant and
although the couple wanted to keep the child she fell ill and required
a life-saving abortion.
In June 1955, Gorbachev graduated with a distinction; his
final paper had been on the advantages of "socialist democracy" (the
Soviet political system) over "bourgeois democracy" (liberal
democracy). He was subsequently assigned to the Soviet
Procurator's office, which was then focusing on the rehabilitation of
the innocent victims of Stalin's purges, but found that they had no
work for him. He was then offered a place on an MSU
graduate course specialising in kolkhoz law, but declined.
He had wanted to remain in Moscow, where Raisa was enrolled on a PhD
program, but instead gained employment in Stavropol; Raisa abandoned
her studies to join him there.
Rise in the Communist Party
Stavropol Komsomol: 1955–1969
Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader whose anti-Stalinist reforms
were supported by Gorbachev
In August 1955, Gorbachev started work at the
procurator's office, but disliked the job and used his contacts to get
a transfer to work for Komsomol, becoming deputy director
of Komsomol's agitation and propaganda department for that
region. In this position, he visited villages in the area
and tried to improve the lives of their inhabitants; he established a
discussion circle in Gorkaya Balka village to help its peasant
residents gain social contacts.
Gorbachev and his wife initially rented a small room in
Stavropol, taking daily evening walks around the city and
on weekends hiking in the countryside. In January 1957,
Raisa gave birth to a daughter, Irina, and in 1958 they
moved into two rooms in a communal apartment. In 1961,
Gorbachev pursued a second degree, on agricultural production; he took
a correspondence course from the local
Institute, receiving his diploma in 1967. His wife had
also pursued a second degree, attaining a PhD in sociology in 1967
from the Moscow Pedagogical Institute; while in Stavropol
she too joined the Communist Party.
Stalin was ultimately succeeded as Soviet leader by Nikita Khrushchev,
who denounced Stalin and his cult of personality in a speech given in
February 1956, after which he launched a de-Stalinization process
throughout Soviet society. Later biographer William
Taubman suggested that Gorbachev "embodied" the "reformist spirit" of
the Khrushchev era. Gorbachev was among those who saw
themselves as "genuine Marxists" or "genuine Leninists" in contrast to
what they regarded as the perversions of Stalin. He helped
spread Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist message in Stavropol, but
encountered many who continued to regard Stalin as a hero or who
praised the Stalinist purges as just.
Gorbachev rose steadily through the ranks of the local
administration. The authorities regarded him as
politically reliable, and he would flatter his superiors,
for instance gaining favour with prominent local politician Fyodor
Kulakov. With an ability to outmanoeuvre rivals, some
colleagues resented his success. In September 1956, he was
promoted First Secretary of the
Stavropol city's Komsomol, placing him
in charge of it; in April 1958 he was made deputy head of
Komsomol for the entire region. At this point he was
given better accommodation: a two-room flat with its own private
kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. In Stavropol, he formed a
discussion club for youths, and helped mobilise local
young people to take part in Khrushchev's agricultural and development
Gorbachev on a visit to
East Germany in 1966
In March 1961, Gorbachev became First Secretary of the regional
Komsomol, in which position he went out of his way to
appoint women as city and district leaders. In 1961,
Gorbachev played host to the Italian delegation for the World Youth
Festival in Moscow; that October, he also attended the
22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
In January 1963, Gorbachev was promoted to personnel chief for the
regional party's agricultural committee, and in September
1966 became First Secretary of the
Stavropol City Party Organisation
("Gorkom"). By 1968 he was increasingly frustrated with
his job—in large part because Khrushchev's reforms were stalling or
being reversed—and he contemplated leaving politics to work in
academia. However, in August 1968, he was named Second
Secretary of the
Stavropol Kraikom, making him the deputy of First
Secretary Leonid Yefremov and the second most senior figure in the
Stavrapol region. In 1969 he was elected as a deputy to
Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union
Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and made a member of its
Standing Commission for the Protection of the Environment.
Cleared for travel to
Eastern Bloc countries, in 1966 he was part of a
delegation visiting East Germany, and in 1969 and 1974 visited
Bulgaria. In August 1968 the
Soviet Union led an invasion
of Czechoslovakia to put an end to the
Prague Spring, a period of
political liberalisation in the Marxist–Leninist country. Although
Gorbachev later stated that he had had private concerns about the
invasion, he publicly supported it. In September 1969 he
was part of a Soviet delegation sent to Czechoslovakia, where he found
the Czechoslovak people largely unwelcoming to them. That
year, the Soviet authorities ordered him to punish Fagien B. Sadykov,
a Stavropol-based agronomist whose ideas were regarded as critical of
Soviet agricultural policy; Gorbachev ensured that Sadykov was fired
from teaching but ignored calls for him to face tougher
punishment. Gorbachev later related that he was "deeply
affected" by the incident; "my conscience tormented me" for overseeing
Stavropol Region: 1970–1977
In April 1970, Yefremov was promoted to a higher position in Moscow
and Gorbachev succeeded him as the First Secretary of the Stavropol
kraikom. This granted Gorbachev significant power over the Stavropol
region. He had been personally vetted for the position by
senior Kremlin leaders and was informed of their decision by the
Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Aged 39, he was
considerably younger than his predecessors in the
position. As head of the
Stavropol region, he
automatically became a member of the Central Committee of the
Communist Party of the
Soviet Union in 1971. According to
biographer Zhores Medvedev, Gorbachev "had now joined the Party's
super-elite". As regional leader, Gorbachev initially
attributed economic and other failures to "the inefficiency and
incompetence of cadres, flaws in management structure or gaps in
legislation", but eventually concluded that they were caused by an
excessive centralisation of decision making in Moscow. He
began reading translations of restricted texts by Western Marxist
authors like Antonio Gramsci, Louis Aragon, Roger Garaudy, and
Giuseppe Boffa, and came under their influence.
Part of the Great
Stavropol Canal established under Gorbachev's
Gorbachev's main task as regional leader was to raise agricultural
production levels, something hampered by severe droughts in 1975 and
He oversaw the expansion of irrigation systems through construction of
Stavropol Canal. For overseeing a record grain
Ipatovsky district, in March 1972 he was awarded by Order
October Revolution by Brezhnev in a Moscow
ceremony. Gorbachev always sought to maintain Brezhnev's
trust; as regional leader, he repeatedly praised Brezhnev
in his speeches, for instance referring to him as "the outstanding
statesman of our time". Gorbachev and his wife holidayed
in Moscow, Leningrad, Uzbekistan, and resorts in the North
Caucusus; he holidayed with the head of the KGB, Yuri
Andropov, who was favourable towards him and who became an important
patron. Gorbachev also developed good relationships with
senior figures like the Soviet Prime Minister, Alexei
Kosygin, and the longstanding senior party member Mikhail
The government considered Gorbachev sufficiently reliable that he was
sent as part of Soviet delegations to Western Europe; he made five
trips there between 1970 and 1977. In September 1971 he
was part of a delegation who travelled to Italy, where they met with
representatives of the Italian Communist Party; Gorbachev loved
Italian culture but was struck by the poverty and inequality he saw in
the country. In 1972 he visited Belgium and the
Netherlands and in 1973 West Germany. Gorbachev and his
wife visited France in 1976 and 1977, on the latter occasion touring
the country with a guide from the French Communist Party.
He was surprised by how openly West Europeans offered their opinions
and criticised their political leaders, something absent from the
Soviet Union, where most people did not feel safe speaking so
openly. He later related that for him and his wife, these
visits "shook our a priori belief in the superiority of socialist over
Gorbachev had remained close to his parents; after his father became
terminally ill in 1974, Gorbachev travelled to be with him in
Privolnoe shortly before his death. His daughter, Irina,
married fellow student Anatoly Virgansky in April 1978.
In 1977, the
Supreme Soviet appointed Gorbachev to chair the Standing
Commission on Youth Affairs due to his experience with mobilising
young people in Komsomol.
Secretary of the Central Committee: 1978–1984
Gorbachev was sceptical of the deployment of Soviet troops in
Afghanistan (pictured here in 1986)
In November 1978, Gorbachev was appointed a Secretary of the Central
Committee. His appointment had been approved unanimously
by the Central Committee's members. To fill this
position, Gorbachev and his wife moved to Moscow, where they were
initially given an old dacha outside the city. They then moved to
another, at Sosnovka, before finally being allocated a newly built
brick house. He was also given an apartment inside the
city, but gave that to his daughter and son-in-law; Irina had begun
work at Moscow's Second Medical Institute. As part of the
Moscow political elite, Gorbachev and his wife now had access to
better medical care and to specialised shops; they were also given
cooks, servants, bodyguards, and secretaries, although many of these
were spies for the KGB. In his new position, Gorbachev
often worked twelve to sixteen hour days. He and his wife
socialised little, but liked to visit Moscow's theatres and
In 1978, he was appointed to the Central Committee's Secretariat for
Agriculture, replacing his old friend Kulakov, who had died of a heart
attack. Gorbachev concentrated his attentions on
agriculture: the harvests of 1979, 1980, and 1981 were all poor, due
largely to weather conditions, and the country had to
import increasing quantities of grain. He had growing
concerns about the country's agricultural management system, coming to
regard it as overly centralised and requiring more bottom-up decision
making; he raised these points at his first speech at a
Central Committee Plenum, given in July 1978. He began to
have concerns about other policies too. In December 1979, the Soviets
Red Army into neighbouring
Afghanistan to support its
Soviet-aligned government against Islamist insurgents; Gorbachev
privately thought it a mistake. At times he openly
supported the government position; in October 1980 he for instance
endorsed Soviet calls for Poland's Marxist–Leninist government to
crack down on growing internal dissent in that country.
That same month, he was promoted from a candidate member to a full
member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making authority in the
Communist Party. At the time, he was the Politburo's
In April 1983, Gorbachev gave a speech marking the birthday of Lenin
(pictured), founder of the Soviet state.
After Brezhnev's death in November 1982, Andropov succeeded him as
General Secretary of the Communist Party, the de facto head of
government in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was enthusiastic about the
appointment. However, although Gorbachev hoped that
Andropov would introduce liberalising reforms, the latter carried out
only personnel shifts rather than structural change.
Gorbachev became Andropov's closest ally in the
Politburo; with Andropov's encouragement, Gorbachev
sometimes chaired Politburo meetings. Andropov encouraged
Gorbachev to expand into policy areas other than agriculture,
preparing him for future higher office. In April 1983,
Gorbachev delivered the annual speech marking the birthday of the
Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin; this required him
re-reading many of Lenin's later writings, in which the latter had
called for reform, and encouraged Gorbachev's own conviction that
reform was needed. In May 1983, Gorbachev was sent to
Canada, where he met Prime Minister
Pierre Trudeau and spoke to the
Canadian Parliament. There, he met and befriended the
Soviet ambassador, Aleksandr Yakovlev, who later became a key
In February 1984, Andropov died; on his deathbed he indicated his
desire that Gorbachev succeed him. Many in the Central
Committee nevertheless thought the 53-year old Gorbachev was too young
and inexperienced. Instead, Konstantin Chernenko—a
longstanding Brezhnev ally—was appointed General Secretary, but he
too was in very poor health. Chernenko was often too sick
to chair Politburo meetings, with Gorbachev stepping in last
minute. Gorbachev continued to cultivate allies both in
the Kremlin and beyond, and also gave the main speech at
a conference on Soviet ideology, where he angered party hardliners by
implying that the country required reform.
In April 1984, he was appointed chair of the
Foreign Affairs Committee
of the Soviet legislature, a largely honorific position.
In June he travelled to Italy as a Soviet representative for the
Italian Communist Party
Italian Communist Party leader Enrico
Berlinguer, and in September to Sofia, Bulgaria to attend
celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of its liberation by the Red
Army. In December, he visited Britain at the request of
its Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; she was aware that he was a
potential reformer and wanted to meet him. At the end of
the visit, Thatcher said: "I like Mr Gorbachev. We can do business
together". He felt that the visit helped to erode Andrei
Gromyko's dominance of Soviet foreign policy while at the same time
sending a signal to the
United States government that he wanted to
improve Soviet-U.S. relations.
