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Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

Overview
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in 1991. He was the only general secretary in the history of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to have been born during the Communist rule.

Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Stavropol. Population: -Geography:Stavropol Krai encompasses the central part of the Fore-Caucasus and most of the northern slopes of Caucasus Major...

 into a peasant Ukrainian
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

-Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 family, and in his teens operated combine harvester
Combine harvester
The combine harvester, or simply combine, is a machine that harvests grain crops. The name derives from the fact that it combines three separate operations, reaping, threshing, and winnowing, into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn ,...

s on collective farms. He graduated from Moscow State University
Moscow State University
Lomonosov Moscow State University , previously known as Lomonosov University or MSU , is the largest university in Russia. Founded in 1755, it also claims to be one of the oldest university in Russia and to have the tallest educational building in the world. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy...

 in 1955 with a degree in law.
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Timeline

1985   Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the Soviet Union's leader.

1985   Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declares a moratorium on the deployment of middle-range missiles in Europe.

1985   Cold War: In Geneva, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time.

1986   Cold War: U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavík, Iceland, in an effort to continue discussions about scaling back their intermediate missile arsenals in Europe.

1986   Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, releases Andrei Sakharov and his wife from internal exile in Gorky.

1987   Cold War: At the Brandenburg Gate U.S. President Ronald Reagan publicly challenges Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

1988   U.S. President Ronald Reagan begins his first visit to the Soviet Union when he arrives in Moscow for a superpower summit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

1989   Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Havana, Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro in an attempt to mend strained relations.

1989   Cold War: In a meeting off the coast of Malta, US President George H. W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev release statements indicating that the cold war between their nations may be coming to an end.

1990   Mikhail Gorbachev is elected as the first executive president of the Soviet Union.

 
Quotations

Certain people in the United States are driving nails into this structure of our relationship, then cutting off the heads. So the Soviets must use their teeth to pull them out.

As quoted in TIME magazine (9 September 1985)

Democracy is the wholesome and pure air without which a socialist public organization cannot live a full-blooded life.

Speech to the 27th Party Congress, Moscow (25 February 1986)

If the Russian word "Perestroika|perestroika" has easily entered the international lexicon, this is due to more than just interest in what is going on in the Soviet Union. Now the whole world needs restructuring, i.e. progressive development, a fundamental change.

Perestroika: New Thinking For Our Country and the World (1987)

The Soviet people want full-blooded and unconditional democracy.

Speech (July 1988)

Dangers await only those who do not react to life.

Speech in East Berlin (7 October 1989), in German: Wer zu spaet kommt, den bestraft das Leben. This is often misquoted as "He who comes too late is punished by life."

I believe, as Vladimir Lenin|Lenin said, that this revolutionary chaos may yet crystallize into new forms of life.

As quoted in The Times [London] (18 May 1990)
Encyclopedia
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 in 1991. He was the only general secretary in the history of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 to have been born during the Communist rule.

Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Stavropol. Population: -Geography:Stavropol Krai encompasses the central part of the Fore-Caucasus and most of the northern slopes of Caucasus Major...

 into a peasant Ukrainian
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

-Russian
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 family, and in his teens operated combine harvester
Combine harvester
The combine harvester, or simply combine, is a machine that harvests grain crops. The name derives from the fact that it combines three separate operations, reaping, threshing, and winnowing, into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn ,...

s on collective farms. He graduated from Moscow State University
Moscow State University
Lomonosov Moscow State University , previously known as Lomonosov University or MSU , is the largest university in Russia. Founded in 1755, it also claims to be one of the oldest university in Russia and to have the tallest educational building in the world. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy...

 in 1955 with a degree in law. While he was at the university, he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

, and soon became very active within it. In 1970, he was appointed the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet in 1974, and appointed a member of the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

 in 1979. Within three years of the deaths of Soviet Leaders Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Brezhnev
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev  – 10 November 1982) was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , presiding over the country from 1964 until his death in 1982. His eighteen-year term as General Secretary was second only to that of Joseph Stalin in...

, Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

, and Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko was a Soviet politician and the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He led the Soviet Union from 13 February 1984 until his death thirteen months later, on 10 March 1985...

, Gorbachev was elected General Secretary by the Politburo in 1985. Already before he reached the post, he had occasionally been mentioned in western newspapers as a likely next leader and a man of the younger generation at the top level.

Gorbachev's attempts at reform as well as summit conferences with United States President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, ended the political supremacy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 (CPSU), and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

. For these efforts, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 in 1990 and the Harvey Prize
Harvey Prize
The Harvey Prize is awarded by the Technion in Haifa, Israel. It is awarded in different disciplines of Science, Technology, Human Health, and Contributions to Peace in the Middle East. Two awards - each of $75,000 - are given away annually...

 in 1992 as well as Honorary Doctorates from Durham University
Durham University
The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...

 in 1995, Trinity College
Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College, Dublin , formally known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592 by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother of a university", Extracts from Letters Patent of Elizabeth I, 1592: "...we...found and...

 in 2002 and University of Münster
University of Münster
The University of Münster is a public university located in the city of Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The WWU is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a society of Germany's leading research universities...

 in 2005.

In September 2008, Gorbachev and billionaire Alexander Lebedev
Alexander Lebedev
Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev is a Russian businessman, referred to as one of the Russian oligarchs.In May 2008, he was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the richest Russians and as the 358th richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $3.1 billion...

 announced they would form the Independent Democratic Party of Russia
Independent Democratic Party of Russia
The Independent Democratic Party of Russia was the proposed name of a new liberal party that was announced in late September 2008 to be founded by the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and State Duma deputy of Fair Russia Alexander Lebedev...

, and in May 2009 Gorbachev announced that the launch was imminent. This was Gorbachev's third attempt to establish a political party, after having started the Social Democratic Party of Russia
Social Democratic Party of Russia
The Social Democratic Party of Russia was a political party founded in Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev on November 26, 2001. First name of party is: Social Democratic Party of Russia . It was a coalition of several social democratic parties, had approximately 12,000 members, but had no seats in the...

 in 2001 and the Union of Social-Democrats
Union of Social Democrats
Union of Social Democrats is an all-Russian non-governmental organization founded on October 20, 2007 by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev....

 in 2007.

Early life


Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in Stavropol
Stavropol
-International relations:-Twin towns/sister cities:Stavropol is twinned with: Des Moines, United States Béziers, France Pazardzhik, Bulgaria-External links:* **...

, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 into a mixed Russian-Ukrainian family of migrants from Voronezh
Voronezh
Voronezh is a city in southwestern Russia, the administrative center of Voronezh Oblast. It is located on both sides of the Voronezh River, away from where it flows into the Don. It is an operating center of the Southeastern Railway , as well as the center of the Don Highway...

 and Chernigov Governorates. His father was a combine harvester operator and World War II veteran called Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev. His mother, Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva (née Gopkalo) was a kolkhoz
Kolkhoz
A kolkhoz , plural kolkhozy, was a form of collective farming in the Soviet Union that existed along with state farms . The word is a contraction of коллекти́вное хозя́йство, or "collective farm", while sovkhoz is a contraction of советское хозяйство...

 worker. In his teens he operated combine harvesters on collective farms. He graduated from Moscow State University
Moscow State University
Lomonosov Moscow State University , previously known as Lomonosov University or MSU , is the largest university in Russia. Founded in 1755, it also claims to be one of the oldest university in Russia and to have the tallest educational building in the world. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy...

 in 1955 with a degree in law. In 1967 he qualified as an agricultural economist via correspondence masters degree at the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture. While at the university, he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 and soon became very active within the party.

Marriage and family


Gorbachev met his future wife, Raisa Titarenko, at Moscow State University. They married in September 1953 and moved to Stavropol upon graduation. She gave birth to their only child, daughter Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya (Ири́на Миха́йловна Вирга́нская), in 1957. Raisa Gorbachova died of leukemia
Leukemia
Leukemia or leukaemia is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of immature white blood cells called "blasts". Leukemia is a broad term covering a spectrum of diseases...

 in 1999.

