Mikhail Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, Dies Aged 91
Mikhail Gorbachev – the last Soviet leader – died on August 30 at the age of 91.
The hospital in Moscow where Mikhail Gorbachev died said he had been suffering from a long and serious illness.
In recent years, the former president’s health had been in decline and he had been in and out of hospital. In June, international media reported that he was suffering from a kidney ailment, though his cause of death has not been announced.
He will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery, the resting place of many prominent Russians. It is not clear whether he will receive a state funeral.
Mikhail Gorbachev became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, and de facto leader of the country, in 1985.
At the time, he was 54 – the youngest member of the ruling council known as the Politburo, and was seen as a breath of fresh air after several ageing leaders. His predecessor, Konstantin Chernenko, had died aged 73 after just over a year in office.
Few leaders have had such a profound effect on the global order, but Mikhail Gorbachev did not come to power seeking to end the Soviet grip over eastern Europe. Rather, he hoped to revitalise its society.
The Soviet economy had been struggling for years to keep up with the US and his policy of perestroika sought to introduce some market-like reforms to the state run system.
Internationally, Mikhail Gorbachev reached arms control deals with the US, refused to intervene when eastern European nations rose up against their Communist rulers, and ended the bloody Soviet war in Afghanistan that had raged since 1979.
Meanwhile, his policy of glasnost, or openness, allowed people to criticise the government in a way which had been previously unthinkable.
But it also unleashed nationalist sentiments in many parts of the Soviet Union which eventually undermined its stability and hastened its collapse.
Mikhail Gorbachev warns of new Cold War at Berlin Wall ceremony
In 1991, after a shambolically organised coup by communist hardliners failed, Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union and left office.
Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Gorbachev had a strained relationship – their last meeting reportedly in 2006.
Most recently, Mr Gorbachev was said to have been unhappy with Vlamir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, even though he had supported the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The Russian leader’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Mikhail Gorbachev had “sincerely wanted to believe that the Cold War would end, and that it would usher in a period of eternal romance between a new Soviet Union and the world, the West. This romanticism turned out to be wrong”.
Dmitry Peskov then berated Western countries that have opposed the invasion of Ukraine, imposed crippling sanctions on Russia, and provided weapons to Kyiv.
US President Joe Biden called him a “rare leader”, while UN Secretary General António Guterres said: “The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”