General Secretary of the CPSU
Gorbachev in 1985 at a summit in Geneva, Switzerland
On 10 March 1985, Chernenko died. Gromyko proposed
Gorbachev as the next General Secretary; as a longstanding party
member, Gromyko's recommendation carried great weight among the
Central Committee. Gorbachev expected much opposition to
his nomination as General Secretary, but ultimately the rest of the
Politburo supported him. Shortly after Chernenko's death,
the Politburo unanimously elected Gorbachev as his successor; they
wanted him over another elderly leader. He thus became
the eighth leader of the Soviet Union. Few in the
government imagined that he would be as radical a reformer as he
proved. Although not a well-known figure to the Soviet
public, there was widespread relief that the new leader was not
elderly and ailing. Gorbachev's first public appearance
as leader was at Chernenko's
Red Square funeral, held on 14
March. Two months after being elected, he left Moscow for
the first time, traveling to Leningrad, where he spoke to assembled
crowds. In June he travelled to Ukraine, in July to
Belarus, and in September to Tyumen Oblast, urging party members in
these areas to take more responsibility for fixing local
Early years: 1985–1986
Gorbachev's leadership style differed from that of his predecessors.
He would stop to talk to civilians on the street, forbade the display
of his portrait at the 1985
Red Square holiday celebrations, and
encouraged frank and open discussions at Politburo
meetings. To the West, Gorbachev was seen as a more
moderate and less threatening Soviet leader; some Western commentators
however believed this an act to lull Western governments into a false
sense of security. His wife was his closest adviser, and
took on the unofficial role of a "first lady" by appearing with him on
foreign trips; her public visibility was a breach of standard practice
and generated resentment. His other close aides were
Georgy Shakhnazarov and Anatoly Chernyaev.
Gorbachev was aware that the Politburo could remove him from office,
and that he could not pursue more radical reform without a majority of
supporters in the Politburo. He sought to remove several
older members from the Politburo, encouraging Grigory Romanov, Nikolai
Viktor Grishin into retirement. He moved
Gromyko from his role in foreign policy to that of head of state and
replaced Gromyko's former role with his own ally, Eduard
Shevardnadze. Other allies whom he saw promoted were
Yakovlev, Anatoly Lukyanov, and Vadim Medvedev. Another
of those promoted by Gorbachev was Boris Yeltsin, who was made a
Secretary of the Central Committee in July 1985. Most of
these appointees were from a new generation of well-educated officials
who had been frustrated during the Brezhnev era. In his
first year, 14 of the 23 heads of department in the secretariat were
replaced. Doing so, Gorbachev secured dominance in the
Politburo within a year, faster than either Stalin, Khrushchev, or
Brezhnev had achieved.
Gorbachev at the
Brandenburg Gate in April 1986 during a visit to
Gorbachev recurrently employed the term perestroika, first used
publicly in March 1984. He saw perestroika as
encompassing a complex series of reforms to restructure society and
the economy. He was concerned by the country's low
productivity, poor work ethic, and inferior quality
goods; like several economists, he feared this would lead
to the country becoming a second-rate power. The first
stage of Gorbachev's perestroika was uskorenie ("acceleration"), a
term he used regularly in the first two years of his
Soviet Union was behind the United States
in many areas of production, but Gorbachev claimed that
it would accelerate industrial output to match that of the U.S. by
2000. The Five Year Plan of 1985–90 was targeted to
expand machine building by 50 to 100%. To boost
agricultural productivity, he merged five ministries and a state
committee into a single entity, Agroprom, although by late 1986
acknowledged this merger as a failure.
The purpose of reform was to prop up the centrally planned
economy—not to transition to market socialism. Speaking in late
summer 1985 to the secretaries for economic affairs of the central
committees of the East European communist parties, Gorbachev said:
"Many of you see the solution to your problems in resorting to market
mechanisms in place of direct planning. Some of you look at the market
as a lifesaver for your economies. But, comrades, you should not think
about lifesavers but about the ship, and the ship is
Gorbachev's perestroika also entailed attempts to move away from
technocratic management of the economy by increasingly involving the
labour force in industrial production. He was of the view
that once freed from the strong control of central planners,
state-owned enterprises would act as market agents.
Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders did not anticipate opposition to
the perestroika reforms; according to their interpretation of Marxism,
they believed that in a socialist society like the
Soviet Union there
would not be "antagonistic contradictions". However,
there would come to be a public perception in the country that many
bureaucrats were paying lip service to the reforms while trying to
undermine them. He also initiated the concept of
gospriyomka (state acceptance of production) during his time as
leader, which represented quality control.
In April 1986, he introduced an agrarian reform which linked salaries
to output and allowed collective farms to sell 30% of their produce
directly to shops or co-operatives rather than giving it all to the
state for distribution. In a September 1986 speech, he
embraced the idea of reintroducing market economics to the country
alongside limited private enterprise, citing Lenin's New Economic
Policy as a precedent; he nevertheless stressed that he did not regard
this as a return to capitalism.
In the Soviet Union, alcohol consumption had risen steadily between
1950 and 1985. By the 1980s, drunkenness was a major
social problem and Andropov had planned a major campaign to limit
alcohol consumption. Encouraged by his wife, Gorbachev—who believed
the campaign would improve health and work efficiency—oversaw its
implementation. Alcohol production was reduced by around
40 percent, the legal drinking age rose from 18 to 21, alcohol prices
were increased, stores were banned from selling it before 2pm, and
tougher penalties were introduced for workplace or public drunkenness
and home production of alcohol. The All-Union Voluntary
Society for the Struggle for Temperance was formed to promote
sobriety; it had over 14 million members within three
years. As a result, crime rates fell and life expectancy
grew slightly between 1986 and 1987. However, moonshine
production rose considerably, and the reform had
significant costs to the Soviet economy, resulting in losses of up to
US$100 billion between 1985 and 1990. Gorbachev later
considered the campaign to have been an error, and it was
terminated in October 1988. After it ended, it took
several years for production to return to previous levels, after which
alcohol consumption soared in
Russia between 1990 and
At the 27th Party Congress in February–March 1986, Gorbachev faced
both hardliners who disliked his reforms and liberalisers (like
Yeltsin) who thought they did not go far enough.
In the second year of his leadership, Gorbachev began speaking of
glasnost, or "openness". According to Doder and Branston,
this meant "greater openness and candour in government affairs and for
an interplay of different and sometimes conflicting views in political
debates, in the press, and in Soviet culture."
Encouraging reformers into prominent media positions, he brought in
Sergei Zalygin as head of
Novy Mir magazine and
Yegor Yakovlev as
editor-in-chief of Moscow News. He made the historian
Yuri Afanasiev dean of the State Historical Archive Faculty, from
where Afansiev could press for the opening of secret archives and the
reassessment of Soviet history. Prominent dissidents like
Andrei Sakharov were freed from internal exile or prison.
Gorbachev saw glasnost as a necessary measure to ensure perestroika by
alerting the Soviet populace to the nature of the country's problems
in the hope that they would support his efforts to fix
them. Particularly popular among the Soviet
intelligentsia, who became key Gorbachev supporters,
glasnost boosted his domestic popularity but alarmed many Communist
Party hardliners. For many Soviet citizens, this newfound
level of freedom of speech and press—and its accompanying
revelations about the country's past—was uncomfortable.
Some in the party thought Gorbachev was not going far enough in his
reforms; a prominent liberal critic was Yeltsin. He had risen rapidly
since 1985, attaining the role of Moscow city boss. Like
many members of the government, Gorbachev was sceptical of Yeltsin,
believing that he engaged in too much self-promotion.
Yeltsin was also critical of Gorbachev, regarding him as
In early 1986, Yeltsin began sniping at Gorbachev in Politburo
meetings. At the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in
February, Yeltsin called for more far-reaching reforms than Gorbachev
was initiating and criticised the party leadership, although did not
cite Gorbachev by name, claiming that a new cult of personality was
forming. Gorbachev then opened the floor to responses, after which
attendees publicly criticised Yeltsin for several hours.
After this, Gorbachev also criticised Yeltsin, claiming that he only
cared for himself and was "politically illiterate".
Yeltsin then resigned as both Moscow boss and as a member of the
Politburo. From this point, tensions between the two men
developed into a mutual hatred.
In April 1986 the
Chernobyl disaster occurred. In the
immediate aftermath, officials fed Gorbachev incorrect information to
downplay the incident. As the scale of the disaster became apparent,
336,000 people were evacuated from the area around
Chernobyl. Taubman noted that the disaster marked "a
turning point for Gorbachev and the Soviet regime".
Several days after it occurred, he gave a televised report to the
nation. He cited the disaster as evidence for what he
regarded as widespread problems in Soviet society, such as shoddy
workmanship and workplace inertia. Gorbachev later
described the incident as one which made him appreciate the scale of
incompetence and cover-ups in the Soviet Union. From
April to the end of the year, Gorbachev became increasingly open in
his criticism of the Soviet system, including food production, state
bureaucracy, the military draft, and the large size of the prison
U.S. President Reagan and Gorbachev meeting in Iceland in 1986
In a May 1985 speech given to the Soviet Foreign Ministry—the first
time a Soviet leader had directly addressed his country's
diplomats—Gorbachev spoke of a "radical restructuring" of foreign
policy. A major issue facing his leadership was Soviet
involvement in the Afghan Civil War, which had then been going on for
over five years. Over the course of the war, 13,000
Soviet soldiers would be killed and there was much opposition to
Soviet involvement among both the public and military. On
becoming leader, Gorbachev saw withdrawal from the war as a key
priority. In October 1985, he met with Afghan Marxist
leader Babrak Karmal, urging him to acknowledge the lack of widespread
public support for his government and pursue a power sharing agreement
with the opposition. That month, the Politburo approved
Gorbachev's decision to withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan,
although the last troops did not leave until February
Gorbachev had inherited a renewed period of high tension in the Cold
War. He believed strongly in the need to sharply improve
relations with the United States; he was appalled at the prospect of
nuclear war, was aware that the
Soviet Union was unlikely to win the
arms race, and thought that the continued focus on high military
spending was detrimental to his desire for domestic
reform. Although privately also appalled at the prospect
of nuclear war, U.S. President
Ronald Reagan publicly appeared to not
want a de-escalation of tensions, having scrapped détente and arms
controls, initiating a military build-up, and calling the Soviet Union
the "evil empire".
Both Gorbachev and Reagan wanted a summit to discuss the Cold War, but
each faced some opposition to such a move within their respective
governments. They agreed to hold a summit in Geneva,
Switzerland in November 1985. In the buildup to this,
Gorbachev sought to improve relations with the U.S.'
visiting France in October 1985 to meet with President François
Mitterrand. At the Geneva summit, discussions between
Gorbachev and Reagan were sometimes heated, and Gorbachev was
initially frustrated that his U.S. counterpart "does not seem to hear
what I am trying to say". As well as discussing the Cold
War proxy conflicts in
Afghanistan and Nicaragua and human rights
issues, the pair discussed the U.S.' Strategic Defense Initiative
(SDI), to which Gorbachev was strongly opposed. The duo's
wives also met and spent time together at the summit. The
summit ended with a joint commitment to avoiding nuclear war and to
meet for two further summits: in Washington D.C. in 1986 and in Moscow
in 1987. Following the conference, Gorbachev travelled to
Prague to inform other
Warsaw Pact leaders of
Erich Honecker of East Germany. Privately, Gorbachev
told Chernaev that Honecker was a "scumbag".
In January 1986, Gorbachev publicly proposed a three-stage program for
abolishing the world's nuclear weapons by the end of the 20th
century. An agreement was then reached to meet with
Reagan at Reykjavík, Iceland in October. Gorbachev wanted to secure
guarantees that SDI would not be implemented, and in return was
willing to offer concessions, including a 50% reduction in Soviet long
range nuclear missiles. Both leaders agreed with the
shared goal of abolishing nuclear weapons, but Reagan refused to
terminate the SDI program and no deal was reached. After
the summit, many of Reagan's allies criticised him for going along
with the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons. Gorbachev
meanwhile told the Politburo that Reagan was "extraordinarily
primitive, troglodyte, and intellectually feeble".