Rise in the Communist Party



Gorbachev attended the important twenty-second Party Congress in October 1961, where Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 announced a plan to surpass the U.S. in per capita production within twenty years. At this point in his life, Gorbachev would rise in the Communist League hierarchy and worked his way up through territorial leagues of the party. He was promoted to Head of the Department of Party Organs in the Stavropol Agricultural Kraikom in 1963.

In 1970, he was appointed First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, a body of the CPSU, becoming one of the youngest provincial party chiefs in the nation. In this position he helped reorganise the collective farms, improve workers' living conditions, expand the size of their private plots, and gave them a greater voice in planning.

He was soon made a member of the Communist Party Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 in 1971. Three years later, in 1974, he was made a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs. He was subsequently appointed to the Central Committee's Secretariat for Agriculture in 1978, replacing Fyodor Kulakov
Fyodor Kulakov
Fyodor Davydovich Kulakov was a Soviet-Russian statesman during the Cold War....

, who had supported Gorbachev's appointment, after Kulakov died of a heart attack. In 1979, Gorbachev was promoted to the Politburo
Politburo
Politburo , literally "Political Bureau [of the Central Committee]," is the executive committee for a number of communist political parties.-Marxist-Leninist states:...

, the highest authority in the country, and received full membership in 1980. Gorbachev owed his steady rise to power to the patronage of Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Suslov
Mikhail Andreyevich Suslov was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Second Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1965, and as unofficial Chief Ideologue of the Party until his death in 1982. Suslov was responsible for party democracy and the separation of power...

, the powerful chief ideologist of the CPSU.

During Yuri Andropov
Yuri Andropov
Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov was a Soviet politician and the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 12 November 1982 until his death fifteen months later.-Early life:...

's tenure as General Secretary (1982–1984), Gorbachev became one of the Politburo's most visible and active members. With responsibility over personnel, working together with Andropov, 20 percent of the top echelon of government ministers and regional governors were replaced, often with younger men. During this time Grigory Romanov
Grigory Romanov
Grigory Vasilyevich Romanov , was a Soviet politician and member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the CPSU. In 1985, he was considered Mikhail Gorbachev's main rival in the succession struggle after the death of Konstantin Chernenko in March 1985....

, Nikolai Ryzhkov
Nikolai Ryzhkov
Nikolai Ivanovich Ryzhkov was a Soviet official who became a Russian politician following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He served as the last Chairman of the Council of Ministers or Premier of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991...

, and Yegor Ligachev
Yegor Ligachev
Yegor Kuzmich Ligachev is a Russian politician who was a high-ranking official in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union . Originally a protege of Mikhail Gorbachev, Ligachev became a challenger to his leadership.-Early life:...

 were elevated, the latter two working closely with Gorbachev, Ryzhkov on economics, Ligachev on personnel.

Gorbachev's positions within the CPSU created more opportunities to travel abroad, and this would profoundly affect his political and social views in the future as leader of the country. In 1972, he headed a Soviet delegation to Belgium, and three years later he led a delegation to West Germany; in 1983 he headed a delegation to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Pierre Trudeau
Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, , usually known as Pierre Trudeau or Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was the 15th Prime Minister of Canada from April 20, 1968 to June 4, 1979, and again from March 3, 1980 to June 30, 1984.Trudeau began his political career campaigning for socialist ideals,...

 and members of the Commons
Canadian House of Commons
The House of Commons of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the Sovereign and the Senate. The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament...

 and Senate
Canadian Senate
The Senate of Canada is a component of the Parliament of Canada, along with the House of Commons, and the monarch . The Senate consists of 105 members appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister...

. In 1984, he travelled to the United Kingdom, where he met British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

.

Upon Andropov's death in 1984, the aged Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Chernenko
Konstantin Ustinovich Chernenko was a Soviet politician and the fifth General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He led the Soviet Union from 13 February 1984 until his death thirteen months later, on 10 March 1985...

 took power; after his death the following year, it became clear to the party hierarchy that younger leadership was needed. Gorbachev was elected General Secretary by the Politburo on 11 March 1985, only three hours after Chernenko's death. Upon his accession at age 54, he was the youngest member of the Politburo.