In his relations with the developing world, Gorbachev found many of
the leaders professing revolutionary socialist credentials or a
pro-Soviet attitude—such as Libya's
Muammar Gaddafi and Syria's
Hafez al-Assad—frustrating, and his best personal relationship was
instead with India's Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. He
thought that the "socialist camp" of Marxist-Leninist governed
Eastern Bloc countries, North Korea, Vietnam, and
Cuba—were a drain on the Soviet economy, receiving a far greater
amount of goods from the
Soviet Union than they collectively gave in
return. He sought improved relations with China, a
country whose Marxist government had severed ties with the Soviets in
the Sino-Soviet Split. In June 1985 he signed a US$14 billion
five-year trade agreement with the country and in July 1986, he
proposed troop reductions along the Soviet-Chinese border, hailing
China as "a great socialist country". He made clear his
desire for Soviet membership of the
Asian Development Bank
Asian Development Bank and for
greater ties to
Pacific countries, especially China and
Further reform: 1987–1989
Gorbachev speaking in 1987
In January 1987, Gorbachev attended a Central Committee plenum where
he talked about perestroika and democratisation while criticising
widespread corruption. He considered putting a proposal
to allow multi-party elections into his speech, but decided against
doing so. After the plenum, he focused his attentions on
economic reform, holding discussions with government officials and
economists. Many economists proposed reducing ministerial
controls on the economy and allowing state-owned enterprises to set
their own targets; Ryzhkov and other government figures were
sceptical. In June, Gorbachev finished his report on
economic reform. It reflected a compromise: ministers would retain the
ability to set output targets but these would not be considered
binding. That month, a plenum accepted his
recommendations and the
Supreme Soviet passed a "law on enterprises"
implementing the changes. Economic problems remained: by
the late 1980s there were still widespread shortages of basic goods,
rising inflation, and declining living standards. These
stoked a number of miners' strikes in 1989.
By 1987, the ethos of glasnost had spread through Soviet society:
journalists were writing increasingly openly, many
economic problems were being publicly revealed, and
studies appeared that critically reassessed Soviet
history. Gorbachev was broadly supportive, describing
glasnost as "the crucial, irreplaceable weapon of
perestroika". He nevertheless insisted that people should
use the newfound freedom responsibly, stating that journalists and
writers should avoid "sensationalism" and be "completely objective" in
their reporting. Nearly two hundred previously restricted
Soviet films were publicly released, and a range of Western films were
also made available. In 1989, Soviet culpability for the
Katyn massacre was finally revealed.
In September 1987, the government stopped jamming the signal of the
British Broadcasting Corporation
British Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of America.
The reforms also included greater tolerance of religion;
Easter service was broadcast on Soviet television for the first
time and the millennium celebrations of the Russian Orthodox Church
were given media attention. Independent organisations
appeared, most supportive of Gorbachev, although the largest, Pamyat,
was ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic in nature.
Gorbachev also announced that Soviet Jews wishing to migrate to Israel
would be allowed to do so, something previously
In August 1987, he holidayed in Nizhniaia Oreanda, Ukraine, there
writing Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and Our World at the
suggestion of U.S. publishers. For the 70th anniversary
October Revolution of 1917—which brought Lenin and the
Communist Party to power—Gorbachev produced a speech on "October and
Perestroika: The Revolution Continues". Delivered to a ceremonial
joint session of the Central Committee and the
Supreme Soviet in the
Kremlin Palace of Congresses, it praised Lenin but criticised Stalin
for overseeing mass human rights abuses. Party hardliners
thought the speech went too far; liberalisers thought it did not go
In March 1988, the magazine
Sovetskaya Rossiya published an open
letter by the teacher Nina Andreyeva. It criticised elements of
Gorbachev's reforms, attacking what she regarded as the denigration of
the Stalinist era and arguing that a reformer clique—whom she
implied were mostly Jews and ethnic minorities—were to
blame. Over 900 Soviet newspapers reprinted it and
anti-reformists rallied around it; many reformers panicked, fearing a
backlash against perestroika. On returning from
Yugoslavia, Gorbachev called a Politburo meeting to discuss the
letter, at which he confronted those hardliners supporting its
sentiment. Ultimately, the Politburo arrived at a unanimous decision
to express disapproval of Andreyeva's letter and publish a rebuttal in
Pravda. Yakovlev and Gorbachev's rebuttal claimed that
those who "look everywhere for internal enemies" were "not patriots"
and presented Stalin's "guilt for massive repressions and lawlessness"
as "enormous and unforgiveable".
Forming the Congress of People's Deputies
Although the next party congress was not scheduled until 1991,
Gorbachev convened the 19th Party Conference in its place in June
1988. He hoped that by allowing a broader range of people to attend
than at previous conferences, he would gain additional support for his
reforms. With sympathetic officials and academics,
Gorbachev drafted plans for reforms that would shift power away from
the Politburo and towards the soviets. While the soviets had become
largely powerless bodies that rubber-stamped Politburo policies, he
wanted them to become year-round legislatures. He proposed the
formation of a new institution, the Congress of People's Deputies,
whose members were to be elected in a largely free vote.
This congress would in turn elect a USSR Supreme Soviet, which would
do most of the legislating.
Gorbachev and his wife Raisa on a trip to Poland in 1988
These proposals reflected Gorbachev's desire for more democracy;
however, in his view there was a major impediment in that the Soviet
people had developed a "slave psychology" after centuries of Tsarist
autocracy and Marxist-Leninist authoritarianism. Held at
the Kremlin Palace of Congresses, the conference brought together
5,000 delegates and featured arguments between hardliners and
liberalisers. The proceedings were televised, and for the first time
since the 1920s, voting was not unanimous. In the months
following the conference, Gorbachev focused on redesigning and
streamlining the party apparatus; the Central Committee staff—which
then numbered around 3,000—was halved, while various Central
Committee departments were merged to cut down the overall number from
twenty to nine.
In March and April 1989, elections to the new Congress were
held. Of the 2,250 legislators to be elected, one hundred
— termed the "Red Hundred" by the press — were directly chosen by
the Communist Party, with Gorbachev ensuring many were
reformists. Although over 85% of elected deputies were
party members, many of those elected—including Sakharov
and Yeltsin—were liberalisers. Gorbachev was happy with
the result, describing it as "an enormous political victory under
extraordinarily difficult circumstances". The new
Congress convened in May 1989. Gorbachev was then elected
its chair – the new de facto head of state – with 2,123 votes in
favour to 87 against. Its sessions were televised
live, and its members elected the new Supreme
Soviet. At the Congress, Sakharov spoke repeatedly,
exasperating Gorbachev with his calls for greater liberalisation and
the introduction of private property. After Sakharov died
shortly after, Yeltsin became the figurehead of the liberal
Relations with China and Western states
Gorbachev in one-on-one discussions with Reagan
Gorbachev tried to improve relations with the UK, France, and West
Germany; like previous Soviet leaders, he was interested
in pulling Western Europe away from U.S. influence.
Calling for greater pan-European co-operation, he publicly spoke of a
"Common European Home" and of a Europe "from the Atlantic to the
Urals". In March 1987, Thatcher visited Gorbachev in
Moscow; despite their ideological differences, they liked one
another. In April 1989 he visited London, lunching with
Elizabeth II. In May 1987, Gorbachev again visited
France, and in November 1988 Mitterrand visited him in
Moscow. The West German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, had
initially offended Gorbachev by comparing him to Nazi propagandist
Joseph Goebbels, although later informally apologised and in October
1988 visited Moscow. In June 1989 Gorbachev then visited
Kohl in West Germany. In November 1989 he also visited
Italy, meeting with Pope John Paul II. Gorbachev's
relationships with these West European leaders were typically far
warmer than those he had with their Eastern Bloc
Gorbachev continued to pursue good relations with China to heal the
Sino-Soviet Split. In May 1989 he visited
Beijing and there met its
leader Deng Xiaoping; Deng shared Gorbachev's belief in economic
reform but rejected calls for democratisation.
Pro-democracy students had amassed in
Tiananmen Square during
Gorbachev's visit but after he left were massacred by troops.
Gorbachev did not condemn the massacre publicly but it reinforced his
commitment not to use violent force in dealing with pro-democracy
protests in the Eastern Bloc.
Following the failures of earlier talks with the U.S., in February
1987, Gorbachev held a conference in Moscow, titled "For a World
without Nuclear Weapons, for Mankind's Survival", which was attended
by various international celebrities and politicians. By
publicly pushing for nuclear disarmament, Gorbachev sought to give the
Soviet Union the moral high ground and weaken the West's
self-perception of moral superiority. Aware that Reagan
would not budge on SDI, Gorbachev focused on reducing
"Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces", to which Reagan was
receptive. In April 1987, Gorbachev discussed the issue
with U.S. Secretary of State
George P. Shultz
George P. Shultz in Moscow; he agreed to
eliminate the Soviets'
SS-23 rockets and allow U.S. inspectors to
visit Soviet military facilities to ensure compliance.
There was hostility to such compromises from the Soviet military, but
following the May 1987
Mathias Rust incident—in which a West German
teenager was able to fly undetected from Finland and land in Red
Square—Gorbachev fired many senior military figures for
incompetence. In December 1987, Gorbachev visited
Washington D.C., where he and Reagan signed the Intermediate-Range
Nuclear Forces Treaty. Taubman called it "one of the
highest points of Gorbachev's career".
Reagan and Gorbachev with wives (Nancy and Raisa, respectively)
attending a dinner at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, 9 December
A second U.S.-Soviet summit occurred in Moscow in May–June 1988,
which Gorbachev expected to be largely symbolic. Again,
he and Reagan criticised each other's countries—Reagan raising
Soviet restrictions on religious freedom; Gorbachev highlighting
poverty and racial discrimination in the U.S.—but Gorbachev related
that they spoke "on friendly terms". They reached an
agreement on notifying each other before conducting the ballistic
missile test and made agreements on transport, fishing, and radio
navigation. At the summit, Reagan told reporters that he
no longer considered the
Soviet Union an "evil empire" and the duo
revealed that they considered themselves friends.
The third summit was held in New York City in December.
Arriving there, Gorbachev gave a speech to the
United Nations Assembly
where he announced a unilateral reduction in the Soviet armed forces
by 500,000; he also announced that 50,000 troops would be withdrawn
from Central and Eastern Europe. He then met with Reagan
and President-elect George H. W. Bush; he rushed home, skipping a
planned visit to Cuba, to deal with the Armenian
earthquake. On becoming U.S. President, Bush appeared
interested in continuing talks with Gorbachev but wanted to appear
tougher on the Soviets than Reagan had to allay criticism from the
right-wing of his Republican Party. In December 1989,
Gorbachev and Bush met at the Malta Summit. Bush offered
to assist the Soviet economy by suspending the Jackson-Vanik Amendment
and repealing the Stevenson and Baird Amendments. There,
the duo agreed to a joint press conference, the first time that a U.S.
and Soviet leader had done so. Gorbachev also urged Bush
to normalise relations with Cuba and meet its President, Fidel Castro,
although Bush refused to do so.
The nationality question and the Eastern Bloc
Gorbachev meeting the Romanian Marxist-Leninist leader Nicolae
Ceauşescu. According to Taubman, Ceauşescu was Gorbachev's "favorite
On taking power, Gorbachev found some unrest among different national
groups within the Soviet Union. In December 1986, riots broke out in
several Kazakh cities after a Russian was appointed head of the
region. In 1987,
Crimean Tatars protested in Moscow to
demand resettlement in Crimea, the area from which they had been
deported on Stalin's orders in 1944. Gorbachev ordered a commission,
headed by Gromyko, to examine their situation. By 1988,
the Soviet "nationality question" was increasingly
pressing. In February, the administration of the
Nagorno-Karabakh region officially requested that it be transferred
Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic
Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic to the Armenian Soviet
Socialist Republic; the majority of the region's population were
ethnically Armenian and wanted unification with other majority
Armenian areas. As rival Armenian and Azerbaijani
demonstrations took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, Gorbachev called an
emergency meeting of the Politburo. Ultimately, Gorbachev
promised greater autonomy for
Nagorno-Karabakh but refused the
transfer, fearing that it would set off similar ethnic tensions and
demands throughout the Soviet Union.
That month, in the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait, Azerbaijani gangs
began killing members of the Armenian minority. Local troops tried to
quell the unrest but were attacked by mobs. The Politburo
ordered additional troops into the city, but in contrast to those like
Ligachev who wanted a massive display of force, Gorbachev urged
restraint. He believed that the situation could be resolved through a
political solution, urging talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani
Communist Parties. Further anti-Armenian violence broke
Baku in 1990. Problems also emerged in the
Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic; in April 1989, Georgian
nationalists demanding independence clashed with troops in Tbilisi,
resulting in various deaths. Independence sentiment was
also rising in the Baltic states; the Supreme Soviets of the Estonian,
Lithuanian, and Latvian Soviet Socialist Republics declared their
economic "autonomy" from
Russia and introduced measures to restrict
Russian immigration. In August 1989, protesters formed
the Baltic Way, a human chain across the three republics to symbolise
their wish for independence. That month, the Lithuanian
Supreme Soviet ruled the 1940 Soviet annexation of their country to be
illegal; in January 1990, Gorbachev visited the republic
to encourage it to remain part of the Soviet Union.