General Secretary of the CPSU



Mikhail Gorbachev was the Party's first leader to have been born after the Revolution
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

. As de facto ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform the stagnating Party and the state economy by introducing glasnost
Glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

("openness"), perestroika
Perestroika
Perestroika was a political movement within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during 1980s, widely associated with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev...

("restructuring"), demokratizatsiya ("democratization"), and uskoreniye
Uskoreniye
Uskoreniye was a slogan and a policy announced by Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on April 20, 1985 at a Soviet Party Plenum, aimed at the acceleration of social and economical development of the Soviet Union...

("acceleration" of economic development), which were launched at the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986.

Domestic reforms


Gorbachev's primary goal as General Secretary was to revive the Soviet economy after the stagnant Brezhnev years. In 1985, he announced that the Soviet economy was stalled and that reorganization was needed. Gorbachev proposed a "vague programme of reform", which was adopted at the April Plenum of the Central Committee. He called for fast-paced technological modernization and increased industrial and agricultural productivity, and he attempted to reform the Soviet bureaucracy to be more efficient and prosperous.

Gorbachev soon realized that fixing the Soviet economy would be nearly impossible without reforming the political and social structure of the Communist nation. Gorbachev also initiated the concept of gospriyomka (state acceptance of production) during his time as leader, which represented state approval of goods in an effort to maintain quality control and combat inferior manufacturing.

He made a speech in May 1985 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) advocating widespread reforms. The reforms began in personnel changes; the most notable change was the replacement of Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet . Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the...

 as Minister of Foreign Affairs with Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze is a former Soviet, and later, Georgian statesman from the height to the end of the Cold War. He served as President of Georgia from 1995 to 2003, and as First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party , from 1972 to 1985. Shevardnadze was responsible for many top decisions on...

. Gromyko, disparaged as "Mr Nyet" in the West, had served for 28 years as Minister of Foreign Affairs and was considered an 'old thinker'. Robert D. English notes that, despite Shevardnadze's diplomatic inexperience, Gorbachev "shared with him an outlook" and experience in managing an agricultural region of the Soviet Union (Georgia), which meant that both had weak links to the powerful military-industrial complex
Military-industrial complex
Military–industrial complex , or Military–industrial-congressional complex is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the industrial sector that supports them...

.

A number of reformist ideas were discussed by Politburo members. One of the first reforms Gorbachev introduced was the anti-alcohol campaign, begun in May 1985, which was designed to fight widespread alcoholism in the Soviet Union. Prices of vodka, wine, and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted. It was pursued vigorously and cut both alcohol sales and government revenue. It was a serious blow to the state budget—a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles according to Alexander Yakovlev
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev was a Soviet politician and historian who was a Soviet governmental official in the 1980s and a member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...

—after alcohol production migrated to the black market economy. The program proved to be a useful symbol for change in the country, however.

The purpose of reform, however, was to prop up the centrally-planned economy
Planned economy
A planned economy is an economic system in which decisions regarding production and investment are embodied in a plan formulated by a central authority, usually by a government agency...

, not transition to market socialism
Market socialism
Market socialism refers to various economic systems where the means of production are either publicly owned or cooperatively owned and operated for a profit in a market economy. The profit generated by the firms system would be used to directly remunerate employees or would be the source of public...

. 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 socialism."

Perestroika




Gorbachev initiated his new policy of perestroika and its attendant radical reforms in 1986; they were sketched, but not fully spelled out, at the XXVIIth Party Congress in February–March 1986. The new policy of "reconstruction" was introduced in an attempt to overcome the economic stagnation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress.

According to Gorbachev, perestroika was the "conference of development of democracy, socialist self-government, encouragement of initiative and creative endeavor, improved order and disciple, more glasnost, criticism and self-criticism in all spheres of our society. It is utmost respect for the individual and consideration for personal dignity."

Domestic changes continued apace. In a bombshell speech during Armenian SSR
Armenian SSR
The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic The Armenian Soviet...

's Central Committee Plenum of the Communist Party the young First Secretary of Armenia's Hrazdan Regional Communist Party, Hayk Kotanjian, criticised rampant corruption in the Armenian Communist Party's highest echelons, implicating Armenian SSR Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan
Karen Demirchyan
Karen Demirchyan was a Soviet Armenian communist, First Secretary of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1974 to 1988 and later independent politician...

 and calling for his resignation. Symbolically, intellectual Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

 was invited to return to Moscow by Gorbachev in December 1986 after six years of internal exile in Gorky
Nizhny Novgorod
Nizhny Novgorod , colloquially shortened to Nizhny, is, with the population of 1,250,615, the fifth largest city in Russia, ranking after Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, and Yekaterinburg...

. During the same month, however, signs of the nationalities problem that would haunt the later years of the Soviet Union surfaced as riots, named Jeltoqsan
Jeltoqsan
The Jeltoqsan or "December" of 1986 were riots that took place in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan in response to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Konayev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and an ethnic Kazakh, and the subsequent appointment of Gennady...

, occurred in Kazakhstan after Dinmukhamed Kunayev was replaced as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan
Communist Party of Kazakhstan
The Communist Party of Kazakhstan is a political party in Kazakhstan. -Origin:The Communist Party of Kazakhstan was founded 1936 when Kazakhstan was granted a Union Republic status within the Soviet Union...

.

The Central Committee
Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , abbreviated in Russian as ЦК, "Tse-ka", earlier was also called as the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party ...

 Plenum in January 1987 would see the crystallisation of Gorbachev's political reforms, including proposals for multi-candidate elections and the appointment of non-Party members to government positions. He also first raised the idea of expanding co-operatives at the plenum. Economic reforms took up much of the rest of 1987, as a new law giving enterprises more independence was passed in June and Gorbachev released a book, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, in November, elucidating his main ideas for reform. In 1987 he rehabilitated many opponents of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

, another part of the De-Stalinization, which began in 1956, when Lenin's Testament
Lenin's Testament
Lenin's Testament is the name given to a document written by Vladimir Lenin in the last weeks of 1922 and the first week of 1923. In the testament, Lenin proposed changes to the structure of the Soviet governing bodies...

 was published.

Glasnost


1988 would see Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost, which gave new freedoms to the Soviet people, including greater freedom of speech. This was a radical change, as control of speech and suppression of government criticism had previously been a central part of the Soviet system. The press became far less controlled, and thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released. Gorbachev's goal in undertaking glasnost was to pressure conservatives within the CPSU who opposed his policies of economic restructuring, and he also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people would support his reform initiatives. At the same time, he opened himself and his reforms up for more public criticism, evident in Nina Andreyeva
Nina Andreyeva
Nina Aleksandrovna Andreyeva was a Russian chemist. A supporter of classical Soviet principles, she wrote an essay that defended many aspects of the traditional Soviet system, and criticized General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev and his closest supporters for not being real communists.- Career in...

's critical letter in a March edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya. Gorbachev acknowledged that his liberalising policies of glasnost and perestroika owed a great deal to Alexander Dubček
Alexander Dubcek
Alexander Dubček , also known as Dikita, was a Slovak politician and briefly leader of Czechoslovakia , famous for his attempt to reform the communist regime during the Prague Spring...

's "Socialism with a human face".

The Law on Cooperatives
Law on Cooperatives
The Soviet Law on Cooperatives, enacted in May 1988, was perhaps the most radical of the economic reforms during the early part of the Gorbachev era. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin's New Economic Policy, the law permitted private ownership of businesses in the services, manufacturing, and...

 enacted in May 1988 was perhaps the most radical of the economic reforms during the early part of the Gorbachev era. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

's New Economic Policy
New Economic Policy
The New Economic Policy was an economic policy proposed by Vladimir Lenin, who called it state capitalism. Allowing some private ventures, the NEP allowed small animal businesses or smoke shops, for instance, to reopen for private profit while the state continued to control banks, foreign trade,...