Berlin Wall, "Thank you, Gorbi!", October 1990
Gorbachev rejected the "Brezhnev Doctrine", the idea that the Soviet
Union had the right to intervene militarily in other Marxist-Leninist
countries if their governments were threatened. In
December 1987 he announced the withdrawal of 500,000 Soviet troops
from Central and Eastern Europe.
While pursuing domestic reforms, he did not publicly support reformers
elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc. Hoping instead to lead by
example, he later related that he did not want to interfere in their
internal affairs, but he may have feared that pushing reform in
Central and Eastern Europe would have angered his own hardliners too
Eastern Bloc leaders, like Hungary's János
Kádár and Poland's Wojciech Jaruzelski, were sympathetic to reform;
others, like Romania's Nicolae Ceaușescu, were hostile to
it. In May 1987 Gorbachev visited Romania, where he was
appalled by the state of the country, later telling the Politburo that
there "human dignity has absolutely no value". He and
Ceauşescu disliked each other, and argued over Gorbachev's
In the Revolutions of 1989, most of the Marxist-Leninist states of
Central and Eastern Europe held multi-party elections resulting in
regime change. In most countries, like Poland and
Hungary, this was achieved peacefully, but in Romania the revolution
turned violent and led to Ceaușescu's overthrow and
execution. Gorbachev was too preoccupied with domestic
problems to pay much attention to these events. He
believed that democratic elections would not lead Eastern European
countries into abandoning their commitment to socialism.
In 1989 he visited
East Germany for the fortieth anniversary of its
founding; shortly after, in November, the East German
government allowed its citizens to cross the Berlin Wall, a decision
Gorbachev praised. Neither Gorbachev nor Thatcher or
Mitterrand wanted a swift reunification of Germany, aware that it
would likely become the dominant European power. Gorbachev wanted a
gradual process of German integration but Kohl began calling for rapid
reunification. With Germany reunified, many observers
Cold War over.
Presidency of the Soviet Union: 1990–1991
Gorbachev addressing the
United Nations General Assembly
United Nations General Assembly in December
1988. During the speech he dramatically announced deep unilateral cuts
in Soviet military forces in Eastern Europe.
In February 1990, both liberalisers and Marxist-Leninist hardliners
intensified their attacks on Gorbachev. A liberaliser
march took part in Moscow criticising Communist Party
rule, while at a Central Committee meeting, the hardliner
Vladimir Brovikov accused Gorbachev of reducing the country to
"anarchy" and "ruin" and of pursuing Western approval at the expense
Soviet Union and the Marxist-Leninist cause.
Gorbachev was aware that the Central Committee could still oust him as
General Secretary, and so decided to reformulate the role of head of
government to a presidency from which they could not remove
him. He decided that the presidential election should be
held by the Congress of People's Deputies. He chose this over a public
vote because he thought the latter would escalate tensions and feared
that he might lose it; a spring 1990 poll nevertheless
still showed him as the most popular politician in the
In March, the Congress of People's Deputies held the first (and only)
Soviet presidential election, in which Gorbachev was the only
candidate. He secured 1,329 in favour to 495 against; 313 votes were
invalid or absent. He therefore became the first executive President
of the Soviet Union. A new 18-member Presidential Council
de facto replaced the Politburo. At the same Congress
meeting, he presented the idea of repealing Article 6 of the Soviet
constitution, which had ratified the Communist Party as the "ruling
party" of the Soviet Union. The Congress passed the reform,
undermining the de jure nature of the one-party state.
In the 1990 elections for the Russian Supreme Soviet, the Communist
Party faced challengers from an alliance of liberalisers known as
"Democratic Russia"; the latter did particularly well in urban
centers. Yeltsin was elected the parliament's chair,
something Gorbachev was unhappy about. That year, opinion
polls showed Yeltsin overtaking Gorbachev as the most popular
politician in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev struggled to
understand Yeltsin's popularity, commenting: "he drinks like a fish...
he's inarticulate, he comes up with the devil knows what, he's like a
worn-out record." The Russian
Supreme Soviet was now out
of Gorbachev's control; in June 1990, it declared that in
the Russian Republic, its laws took precedence over those of the
Soviet central government. Amid a growth in Russian
nationalist sentiment, Gorbachev had reluctantly allowed the formation
of a Communist Party of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist
Republic as a branch of the larger Soviet Communist Party. Gorbachev
attended its first congress in June, but soon found it dominated by
hardliners who opposed his reformist stance.
German reunification and the Iraq War
In January 1990, Gorbachev privately agreed to permit East German
reunification with West Germany, but rejected the idea that a unified
Germany could retain West Germany's
NATO membership. His
compromise that Germany might retain both
NATO and Warsaw Pact
memberships did not attract support. In May 1990, he
visited the U.S. for talks with Bush; there, he agreed
that an independent Germany would have the right to choose its
international alliances. He later revealed that he had
agreed to do so because U.S. Secretary of State
James Baker promised
NATO troops would not be posted to eastern Germany and that the
military alliance would not expand into Eastern Europe.
Privately, Bush ignored Baker's assurances and later pushed for NATO
expansion. On the trip, the U.S. informed Gorbachev of
its evidence that the Soviet military—possibly unbeknownst to
Gorbachev—had been pursuing a biological weapons program in
contravention of the 1987 Biological Weapons Convention.
In July, Kohl visited Moscow and Gorbachev informed him that the
Soviets would not oppose a reunified Germany being part of
NATO. Domestically, Gorbachev's critics accused him of
betraying the national interest; more broadly, they were
angry that Gorbachev had allowed the
Eastern Bloc to move away from
direct Soviet influence.
In 1990, Gorbachev met repeatedly with U.S. President George Bush
In August 1990, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi government invaded Kuwait;
Gorbachev endorsed Bush's condemnation of it. This brought criticism
from many in the Soviet state apparatus, who saw Hussein as an key
ally in the
Persian Gulf and feared for the safety of the 9,000 Soviet
citizens in Iraq, although Gorbachev argued that the Iraqis were the
clear aggressors in the situation. In November the
Soviets endorsed a UN Resolution permitting force to be used in
expelling the Iraqi Army from Kuwait. Gorbachev later
called it a "watershed" in world politics, "the first time the
superpowers acted together in a regional crisis."
However, when the U.S. announced plans for a ground invasion,
Gorbachev opposed it, urging instead a peaceful solution.
In October 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; he was
flattered but acknowledged "mixed feelings" about the
accolade. Polls indicated that 90% of Soviet citizens
disapproved of the award.
With the Soviet budget deficit climbing and no domestic money markets
to provide the state with loans, Gorbachev looked
elsewhere. Throughout 1991, Gorbachev requested sizeable
loans from Western countries and Japan, hoping to keep the Soviet
economy afloat and ensure the success of perestroika.
Soviet Union had been excluded from the G7, Gorbachev
secured an invite to its London summit in July 1991.
There, he continued to call for financial assistance; Mitterrand and
Kohl backed him, while Thatcher—no longer in office—
also urged Western leaders to agree. Most G7 members were
reluctant, instead offering technical assistance and proposing the
Soviets receive "special associate" status—rather than full
World Bank and International Monetary
Fund. Gorbachev was frustrated that the U.S. would spend
$100 billion on the
Gulf War but would not offer his country
loans. Other countries were more forthcoming; West
Germany had given the Soviets DM60 billion by mid-1991.
Later that month, Bush visited Moscow, where he and Gorbachev signed
START I treaty after ten years of negotiation.
Internal crisis and the coup
Further information: 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt
Despite his declining popularity, Gorbachev was re-elected leader of
the Communist Party at its 28th Congress
At the 28th Communist Party Congress in July, hardliners criticised
the reformists but Gorbachev was re-elected party leader with the
support of three-quarters of delegates and his choice of Deputy
General Secretary, Vladimir Ivashko, was also elected.
Seeking compromise with the liberalisers, Gorbachev assembled a team
of both his own and Yeltsin's advisers to come up with an economic
reform package: the result was the "500 Days" programme. This called
for further decentralisation and some privatisation.
Gorbachev described the plan as "modern socialism" rather than a
return to capitalism but had many doubts about it. In
September, Yeltsin presented the plan to the Russian Supreme Soviet,
which backed it. Many in the Communist Party and state
apparatus warned against it, arguing that it would create marketplace
chaos, rampant inflation, and unprecedented levels of
500 Days plan was
abandoned. At this, Yeltsin rallied against Gorbachev in
an October speech, claiming that
Russia would no longer accept a
subordinate position to the Soviet government.
By mid-November 1990, much of the press was calling for Gorbachev's
resignation and predicting civil war. Hardliners were
urging Gorbachev to disband the presidential council and arrest vocal
liberals in the media. In November, he addressed the
Supreme Soviet where he announced an eight-point program, which
included governmental reforms, among them the abolition of the
presidential council. By this point, Gorbachev was
isolated from many of his former close allies and aides.
Yakovlev had moved out of his inner circle and Shevardnadze had
resigned. His support among the intelligentsia was
declining, and by the end of 1990 his approval ratings
Amid growing dissent in the Baltics, especially Lithuania, in January
1991 Gorbachev demanded that the
Lithuanian Supreme Council
Lithuanian Supreme Council rescind
its pro-independence reforms. Soviet troops occupied
Vilnius buildings and clashed with protesters, 15 of whom were
killed. Gorbachev was widely blamed by liberalisers, with
Yeltsin calling for his resignation. Gorbachev denied
sanctioning the military operation, although some in the military
claimed that he had; the truth of the matter was never clearly
established. Fearing more civil disturbances, that month
Gorbachev banned demonstrations and ordered troops to patrol Soviet
cities alongside the police. This further alienated the liberalisers
but was not enough to win-over hardliners. Wanting to
preserve the Union, in April Gorbachev and the leaders of nine Soviet
republics jointly pledged to prepare a treaty that would renew the
federation under a new constitution; six of the republics—Estonia,
Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia—did not endorse
this. A referendum on the issue brought 76.4% in favour
of continued federation but the six rebellious republics had not taken
part. Negotiations as to what form the new constitution
would take took place, again bringing together Gorbachev and Yeltsin
in discussion; it was planned to be formally signed in
Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters surrounding the White
In August, Gorbachev and his family holidayed at their dacha, "Zarya"
('Dawn') in Foros, Crimea. Two weeks into his holiday, a
group of senior Communist Party figures—the "Gang of
Eight"—calling themselves the State Committee on the State of
Emergency launched a coup d'état to seize control of the Soviet
Union. The phone lines to his dacha were cut and a group
arrived, including Boldin, Shenin, Baklanov, and General Varennikov,
informing him of the take-over. The coup leaders demanded
that Gorbachev formally declare a state of emergency in the country,
but he refused. Gorbachev and his family were kept under
house arrest in their dacha. The coup plotters publicly
announced that Gorbachev was ill and thus Vice President Yanayev would
take charge of the country.
Yeltsin, now President of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist
Republic, went inside the Moscow White House. Tens of thousands of
protesters amassed outside it to prevent troops storming the building
to arrest him. Gorbachev feared that the coup plotters
would order him killed, so had his guards barricade his
dacha. However, the coup's leaders realised that they
lacked sufficient support and ended their efforts. On 21 August,
Vladimir Kryuchkov, Dmitry Yazov, Oleg Baklanov, and Anatoly Lukyanov,
Vladimir Ivashko arrived at Gorbachev's dacha to inform him that
they were doing so.
That evening, Gorbachev returned to Moscow, where he thanked Yeltsin
and the protesters for helping to undermine the coup. At
a subsequent press conference, he pledged to reform the Soviet
Communist Party. Two days later, he resigned as its
General Secretary and called on the Central Committee to
disband. Several members of the coup committed suicide;
others were fired. Gorbachev attended a session of the
Supreme Soviet on 23 August, where Yeltsin aggressively
criticised him for having appointed and promoted many of the coup
members to start with. Yeltsin then announced a ban on the Russian
Leaders of the Soviet Republics sign the
Belovezha Accords which
eliminated the USSR and established the Commonwealth of Independent
On 30 October, Gorbachev attended a conference in
Madrid trying to
revive the Israeli–Palestinian peace process. The event was
co-sponsored by the U.S. and Soviet Union, one of the first examples
of such cooperation between the two countries. There, he again met
with Bush. En route home, he travelled to France where he
stayed with Mitterrand at the latter's home near Bayonne.
After the coup, Gorbachev continued to pursue plans for a new union
treaty but found increasing opposition to the idea of a continued
federal state as the leaders of various Soviet republics bowed to
growing nationalist pressure. Yeltsin stated that he
would veto any idea of a unified state, instead favouring a
confederation with little central authority. Only the
leaders of the Kazakhstan and Kirghizia supported Gorbachev's
approach. On 1 December a referendum in Ukraine produced
over 90% support for secession from the Union; Gorbachev had expected
Ukrainians to reject independence.
Without Gorbachev's knowledge, Yeltsin met with Ukrainian President
Leonid Kravchuk and Belarusian President
Stanislav Shushkevich in
Belovezha Forest, near Brest, Belarus, on 8 December and signed the
Belavezha Accords, which declared the
Soviet Union had ceased to exist
and formed the
Commonwealth of Independent States
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as its
successor. Gorbachev only learned of this development
when Shushkevich phoned him; Gorbachev was furious. He
desperately looked for an opportunity to preserve the Soviet Union,
hoping in vain that the media and intelligentsia might rally against
the idea of its dissolution. The Ukrainian, Belarussian,
and Russian Supreme Soviets then ratified the establishment of the
CIS. On 10 December, he issued a statement calling the
CIS agreement "illegal and dangerous". On 20 December,
the leaders of 11 of the 12 remaining republics–all except
Alma-Ata and signed the
Alma-Ata Protocol, agreeing
to dismantle the
Soviet Union and formally establish the CIS. They
also provisionally accepted Gorbachev's resignation as president of
what remained of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev revealed that he would
resign as soon as he saw that the CIS was a
Yeltsin was tasked with overseeing the transfer of power from
Gorbachev to its successor states. He and Gorbachev
agreed that the latter would formally announce his resignation as
Soviet President and Commander-in-Chief on 25 December, before
vacating the Kremlin by 29 December. Yakovlev, Chernyaev,
and Shevardnadze joined Gorbachev to help him write a resignation
speech. Gorbachev then gave his speech in the Kremlin in
front of television cameras, allowing for international
broadcast. In it, he announced, "I hereby discontinue my
activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics." He expressed regret for the breakup of the Soviet Union
but cited what he saw as the achievements of his administration:
political and religious freedom, the end of totalitarianism, the
introduction of democracy and a market economy, and an end to the arms
race and Cold War. Gorbachev was only the second Soviet
leader, after Khrushchev, not to die in
Soviet Union officially ceased
to exist at midnight on 31 December 1991.
Initial years: 1991–1999
Gorbachev visiting Reagan, both in western wear, at Rancho del Cielo
Out of office, Gorbachev had more time to spend with his wife and
family. He and Raisa initially lived in their dilapidated
dacha on Rublevskoe Shosse, although were also allowed to privatise
their small apartment on Kosygin Street. He focused on
establishing his International Foundation for Socio-Economic and
Political Studies, or "Gorbachev Foundation", launched in March
1992; Yakovlev and Grigory Revenko were its first Vice
Presidents. Its initial tasks were in analysing and
publishing material on the history of perestroika, as well as
defending the policy from what it called "slander and falsifications".
The foundation also tasked itself with monitoring and critiquing life
Russia and presenting alternate forms of development to
those pursued by Yeltsin. In 1993, Gorbachev launched
Green Cross International, which focused on encouraging sustainable
futures, and then the World Political Forum.
To finance his foundation, Gorbachev began lecturing internationally,
charging large fees to do so. On a visit to Japan, he was
well received and given multiple honorary degrees. In
1992, he toured the U.S. in a
Forbes private jet to raise money for
his foundation. During the trip he met up with the Reagans for a
social visit. From there he went to Spain, where he
attended the Expo '92 world fair in
Seville and also met with Prime
Minister Felipe González, who had become a friend of
his. In March, he visited Germany, where he was received
warmly by many politicians who praised his role in facilitating German
reunification. To supplement his lecture fees and book
sales, Gorbachev appeared in print and television adverts for
Pizza Hut and Louis Vuitton, enabling him to keep the
foundation afloat. With his wife's assistance, Gorbachev
worked on his memoires, which were published in Russian in 1995 and in
English the following year. He also began writing a
monthly syndicated column for The New York Times.
Gorbachev had promised to refrain from criticising Yeltsin while the
latter pursued democratic reforms, but soon the two men were publicly
criticising each other again. After Yeltsin's decision to
lift price caps generated massive inflation and plunged many Russians
into poverty, Gorbachev openly criticised him, comparing the reform to
Stalin's policy of forced collectivisation. After
pro-Yeltsin parties did poorly in the 1993 legislative election,
Gorbachev called on him to resign. In 1995 his foundation
held a conference on "The
Intelligentsia and Perestroika". It was
there that Gorbachev proposed to the Duma a law that would reduce many
of the presidential powers established by Yeltsin's 1993
constitution. Gorbachev continued to defend perestroika
but acknowledged that he had made tactical errors as Soviet
leader. While he still believed that
undergoing a process of democratisation, he concluded that it would
take decades rather than years, as he had previously
Gorbachev, daughter Irina and his wife's sister Lyudmila at the
funeral of Raisa, 1999
The Russian presidential elections were scheduled for June 1996, and
although his wife and most of his friends urged him not to run,
Gorbachev decided to do so. He hated the idea that the
election would result in a run-off between Yeltsin and Gennady
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Communist Party of the Russian Federation candidate whom
Yeltsin saw as a Stalinist hardliner. He never expected to win
outright but thought a centrist bloc could be formed around either
himself or one of the other candidates with similar views, such as
Grigory Yavlinsky, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, or Alexander
Lebed. After securing the necessary one million
signatures of nomination, he announced his candidacy in
March. Launching his campaign, he travelled across Russia
giving rallies in twenty cities. He repeatedly faced
anti-Gorbachev protesters, while some pro-Yeltsin local officials
tried to hamper his campaign by banning local media from covering it
or by refusing him access to venues. In the election,
Gorbachev came seventh with circa 386,000 votes, or around 0.5% of the
total. Yeltsin and Zyuganov went through to the second
round, where the former was victorious.
In contrast to her husband's political efforts, Raisa had focused on
campaigning for children's charities. In 1997 she founded
a sub-division of the Gorbachev Foundation known as Raisa Maksimovna's
Club to focus on improving women's welfare in Russia. The
Foundation had initially been housed in the former Social Science
Institute building, but Yeltsin introduced limits to the number of
rooms it could use there; the American philanthropist Ted
Turner then donated over $1 million to enable the foundation to build
a new premises on the Leningradsky Prospekt. In 1999,
Gorbachev made his first visit to Australia, where he gave a speech to
the country's parliament. Shortly after, in July, Raisa
was diagnosed with leukaemia. With the assistance of German Chancellor
Gerhard Schröder, she was transferred to a cancer centre in Münster,
Germany and there underwent chemotherapy. In September
she fell into a coma and died. After Raisa's passing,
Gorbachev's daughter Irina and his two granddaughters moved into his
Moscow home to live with him. When questioned by
journalists, he said that he would never remarry.
Promoting social-democracy in Putin's Russia: 1999–2008
Gorbachev attended the Inauguration of
Vladimir Putin in May 2000
In December 1999, Yeltsin resigned and was succeeded by his deputy,
Vladimir Putin, who then won the March 2000 presidential
election. Gorbachev attended Putin's inauguration
ceremony in May, the first time he had entered the Kremlin since
Gorbachev initially welcomed Putin's rise, seeing him as an
anti-Yeltsin figure. Although he spoke out against some
of the Putin government's actions, Gorbachev also had praise for the
new regime; in 2002 he said that "I've been in the same skin. That's
what allows me to say what [Putin's] done is in the interest of the
majority". At the time, he believed Putin to be a
committed democrat who nevertheless had to use "a certain dose of
authoritarianism" to stabilize the economy and rebuild the state after
the Yeltsin era. At Putin's request, Gorbachev became
co-chair of the "Petersburg Dialogue" project between high-ranking
Russians and Germans.
In 2000, Gorbachev helped form the Russian United Social Democratic
Party. In June 2002 he participated in a meeting with
Putin, who praised the venture, suggesting that a centre-left party
could be good for
Russia and that he would be open to working with
it. In 2003, Gorbachev's party merged with the Social
Democratic Party to form the Social Democratic Party of
Russia, which faced much internal division and failed to
gain traction with voters. Gorbachev resigned as party
leader in May 2004 following a disagreement with the party's chairman
over the direction taken in the 2003 election campaign. The party was
later banned in 2007 by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
due to its failure to establish local offices with at least 500
members in the majority of Russian regions, which is required by
Russian law for a political organization to be listed as a
party. Later that year, Gorbachev founded a new movement,
the Union of Social Democrats. Stating that it would not contest the
forthcoming elections, Gorbachev declared: "We are fighting for power,
but only for power over people's minds".
Gorbachev was critical of U.S. hostility to Putin, arguing that the
U.S. government "doesn't want
Russia to rise" again as a global power
and wants "to continue as the sole superpower in charge of the
world". More broadly, Gorbachev was critical of U.S.
policy following the Cold War, arguing that the West had attempted to
"turn [Russia] into some kind of backwater". He rejected
the idea – expressed by Bush – that the U.S. had "won" the Cold
War, arguing that both sides had cooperated to end the
conflict. He claimed that since the fall of the Soviet
Union, the U.S., rather than cooperating with Russia, had conspired to
build a "new empire headed by themselves". He was
critical of how the U.S. had expanded
NATO right up to Russia's
borders despite their initial assurances that they would not do so,
citing this as evidence that the U.S. government could not be
trusted. He spoke out against the 1999 NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia because it lacked UN backing, as well as the
2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. In June 2004
Gorbachev nevertheless attended Reagan's state funeral,
and in 2007 visited
New Orleans to see the damage caused by Hurricane
Growing criticism of Putin: 2008–
Barred by the constitution from serving more than two consecutive
terms as President, Putin stood down in 2008 and was succeeded by his
Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, who reached out to Gorbachev in ways
that Putin had not. In September 2008, Gorbachev and
Alexander Lebedev announced they would form the
Independent Democratic Party of Russia, and in May 2009
Gorbachev announced that the launch was imminent. After
the outbreak of the
2008 South Ossetia war
2008 South Ossetia war between
Russia and South
Ossetian separatists on one side and Georgia on the other, Gorbachev
spoke out against U.S. support for Georgian President Mikheil
Saakashvili and for moving to bring the
Caucasus into the sphere of
its national interest. Gorbachev
nevertheless remained critical of Russia's government and criticised
the 2011 parliamentary elections as being rigged in favour of the
governing party, United Russia, and called for them to be
re-held. After protests broke out in Moscow over the
election, Gorbachev praised the protesters.
Gorbachev (right) being introduced to U.S. President
Barack Obama by
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, March 2009
In 2009 Gorbachev released Songs for Raisa, an album of Russian
romantic ballads, sung by him and accompanied by musician Andrei
Makarevich, to raise money for a charity devoted to his late
wife. That year he also met with U.S. President Barack
Obama in efforts to "reset" strained U.S.-Russian
relations, and attended an event in Berlin commemorating
the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 2011, an eightieth birthday gala for him was held at London's Royal
Albert Hall, featuring tributes from Simon Peres, Lech Wałęsa,
Michel Rocard, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proceeds from the event went
to the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation. That year, Medvedev
awarded him the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the
In 2012, Putin announced that he was standing again as President,
something Gorbachev was critical
of. He complained that Putin's
new measures had "tightened the screws" on
Russia and that the
president was trying to "completely subordinate society", adding that
United Russia now "embodied the worst bureaucratic features of the
Soviet Communist party". In 2013, he noted that in
Russia, "politics is increasingly turning into imitation democracy"
with "all power in the hands of the executive branch".
Gorbachev was in increasingly poor health; in 2011 he had spinal
operation and in 2014 oral surgery. In 2015, Gorbachev
ceased his pervasive international traveling. He
continued to speak out on issues affecting
Russia and the world. In
2014, he defended the Crimean status referendum that led to Russia's
annexation of Crimea. He noted that while
Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both were part of the
Soviet Union, the Crimean people had not been asked at the time,
whereas in the 2014 referendum they had. After sanctions
were placed on
Russia as a result of the annexation, Gorbachev spoke
out against them. His comments led to Ukraine banning him
from entering the country for five years.
Russia can succeed only through democracy.
Russia is ready for
political competition, a real multiparty system, fair elections and
regular rotation of government. This should define the role and
responsibility of the president.