, the law permitted private ownership of businesses in the service, manufacturing, and foreign-trade sectors. The law initially imposed high taxes and employment restrictions, although these were ignored by some SSRs. Later the restrictions were revised to avoid discouraging private-sector activity. Under the provision for private ownership, cooperative restaurants, shops, and manufacturers became part of the Soviet scene. Under the new law, the restructuring of large 'All-Union' industrial organisations also began. Aeroflot
Aeroflot
OJSC AeroflotRussian Airlines , commonly known as Aeroflot , is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Russian Federation, based on passengers carried per year...

 was split up, eventually becoming several independent airlines. These newly autonomous business organisations were encouraged to seek foreign investment.

In June 1988, at the CPSU's Party Conference, Gorbachev launched radical reforms meant to reduce party control of the government apparatus. He proposed a new executive in the form of a presidential system, as well as a new legislative element, to be called the Congress of People's Deputies. Elections to the Congress of People's Deputies were held throughout the Soviet Union in March and April 1989. This was the first free election in the Soviet Union since 1917. Gorbachev became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (or head of state) on 25 May 1989.

Presidency of the USSR


On 15 March 1990, Gorbachev was elected as the first executive President of the Soviet Union
President of the Soviet Union
The President of the Soviet Union , officially called President of the USSR was the Head of State of the USSR from 15 March 1990 to 25 December 1991. Mikhail Gorbachev was the only person to occupy the office. Gorbachev was also General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between...

 with 59% of the Deputies' votes being an unopposed candidate. The Congress met for the first time on 25 May in order to elect representatives from Congress to sit on the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, the Congress posed problems for Gorbachev; its sessions were televised, airing more criticism and encouraging people to expect ever more rapid reform. In the elections, many Party candidates were defeated. Furthermore, Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 was elected in Moscow and returned to political prominence to become an increasingly vocal critic of Gorbachev.

Foreign engagements



In contrast to his controversial domestic reforms, Gorbachev was largely hailed in the West for his 'New Thinking' in foreign affairs. During his tenure, he sought to improve relations and trade with the West by reducing Cold War tensions. He established close relationships with several Western leaders, such as West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Josef Michael Kohl is a German conservative politician and statesman. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1973 to 1998...

, U.S. President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990...

—who famously remarked: "I like Mr. Gorbachev; we can do business together."

Gorbachev understood the link between achieving international détente and domestic reform and thus began extending 'New Thinking' abroad immediately. On 8 April 1985, he announced the suspension of the deployment of SS-20s in Europe as a move towards resolving intermediate-range nuclear weapons (INF) issues. Later that year, in September, Gorbachev proposed that the Soviets and Americans both cut their nuclear arsenals in half. He went to France on his first trip abroad as Soviet leader in October. November saw the Geneva Summit
Geneva Summit (1985)
The Geneva Summit of 1985 was a Cold War-era meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. It was held on November 19 and 20, 1985, between U.S. president Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev...

 between Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

. Though no concrete agreement was made, Gorbachev and Reagan struck a personal relationship and decided to hold further meetings.

January 1986 would see Gorbachev make his boldest international move so far, when he announced his proposal for the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe and his strategy for eliminating all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 (often referred to as the 'January Proposal'). He also began the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
Democratic Republic of Afghanistan
The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was a government of Afghanistan between 1978 and 1992. It was both ideologically close to and economically dependent on the Soviet Union, and was a major belligerent of the Afghan Civil War.- Saur Revolution :...

 and Mongolia on 28 July. Nonetheless, many observers, such as Jack F. Matlock Jr.
Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Jack Foust Matlock, Jr. is a former American ambassador, career Foreign Service Officer, a teacher, an historian, and a linguist. He was a specialist in Soviet affairs during some of the most tumultuous years of the Cold War, and served as U.S...

 (despite generally praising Gorbachev as well as Reagan), have criticized Gorbachev for taking too long to achieve withdrawal from the Afghanistan War
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

, citing it as an example of lingering elements of 'old thinking' in Gorbachev.