— Gorbachev, 2017
At a November 2014 event marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin
Wall, Gorbachev warned that the Ukraine conflict had brought the world
to the brink of a new cold war, and he accused Western powers,
particularly the U.S., of adopting an attitude of "triumphalism"
towards Russia. In July 2016,
NATO for deploying more troops to Eastern Europe
amid escalating tensions between the military alliance and
In a Russian video interview published in February 2016, Gorbachev
said that Putin rules through "friends from school, with people with
whom he played football on the same street. ... The supremacy of
security structures, their excessive prerogatives in deciding
political issues, and in interfering in peoples’ lives, is
unacceptable, is over the top."
In June 2018, he welcomed the 2018 Russia–
United States summit
between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, although
in October criticised Trump's threat to withdraw from the 1987
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying the move "is not the
work of a great mind." He added: "all agreements aimed at nuclear
disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons must be preserved
for the sake of life on Earth."
Even before he left office, Gorbachev had become a kind of social
democrat—believing in, as he later put it, equality of opportunity,
publicly supported education and medical care, a guaranteed minimum of
social welfare, and a "socially oriented market economy"—all within
a democratic political framework. Exactly when this transformation
occurred is hard to say, but surely by 1989 or 1990 it had taken
— Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, 2017
According to his university friend Zdeněk Mlynář, in the early
1950s "Gorbachev, like everyone else at the time, was a
Stalinist." Mlynář noted, however, that unlike most
other Soviet students, Gorbachev did not view
Marxism simply as "a
collection of axioms to be committed to memory."
Biographers Doder and Branson related that after Stalin's death,
Gorbachev's "ideology would never be doctrinal again",
but noted that he remained "a true believer" in the Soviet
system. Doder and Branson noted that at the
Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986, Gorbachev was seen to be an
orthodox Marxist-Leninist; that year, the biographer
Zhores Medvedev stated that "Gorbachev is neither a liberal nor a bold
By the mid-1980s, when Gorbachev took power, many analysts were
arguing that the
Soviet Union was declining to the status of a Third
In this context, Gorbachev argued that the Communist Party had to
adapt and engage in creative thinking much as Lenin had creatively
interpreted and adapted the writings of
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
to the situation of early 20th century Russia. For
instance, he thought that rhetoric about global revolution and
overthrowing the bourgeoise—which had been integral to Leninist
politics—had become too dangerous in an era where nuclear warfare
could obliterate humanity. He began to move away from the
Marxist-Leninist belief in class struggle as the engine of political
change, instead viewing politics as a ways of co-ordinating the
interests of all classes. However, as Gooding noted, the
changes that Gorbachev proposed were "expressed wholly within the
terms of Marxist-Leninist ideology".
According to Doder and Branson, Gorbachev also wanted to "dismantle
the hierarchical military society at home and abandon the grand-style,
costly, imperialism abroad". However, Jonathan Steele
argued that Gorbachev failed to appreciate why the Baltic nations
wanted independence and "at heart he was, and remains, a Russian
imperialist." Gooding thought that Gorbachev was
"committed to democracy", something marking him out as different from
his predecessors. Gooding also suggested that when in
power, Gorbachev came to see socialism not as a place on the path to
communism, but a destination in itself.
Gorbachev in 1987
Gorbachev's political outlook was shaped by the 23 years he served as
a party official in Stavropol. Doder and Branson thought
that throughout most of his political career prior to becoming General
Secretary, "his publicly expressed views almost certainly reflected a
politician's understanding of what should be said, rather than his
personal philosophy. Otherwise he could not have survived
Like many Russians, Gorbachev sometimes thought of the
Soviet Union as
being largely synonymous with
Russia and in various speeches described
it as "Russia"; in one incident he had to correct himself after
calling the USSR "Russia" while giving a speech in Kiev,
McCauley noted that perestroika was "an elusive concept", one which
"evolved and eventually meant something radically different over
time." McCauley stated that the concept originally
referred to "radical reform of the economic and political system" as
part of Gorbachev's attempt to motivate the labour force and make
management more effective. It was only after initial
measures to achieve this proved unsuccessful that Gorbachev began to
consider market mechanisms and co-operatives, albeit with the state
sector remaining dominant. The political scientist John
Gooding suggested that had the perestroika reforms succeeded, the
Soviet Union would have "exchanged totalitarian controls for milder
authoritarian ones" although not become "democratic in the Western
sense". With perestroika, Gorbachev had wanted to improve
the existing Marxist-Leninist system but ultimately ended up
destroying it. In this, he brought an end to state
socialism in the
Soviet Union and paved the way for a transition to
Taubman nevertheless thought Gorbachev remained a
socialist. He described Gorbachev as "a true
believer—not in the Soviet system as it functioned (or didn't) in
1985 but in its potential to live up to what he deemed its original
ideals." He added that "until the end, Gorbachev
reiterated his belief in socialism, insisting that it wasn't worthy of
the name unless it was truly democratic."
As Soviet leader, Gorbachev believed in incremental reform rather than
a radical transformation; he later referred to this as a
"revolution by evolutionary means". Doder and Branson
noted that over the course of the 1980s, his thought underwent a
"radical evolution". Taubman noted that by 1989 or 1990,
Gorbachev had transformed into a social democrat.
McCauley suggested that by at least June 1991 Gorbachev was a
"post-Leninist", having "liberated himself" from
Marxism-Leninism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation
Communist Party of the Russian Federation would have
nothing to do with him. However, in 2006, he expressed
his continued belief in Lenin's ideas: "I trusted him then and I still
do". He claimed that "the essence of Lenin" was a desire
to develop "the living creative activity of the masses".
Taubman believed that Gorbachev identified with Lenin on a
The official Soviet portrait of Gorbachev; many official photographs
and visual depictions of Gorbachev removed the port-wine birthmark
from his head
Reaching an adult height of 5 foot 9 inches
(1.75 m), Gorbachev has a distinctive port-wine
stain on the top of his head. By 1955 his hair was
thinning, and by the late 1960s he was bald.
Throughout the 1960s he struggled against obesity and dieted to
control the issue; Doder and Branson characterised him as
"stocky but not fat". He speaks in a southern Russian
accent, and is known to sing both folk and pop
Throughout his life, he tried to dress fashionably.
Having an aversion to hard liquor, he drank sparingly and
did not smoke. He was protective of his private life and
avoided inviting people to his home.
Gorbachev cherished his wife, who in turn was extremely
protective of him.
He was an involved parent and grandparent. He sent his
daughter, his only child, to a local school in
Stavropol rather than
to a school set aside for the children of party elites.
Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Soviet administration, he was
not a womaniser and was known for treating women
Gorbachev was baptized Russian Orthodox and when he was growing up,
his grandparents had been practicing Christians. In 2008,
there was some press speculation that he was a practicing Christian,
to which he publicly clarified that he was an atheist.
Since studying at university, Gorbachev considered himself an
intellectual; Doder and Branson thought that "his
intellectualism was slightly self-conscious", noting that
unlike most Russian intelligentsia, Gorbachev was not closely
connected "to the world of science, culture, the arts, or
education". When living in
Stavropol he and his wife
collected hundreds of books. Among his favourite authors
were Arthur Miller, Dostoevsky, and Chingiz Aitmatov, while he also
enjoyed reading detective fiction. He enjoyed going for
walks, having a love of natural
environments, and was also a fan of association
football. He favoured small gatherings where the
assembled discussed topics like art and philosophy rather than the
large, alcohol-fuelled parties common among Soviet
Gorbachev's university friend, Mlynář, described him as "loyal and
personally honest". He was self-confident,
polite, and tactful; he had a happy and
optimistic temperament. He used self-deprecating
humour, and sometimes profanities, and often
referred to himself in the third person. He was a
skilled manager, and had a good memory. A
hard worker or workaholic, as General Secretary, he would
rise at 7 or 8 in the morning and not go to bed until 1 or
2. Taubman called him "a remarkably decent
man"; he thought Gorbachev to have "high moral
Gorbachev at the
Western Wall in Jerusalem, 16 June 1992
Zhores Medvedev thought him a talented orator, in 1986 stating that
"Gorbachev is probably the best speaker there has been in the top
Party echelons" since Leon Trotsky. Medvedev also
considered Gorbachev "a charismatic leader", something Brezhnev,
Andropov, and Chernenko had not been. Doder and Branson
called him "a charmer capable of intellectually seducing doubters,
always trying to co-opt them, or at least blunt the edge of their
criticism". McCauley thought Gorbachev displayed "great
tactical skill" in manoeuvring successfully between hardline
Marxist-Leninists and liberalisers for most of his time as leader,
although added that he was "much more skilled at tactical, short-term
policy than strategic, long-term thinking", in part because he was
"given to making policy on the hoof".
Doder and Branson thought Gorbachev "a Russian to the core, intensely
patriotic as only people living in the border regions can
Taubman also noted that the former Soviet leader has a "sense of
self-importance and self-righteousness" as well as a "need for
attention and admiration" which grated on some of his
colleagues. He was sensitive to personal criticism and
easily took offense. Colleagues were often frustrated
that he would leave tasks unfinished, and sometimes also
felt underappreciated and discarded by him. Biographers
Doder and Branson thought that Gorbachev was "a puritan" with "a
proclivity for order in his personal life". Taubman noted
that he was "capable of blowing up for calculated
effect". He also thought that by 1990, when his domestic
popularity was waning, Gorbachev become "psychologically dependent on
being lionized abroad", a trait for which he was criticised in the
Soviet Union. McCauley was of the view that "one of his
weaknesses was an inability to foresee the consequences of his
Reception and legacy
Opinions on Gorbachev are deeply divided. Many,
particularly in Western countries, see him as the greatest statesman
of the second half of the twentieth century. U.S. press
referred to the presence of "Gorbymania" in Western countries during
the late 1980s and early 1990s, as represented by large crowds that
turned out to greet his visits, with Time magazine naming
him its "Man of the Decade" in the 1980s. In the Soviet
Union itself, opinion polls indicated that Gorbachev was the most
popular politician from 1985 through to late 1989. For
his domestic supporters, Gorbachev was seen as a reformer trying to
modernise the Soviet Union, and to build a form of
democratic socialism. Taubman characterised Gorbachev as
"a visionary who changed his country and the world—though neither as
much as he wished." Taubman regarded Gorbachev as being
"exceptional... as a Russian ruler and a world statesman",
highlighting that he avoided the "traditional, authoritarian,
anti-Western norm" of both predecessors like Brezhnev and successors
like Putin. McCauley thought that in allowing the Soviet
Union to move away from Marxism-Leninism, Gorbachev gave the Soviet
people "something precious, the right to think and manage their lives
for themselves", with all the uncertainty and risk that that
Gorbachev succeeded in destroying what was left of totalitarianism in
the Soviet Union; he brought freedom of speech, of assembly, and of
conscience to people who had never known it, except perhaps for a few
chaotic months in 1917. By introducing free elections and creating
parliamentary institutions, he laid the groundwork for democracy. It
is more the fault of the raw material he worked with than of his own
real shortcomings and mistakes that Russian democracy will take much
longer to build than he thought.
— Gorbachev biographer William Taubman, 2017
Gorbachev's negotiations with the U.S. helped bring an end to the Cold
War and reduced the threat of nuclear conflict. His
decision to allow the
Eastern Bloc to break apart prevented
significant bloodshed in Central and Eastern Europe; as Taubman noted,
this meant that the "Soviet Empire" ended in a far more peaceful
manner than the
British Empire several decades before.
Similarly, under Gorbachev, the
Soviet Union broke apart without
falling into civil war, as happened during the breakup of Yugoslavia
at the same time. McCauley noted that in facilitating the
merger of East and West Germany, Gorbachev was "a co-father of German
unification", assuring him long-term popularity among the German
He also faced domestic criticism during his rule. During his career,
Gorbachev attracted the admiration of some colleagues, but others came
to hate him. Across society more broadly, his inability
to reverse the decline in the Soviet economy brought
discontent. Liberals thought he lacked the radicalism to
really break from
Marxism-Leninism and establish a free market liberal
democracy. Conversely, many of his Communist Party
critics thought his reforms were reckless and threatened the survival
of Soviet socialism; some believed he should have
followed the example of China's Communist Party and restricted himself
to economic rather than governmental reforms. Many
Russians saw his emphasis on persuasion rather than force as a sign of
For much of the Communist Party nomenklatura, the Soviet Union's
dissolution was disastrous as it resulted in their loss of
power. In Russia, he is widely despised for his role in
the collapse of the
Soviet Union and the ensuing economic
collapse. General Varennikov, one of those who
orchestrated the 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev, for instance
called him "a renegade and traitor to your own people".