On 11 October 1986, Gorbachev and Reagan met in Reykjavík
Reykjavík
Reykjavík is the capital and largest city in Iceland.Its latitude at 64°08' N makes it the world's northernmost capital of a sovereign state. It is located in southwestern Iceland, on the southern shore of Faxaflói Bay...

, Iceland at Höfði
Höfði
Höfði is a house in northern Reykjavík, the capital city of Iceland, built in 1909. Höfði is located at Félagstúni. Initially, it was built for the French consul Jean-Paul Brillouin in Iceland and was the exclusive residence of poet and businessman Einar Benediktsson for many years...

 to discuss reducing intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. To the immense surprise of both men's advisers, the two agreed in principle to removing INF systems from Europe and to equal global limits of 100 INF missile warheads. They also essentially agreed in principle to eliminate all nuclear weapons in 10 years (by 1996), instead of by the year 2000 as in Gorbachev's original outline. Continuing trust issues, particularly over reciprocity and Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

, meant that the summit is often regarded as a failure for not producing a concrete agreement immediately, or for leading to a staged elimination of nuclear weapons. In the long term, nevertheless, this would culminate in the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is a 1987 agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. Signed in Washington, D.C. by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, it was ratified by the United States Senate on May 27, 1988 and...

 in 1987, after Gorbachev had proposed this elimination on 22 July 1987 (and it was subsequently agreed on in Geneva on 24 November).

In February 1988, Gorbachev announced the full withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The withdrawal was completed the following year, although the civil war continued as the Mujahedin pushed to overthrow the pro-Soviet Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah
Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai , originally merely Najibullah, was the fourth and last President of the Soviet-backed Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. He is also considered the second President of the Republic of Afghanistan.-Early years:Najibullah was born in August 1947 to the Ahmadzai...

 government. An estimated 28,000 Soviets were killed between 1979 and 1989 as a result of the Afghanistan War
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

.

Also during 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine
Brezhnev Doctrine
The Brezhnev Doctrine was a Soviet Union foreign policy, first and most clearly outlined by S. Kovalev in a September 26, 1968 Pravda article, entitled “Sovereignty and the International Obligations of Socialist Countries.” Leonid Brezhnev reiterated it in a speech at the Fifth Congress of the...

, and allow the Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 nations to freely determine their own internal affairs. Jokingly dubbed the "Sinatra Doctrine
Sinatra Doctrine
"Sinatra Doctrine" was the name that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used jokingly to describe its policy of allowing neighboring Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs...

" by Gorbachev's Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov
Gennadi Gerasimov
Gennadi Ivanovich Gerasimov Gennadi (or Gennady) Ivanovich Gerasimov Gennadi (or Gennady) Ivanovich Gerasimov (Russian, Геннадий Иванович Герасимов, (1930, Yelabuga – 14 September 2010, Moscow) was the Russian ambassador to Portugal from 1990 to 1995. Previously he was foreign affairs spokesman...

, this policy of non-intervention in the affairs of the other Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 states proved to be the most momentous of Gorbachev's foreign policy reforms. In his 6 July 1989 speech arguing for a "common European home
Common European Home
The "Common European Home" was a concept created and espoused by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.The concept has some antecedents in Brezhnev's foreign policy, who used the phrase during a visit to Bonn in 1981. However, at this time it was likely used in an attempt to sow discord...

" before the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 in Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

, France, Gorbachev declared: "The social and political order in some countries changed in the past, and it can change in the future too, but this is entirely a matter for each people to decide. Any interference in the internal affairs, or any attempt to limit the sovereignty of another state, friend, ally, or another, would be inadmissible." A month earlier, on 4 June 1989, elections had taken place in Poland and the communist government had already been deposed.

Moscow's abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine allowed the rise of popular upheavals in Eastern Europe throughout 1989, in which Communism was overthrown. By the end of 1989, revolts had spread from one Eastern European capital to another, ousting the regimes built in Eastern Europe after World War II. With the exception of Romania, the popular upheavals against the pro-Soviet Communist regimes were all peaceful ones (see Revolutions of 1989
Revolutions of 1989
The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

). The loosening of Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe effectively ended the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, and for this, Gorbachev was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold
Otto Hahn Peace Medal
The Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold is named after the German nuclear chemist and 1944 Nobel Laureate Otto Hahn, an honorary citizen of Berlin....

 in 1989 and the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 on 15 October 1990.