Many of his critics attacked him for allowing the Marxist-Leninist
governments across Eastern Europe to fall, and for
allowing a reunited Germany to join NATO, something they deem to be
contrary to Russia's national interest.
The historian Mark Galeotti stressed the connection between Gorbachev
and his predecessor, Andropov. In Galeotti's view, Andropov was "the
godfather of the Gorbachev revolution", because—as a former head of
the KGB—he was able to put forward the case for reform without
having his loyalty to the Soviet cause questioned, an approach that
Gorbachev was able to build on and follow through with.
According to McCauley, Gorbachev "set reforms in motion without
understanding where they could lead. Never in his worst nightmare
could he have imagined that perestroika would lead to the destruction
of the Soviet Union".
Orders, decorations, monuments, and honours
Former President of the
Ronald Reagan awards Gorbachev
the first ever
Ronald Reagan Freedom Award at the Reagan Library, 4
In 1988, India awarded Gorbachev the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace,
Disarmament and Development; in 1990 he was given the
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize for "his leading role in the peace process which
today characterizes important parts of the international
community". Out of office he continued to receive
honours. In 1992 he was the first recipient of the Ronald Reagan
Freedom Award, and in 1994 was given the Grawemeyer Award
by the University of Louisville, Kentucky. In 1995 he was
awarded the Grand-Cross of the
Order of Liberty
Order of Liberty by Portuguese
President Mário Soares, and in 1998 the Freedom Award
National Civil Rights Museum
National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis,
Tennessee. In 2002, Gorbachev received the Freedom of the
City of Dublin from Dublin City Council.
In 2002, Gorbachev was awarded the Charles V Prize by the European
Academy of Yuste Foundation. Gorbachev, together with
Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren, were awarded the 2004 Grammy Award for
Best Spoken Word Album for Children for their recording of Sergei
Peter and the Wolf
Peter and the Wolf for Pentatone. In 2005,
Gorbachev was awarded the Point Alpha Prize for his role in supporting
German reunification. He also received honorary doctorates from the
Münster and University of Alaska
Year of publication
Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century: Gorbachev and Ikeda on
Buddhism and Communism
I. B. Tauris
The New Russia
In a Changing World
April 9 Tragedy
April 9 Tragedy – Soviet crackdown on Georgian protests in 1989
Black January – Soviet crackdown on Azerbaijani protests in
Index of Soviet Union-related articles
List of peace activists
Sergei M. Plekhanov – former Gorbachev advisor on the United States
Ruhollah Khomeini's letter to Mikhail Gorbachev
^ Himself as the Chairman of the United Social Democratic Party of
Russia until 24 November 2001, and the Chairman of the Social
Democratic Party of
Russia until 20 October 2007
^ UK: /ˈɡɔːrbətʃɒf, ˌɡɔːrbəˈtʃɒf/, US: /-tʃɔːf,
-tʃɛf/; Russian: Михаи́л
Серге́евич Горбачёв, IPA: [mʲɪxɐˈil
sʲɪrˈɡʲejɪvʲɪtɕ ɡərbɐˈtɕɵf] (listen)
^ "Gorbachev". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
^ "Gorbachev, Mikhail", Oxford Dictionaries, accessed 4 February 2019
Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved 4 February
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^ Taubman 2017, p. 121.
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^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 322.
^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 324.
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^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 329.
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^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 263.
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^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 286.
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 159–162; McCauley 1998,
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^ McCauley 1998, pp. 80–81; Taubman 2017, pp. 297–301.
^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 304.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 267.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 154–155.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 222.
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^ Taubman 2017, p. 308.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 310.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 311.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 312.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 239; Taubman 2017, p. 313.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 115; Taubman 2017, pp. 434–435,
^ McCauley 1998, p. 116; Taubman 2017, p. 450.
^ a b Taubman 2017, p. 314.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 338–339.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 317.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 315.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 151; Taubman 2017, p. 341.
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 186–187.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 195.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 246; Taubman 2017, p. 319.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 281; McCauley 1998, p. 92;
Taubman 2017, pp. 320–321.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 282; Taubman 2017, p. 321.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 305–306; McCauley 1998,
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^ Taubman 2017, pp. 345–346.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 94; Taubman 2017, pp. 346–349.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 349–350.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 192–193, 324; McCauley 1998,
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 336; Steele 1996,
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^ McCauley 1998, p. 105; Taubman 2017, pp. 353–354.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 352.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 359.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 100; Taubman 2017, p. 371.
^ McCauley 1998, pp. 104–105; Taubman 2017, pp. 428–429.
^ McCauley 1998, pp. 104–105; Taubman 2017, pp. 429–430.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 107; Taubman 2017, p. 444.
^ McCauley 1998, pp. 106–107; Taubman 2017, pp. 431–432.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 433.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 434.
^ a b McCauley 1998, p. 108; Taubman 2017, p. 442.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 109; Taubman 2017, p. 444.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 445–448.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 456–457.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 387.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 386–387.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 231; McCauley 1998, pp. 83,
142; Taubman 2017, p. 387.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 217, 220; McCauley 1998,
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 371; McCauley 1998, p. 143;
Taubman 2017, pp. 475–476.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 387–388.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 43; Taubman 2017, pp. 388–389.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 476–478.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 144.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 392.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 364; Taubman 2017,
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 479–480.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 208–209.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 215.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 393–394.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 394–396.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 234–237; Taubman 2017,
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p. 138; Taubman 2017, pp. 401–403.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 401.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 318; Taubman 2017, pp. 411,
^ Taubman 2017, p. 414.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 415.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 320; Taubman 2017,
^ Taubman 2017, p. 419.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 356–357; McCauley 1998,
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 352; McCauley 1998, p. 139;
Taubman 2017, pp. 422–426.
^ Taubman 2017, pp. 467–470.
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^ Taubman 2017, pp. 496–497.
^ Taubman 2017, p. 498.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 142.
^ McCauley 1998, pp. 74–75.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 268; McCauley 1998, p. 76;
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^ Doder & Branson 1990, pp. 267–268, 299–300; McCauley
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^ Taubman 2017, p. 368.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 301; Taubman 2017, p. 369.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 301; McCauley 1998, p. 119;
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^ Taubman 2017, p. 370.
^ Doder & Branson 1990, p. 413; McCauley 1998, p. 159;
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^ McCauley 1998, p. 130; Taubman 2017, pp. 436–437.
^ McCauley 1998, pp. 126–127; Taubman 2017, p. 435.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 128; Taubman 2017, p. 452.
^ McCauley 1998, p. 128.
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^ Taubman 2017, pp. 465–466.
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^ Taubman 2017, pp. 505–506.
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mikhail Gorbachev
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The Gorbachev Foundation
Green Cross International
Gorbachev 80th Birthday Gala Celebration –
Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall London,
30 March 2011
Appearances on C-SPAN
Column and op-ed archives at The Guardian
Mikhail Gorbachev collected news and commentary". The Guardian.
Mikhail Gorbachev collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
Interviews and articles
"Commanding Heights: Mikhail Gorbachev" (PBS interview), April 2001
Ubben Lecture at DePauw University – October 2005
"Gorbachev on 1989" – interview by The Nation, September 2009
"Gorbachev's Legacy Examined, 25 Years After His Rise to Power" –
Russia Beyond, March 2010
"Chernobyl 25 years later: Many lessons learned" – article by
Mikhail Gorbachev published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
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Party of Labour of Albania
Bulgarian Communist Party
Communist Party of Czechoslovakia
Socialist Unity Party of Germany
Hungarian Working People's PartyHungarian Socialist Workers' Party
Polish United Workers' Party
Romanian Communist Party
League of Communists of Yugoslavia
Josip Broz Tito
(1980–1990, rotating leadership)
vteRevolutions of 1989Internalbackground
Era of Stagnation
Criticism of communist party rule
Eastern Bloc economies
Eastern Bloc politics
Eastern Bloc media and propaganda
Eastern Bloc emigration and defection
Eastern European anti-Communist insurgencies
List of socialist states
People Power Revolution
Predictions of the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Terrorism and the Soviet Union
Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia
Democratization in the Soviet Union
Socialism with Chinese characteristics
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Denis Sassou Nguesso
Polish underground press
Aung San Suu Kyi
George H. W. Bush
Pope John Paul II
Beijing Students' Autonomous Federation
Democratic Party of Albania
Initiative for Peace and Human Rights
People's Movement of Ukraine
Popular Front of Latvia
Popular Front of Estonia
Public Against Violence
Belarusian Popular Front
National League for Democracy
National Salvation Front
Unification Church political activities
Union of Democratic Forces
Eventsby locationCentral and Eastern Europe
1987–89 Tibetan unrest
1988 Polish strikes
Polish Round Table Agreement
April 9 tragedy
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Removal of Hungary's border fence with Austria
Hungarian Round Table Talks
Fall of the Berlin Wall
Fall of the inner German border
January Events in Lithuania
January Events in Latvia
1991 protests in Belgrade
Dissolution of the Warsaw Pact
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
Cold War II
Guerrilla war in the Baltic states
Occupation of the Baltic states
Division of Korea
Operation Blacklist Forty
Iran crisis of 1946
Greek Civil War
Corfu Channel incident
Turkish Straits crisis
Restatement of Policy on Germany
First Indochina War
Asian Relations Conference
May 1947 Crises
1948 Czechoslovak coup d'état
1947–1949 Palestine war
1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine
1948 Arab–Israeli War
1948 Palestinian exodus
Chinese Civil War
Chinese Civil War (Second round)
Egyptian Revolution of 1952
1953 Iranian coup d'état
Uprising of 1953 in East Germany
1954 Guatemalan coup d'état
Partition of Vietnam
Jebel Akhdar War
First Taiwan Strait Crisis
Geneva Summit (1955)
Poznań 1956 protests
Hungarian Revolution of 1956
Yemeni–Adenese clan violence
"We will bury you"
Arab Cold War
Syrian Crisis of 1957
1958 Lebanon crisis
Iraqi 14 July Revolution
Second Taiwan Strait Crisis
1959 Tibetan uprising
1959 Mosul uprising
1960 U-2 incident
Bay of Pigs Invasion
1960 Turkish coup d'état
First Iraqi–Kurdish War
Berlin Crisis of 1961
Dirty War (Mexico)
Portuguese Colonial War
Angolan War of Independence
Guinea-Bissau War of Independence
Mozambican War of Independence
Cuban Missile Crisis
Communist insurgency in Sarawak
Iraqi Ramadan Revolution
Eritrean War of Independence
North Yemen Civil War
1963 Syrian coup d'état
Assassination of John F. Kennedy
Cyprus crisis of 1963–64
Guatemalan Civil War
1964 Brazilian coup d'état
Dominican Civil War
Rhodesian Bush War
South African Border War
Transition to the New Order
Transition to the New Order (Indonesia)
Laotian Civil War
1966 Syrian coup d'état
Korean DMZ Conflict
Greek military junta of 1967–1974
Years of Lead (Italy)
USS Pueblo incident
War of Attrition
Protests of 1968
1968 Polish political crisis
Communist insurgency in Malaysia
Invasion of Czechoslovakia
Iraqi Ba'athist Revolution
1969 Libyan coup d'état
Sino-Soviet border conflict
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Black September in Jordan
Corrective Movement (Syria)
Western Sahara conflict
Cambodian Civil War
Corrective Revolution (Egypt)
1971 Turkish military memorandum
1971 Sudanese coup d'état
Four Power Agreement on Berlin
Bangladesh Liberation War
1972 Nixon visit to China
North Yemen-South Yemen Border conflict of 1972
Yemenite War of 1972
Communist insurgency in Bangladesh
Eritrean Civil Wars
1973 Uruguayan coup d'état
1973 Chilean coup d'état
Yom Kippur War
1973 oil crisis
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Second Iraqi–Kurdish War
Turkish invasion of Cyprus
Angolan Civil War
Mozambican Civil War
Western Sahara War
Ethiopian Civil War
Lebanese Civil War
Dirty War (Argentina)
1976 Argentine coup d'état
Korean Air Lines Flight 902
Yemenite War of 1979
Grand Mosque seizure
New Jewel Movement
1979 Herat uprising
Seven Days to the River Rhine
Struggle against political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union
1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics boycotts
1980 Turkish coup d'état
Gulf of Sidra incident
Ugandan Bush War
Lord's Resistance Army insurgency
Eritrean Civil Wars
1982 Ethiopian–Somali Border War
United States invasion of Grenada
Able Archer 83
1986 Black Sea incident
South Yemen Civil War
1988 Black Sea bumping incident
Bougainville Civil War
Central American crisis
Korean Air Lines Flight 007
People Power Revolution
Afghan Civil War
United States invasion of Panama
1988 Polish strikes
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
Fall of the Berlin Wall
Fall of the inner German border
Mongolian Revolution of 1990
Fall of communism in Albania
Breakup of Yugoslavia
Dissolution of Czechoslovakia
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
Sino-Indian border dispute
North Borneo dispute
Sovereignty of Puerto Rico during the Cold War
Crusade for Freedom
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Voice of America
Voice of Russia
Nuclear arms race
Thomas A. Bailey
Warren H. Carroll
Nicholas J. Cull
Robert D. English
Robert Hugh Ferrell
Anneli Ute Gabanyi
John Lewis Gaddis
Timothy Garton Ash
John Earl Haynes
Patrick J. Hearden
Mary Elise Sarotte
Jack F. Matlock Jr.
Thomas J. McCormick
David S. Painter
William B. Pickett
Ronald E. Powaski
Yakov M. Rabkin
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
Alex von Tunzelmann
Odd Arne Westad
William Appleman Williams
Jonathan Reed Winkler
Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War
Eastern Bloc agents in the United States
Soviet espionage in the United States
United States relations
Russian espionage in the United States
American espionage in the
Soviet Union and Russian Federation
CIA and the Cultural Cold War
Cold War II
List of conflicts
Part of the War in
Afghanistan and the Cold War
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
Islamic Unity of
Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin
Hezb-e Islami Khalis
Abdul Rashid Dostum
Ahmad Shah Massoud
Abdul Ali Mazari
Abdullah Yusuf Azzam
Abdul Rahim Wardak
Events by year
3 Hoot uprising
Siege of Khost
Siege of Urgun
Battle of Maravar Pass
Battles of Zhawar
Battle of Jaji
Battle of Arghandab (1987)
Battle for Hill 3234
Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
Soviet aircraft losses
War in popular culture
Military equipment used by Mujahideen
Afghanistan War Memorial, Kiev
Films about war
The 9th Company
All Costs Paid
Charlie Wilson's War
The Kite Runner
The Living Daylights
The Magic Mountain
Deportation of Azerbaijanis from Armenia
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
Armenians in Azerbaijan
Armenians in Baku
Azerbaijanis in Armenia
Anti-Armenian sentiment in Azerbaijan
Anti-Azerbaijani sentiment in Armenia
Battle of Kalbajar
Capture of Shusha
Zvartnots Airport clash
Siege of Stepanakert
Mardakert and Martuni Offensives
Law on Abolishment of
Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast
1990 Tbilisi–Agdam bus bombing
1991 Azerbaijani Mil Mi-8 shootdown
1992 Azerbaijani Mil Mi-8 shootdown
1993 Summer Offensives
1994 Bagratashen bombing
Baku Metro bombings
2008 Mardakert skirmishes
2010 Mardakert skirmishes
2012 Armenian–Azerbaijani border clashes
2014 Armenian–Azerbaijani clashes
2014 Armenian Mil Mi-24 shootdown
2018 Armenian–Azerbaijani clashes
Administrative divisions of the Republic of Artsakh
Republic of Artsakh
Azerbaijani Community of Nagorno-Karabakh
Republic of Artsakh
Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
OSCE Minsk Group
NATO Lisbon Summit Declaration
OIC Resolution 10/11
OIC Resolution 10/37
PACE Resolution 1416
UNGA Resolution 62/243
vteTime Persons of the Year1927–1950
Charles Lindbergh (1927)
Walter Chrysler (1928)
Owen D. Young
Owen D. Young (1929)
Mohandas Gandhi (1930)
Pierre Laval (1931)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1932)
Hugh S. Johnson
Hugh S. Johnson (1933)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1934)
Haile Selassie (1935)
Wallis Simpson (1936)
Chiang Kai-shek /
Soong Mei-ling (1937)
Adolf Hitler (1938)
Joseph Stalin (1939)
Winston Churchill (1940)
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1941)
Joseph Stalin (1942)
George Marshall (1943)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1944)
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (1945)
James F. Byrnes
James F. Byrnes (1946)
George Marshall (1947)
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman (1948)
Winston Churchill (1949)
The American Fighting-Man (1950)
Mohammed Mosaddeq (1951)
Elizabeth II (1952)
Konrad Adenauer (1953)
John Foster Dulles
John Foster Dulles (1954)
Harlow Curtice (1955)
Hungarian Freedom Fighters (1956)
Nikita Khrushchev (1957)
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle (1958)
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1959)
George Beadle / Charles Draper / John Enders /
Donald A. Glaser
Donald A. Glaser /
Joshua Lederberg /
Willard Libby /
Linus Pauling /
Edward Purcell / Isidor Rabi /
Emilio Segrè /
William Shockley /
Edward Teller / Charles Townes /
James Van Allen
James Van Allen / Robert Woodward
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy (1961)
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII (1962)
Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson (1964)
William Westmoreland (1965)
The Generation Twenty-Five and Under (1966)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson (1967)
Apollo 8 Astronauts:
William Anders /
Frank Borman /
The Middle Americans (1969)
Willy Brandt (1970)
Richard Nixon (1971)
Henry Kissinger /
Richard Nixon (1972)
John Sirica (1973)
King Faisal (1974)
Susan Brownmiller /
Kathleen Byerly /
Alison Cheek /
Jill Conway /
Betty Ford /
Ella Grasso / Carla Hills / Barbara Jordan
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King /
Susie Sharp /
Carol Sutton / Addie Wyatt (1975)
Jimmy Carter (1976)
Anwar Sadat (1977)
Deng Xiaoping (1978)
Ayatollah Khomeini (1979)
Ronald Reagan (1980)
Lech Wałęsa (1981)
The Computer (1982)
Ronald Reagan /
Yuri Andropov (1983)
Peter Ueberroth (1984)
Deng Xiaoping (1985)
Corazon Aquino (1986)
Mikhail Gorbachev (1987)
The Endangered Earth (1988)
Mikhail Gorbachev (1989)
George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush (1990)
Ted Turner (1991)
Bill Clinton (1992)
Yasser Arafat /
F. W. de Klerk
F. W. de Klerk /
Nelson Mandela /
Yitzhak Rabin (1993)
Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (1994)
Newt Gingrich (1995)
David Ho (1996)
Andrew Grove (1997)
Bill Clinton /
Ken Starr (1998)
Jeff Bezos (1999)
George W. Bush
George W. Bush (2000)
Rudolph Giuliani (2001)
The Whistleblowers: Cynthia Cooper /
Coleen Rowley /
The American Soldier (2003)
George W. Bush
George W. Bush (2004)
The Good Samaritans:
Bill Gates /
Melinda Gates (2005)
Vladimir Putin (2007)
Barack Obama (2008)
Ben Bernanke (2009)
Mark Zuckerberg (2010)
The Protester (2011)
Barack Obama (2012)
Pope Francis (2013)
Ebola Fighters: Dr. Jerry Brown / Dr.
Kent Brantly / Ella
Watson-Stryker / Foday Gollah /
Salome Karwah (2014)
Angela Merkel (2015)
Donald Trump (2016)
The Silence Breakers (2017)
Jamal Khashoggi /
Maria Ressa / Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe
Oo / Staff of The Capital (2018)
vteLaureates of the Nobel Peace Prize1901–1925
1901: Henry Dunant / Frédéric Passy
1902: Élie Ducommun / Charles Gobat
1903: Randal Cremer
1904: Institut de Droit International
1905: Bertha von Suttner
1906: Theodore Roosevelt
1907: Ernesto Moneta / Louis Renault
1908: Klas Arnoldson / Fredrik Bajer
1909: A. M. F. Beernaert / Paul Estournelles de Constant
1910: International Peace Bureau
1911: Tobias Asser / Alfred Fried
1912: Elihu Root
1913: Henri La Fontaine
1917: International Committee of the Red Cross
1919: Woodrow Wilson
1920: Léon Bourgeois
1921: Hjalmar Branting / Christian Lange
1922: Fridtjof Nansen
1925: Austen Chamberlain / Charles Dawes
1926: Aristide Briand / Gustav Stresemann
1927: Ferdinand Buisson / Ludwig Quidde
1929: Frank B. Kellogg
1930: Nathan Söderblom
1931: Jane Addams / Nicholas Butler
1933: Norman Angell
1934: Arthur Henderson
1935: Carl von Ossietzky
1936: Carlos Saavedra Lamas
1937: Robert Cecil
1938: Nansen International Office for Refugees
1944: International Committee of the Red Cross
1945: Cordell Hull
1946: Emily Balch / John Mott
1947: Friends Service Council / American Friends Service
1949: John Boyd Orr
1950: Ralph Bunche
1951: Léon Jouhaux
1952: Albert Schweitzer
1953: George Marshall
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1957: Lester B. Pearson
1958: Georges Pire
1959: Philip Noel-Baker
1960: Albert Lutuli
1961: Dag Hammarskjöld
1962: Linus Pauling
1963: International Committee of the Red Cross / League of
Red Cross Societies
1964: Martin Luther King Jr.
1968: René Cassin
1969: International Labour Organization
1970: Norman Borlaug
1971: Willy Brandt
1973: Lê Đức Thọ (declined award) / Henry
1974: Seán MacBride / Eisaku Satō
1975: Andrei Sakharov
1976: Betty Williams / Mairead Corrigan
1977: Amnesty International
1978: Anwar Sadat / Menachem Begin
1979: Mother Teresa
1980: Adolfo Pérez Esquivel
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1982: Alva Myrdal / Alfonso García Robles
1983: Lech Wałęsa
1984: Desmond Tutu
1985: International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
1986: Elie Wiesel
1987: Óscar Arias
1988: UN Peacekeeping Forces
1989: Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama)
1990: Mikhail Gorbachev
1991: Aung San Suu Kyi
1992: Rigoberta Menchú
1993: Nelson Mandela / F. W. de Klerk
1994: Shimon Peres / Yitzhak Rabin / Yasser Arafat
1995: Pugwash Conferences / Joseph Rotblat
1996: Carlos Belo / José Ramos-Horta
1997: International Campaign to Ban Landmines / Jody Williams
1998: John Hume / David Trimble
1999: Médecins Sans Frontières
2000: Kim Dae-jung
2001: United Nations / Kofi Annan
2002: Jimmy Carter
2003: Shirin Ebadi
2004: Wangari Maathai
2005: International Atomic Energy Agency / Mohamed ElBaradei
2006: Grameen Bank / Muhammad Yunus
2007: Al Gore /
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2008: Martti Ahtisaari
2009: Barack Obama
2010: Liu Xiaobo
2011: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf / Leymah
Gbowee / Tawakkol Karman
2012: European Union
2013: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
2014: Kailash Satyarthi / Malala Yousafzai
2015: Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet
2016: Juan Manuel Santos
2017: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
2018: Denis Mukwege / Nadia Murad
2019: Abiy Ahmed
Nobel Prize laureatesChemistry
Elias James Corey
Elias James Corey (United
Octavio Paz (Mexico)Peace
Mikhail Gorbachev (Soviet
Jerome I. Friedman (United States)
Henry Way Kendall
Henry Way Kendall (United States)
Richard E. Taylor
Richard E. Taylor (Canada)
Physiology or Medicine
Joseph E. Murray (United States)
E. Donnall Thomas
E. Donnall Thomas (United States)
Harry Markowitz (United States)
Merton Miller (United States)
William F. Sharpe
William F. Sharpe (United States)
.mw-parser-output .nobold font-weight:normal
Nobel Prize recipients
vteCandidates in the 1996 Russian presidential electionWinner
Boris Yeltsin Independent
Lost in runoff
Gennady Zyuganov Communist Party
Alexander Lebed KRO (campaign)
Vladimir Zhirinovsky LDPR (campaign)
Svyatoslav Fyodorov PST
Mikhail Gorbachev Independent (campaign)
Martin Shakkum Independent
Yury Vlasov Independent
Vladimir Bryntsalov Independent
Aman Tuleyev Independent
Viktor Chechevatov Independent
BNF: cb12002384m (data)
ISNI: 0000 0001 2096 6951
WorldCat Identities (via