The rest of 1989 was taken up by the increasingly problematic nationalities question and the dramatic fragmentation of the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

. Despite international détente reaching unprecedented levels, with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
Soviet war in Afghanistan
The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a nine-year conflict involving the Soviet Union, supporting the Marxist-Leninist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Afghan Mujahideen and foreign "Arab–Afghan" volunteers...

 completed in January and U.S.-Soviet talks continuing between Gorbachev and George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

, domestic reforms were suffering from increasing divergence between reformists, who criticised the pace of change, and conservatives, who criticized the extent of change. Gorbachev states that he tried to find the middle ground between both groups, but this would draw more criticism towards him. The story from this point on moves away from reforms and becomes one of the nationalities question and the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union.

On 9 November, people in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany/GDR) were suddenly allowed to cross through the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

 into West Berlin, following a peaceful protest against the country's dictatorial administration, including a demonstration by some one million people in East Berlin
East Berlin
East Berlin was the name given to the eastern part of Berlin between 1949 and 1990. It consisted of the Soviet sector of Berlin that was established in 1945. The American, British and French sectors became West Berlin, a part strongly associated with West Germany but a free city...

 on 4 November. Unlike earlier riots which were ended by military force with the help of USSR, Gorbachev, who came to be lovingly called "Gorby" in West Germany, now decided not to interfere with the process in Germany. He stated that German reunification was an internal German matter.
Coit D. Blacker
Coit D. Blacker
Dr. Coit Dennis Blacker served as Special Assistant to the President of the United States for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council under National Security Advisor Anthony Lake during the Clinton administration...

 wrote in 1990 that the Soviet leadership "appeared to have believed that whatever loss of authority the Soviet Union might suffer in Eastern Europe would be more than offset by a net increase in its influence in Western Europe." Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Gorbachev ever intended for the complete dismantling of Communism in the Warsaw Pact countries. Rather, he assumed that the Communist parties of Eastern Europe could be reformed in a similar way to the reforms he hoped to achieve in the CPSU. Just as perestroika was aimed at making the USSR more efficient economically and politically, Gorbachev believed that the Comecon
Comecon
The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance , 1949–1991, was an economic organisation under hegemony of Soviet Union comprising the countries of the Eastern Bloc along with a number of communist states elsewhere in the world...

 and Warsaw Pact could be reformed into more effective entities. Alexander Yakovlev
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev was a Soviet politician and historian who was a Soviet governmental official in the 1980s and a member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...

, a close advisor to Gorbachev, would later state that it would have been "absurd to keep the system" in Eastern Europe. In contrast to Gorbachev, Yakovlev had come to the conclusion that the Soviet-dominated Comecon was inherently unworkable and that the Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 had "no relevance to real life."

Dissolution of the Soviet Union


While Gorbachev's political initiatives were positive for freedom
Freedom (political)
Political freedom is a central philosophy in Western history and political thought, and one of the most important features of democratic societies...

 and democracy in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and its Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 allies, the economic policy of his government gradually brought the country close to disaster. By the end of the 1980s, severe shortages of basic food supplies (meat, sugar) led to the reintroduction of the war-time system of distribution using food cards that limited each citizen to a certain amount of product per month. Compared to 1985, the state deficit grew from 0 to 109 billion rubles; gold funds decreased from 2,000 to 200 tons; and external debt grew from 0 to 120 billion dollars.

Furthermore, the democratisation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had irreparably undermined the power of the CPSU and Gorbachev himself. The relaxation of censorship and attempts to create more political openness had the unintended effect of re-awakening long-suppressed nationalist and anti-Russian feelings in the Soviet republics
Republics of the Soviet Union
The Republics of the Soviet Union or the Union Republics of the Soviet Union were ethnically-based administrative units that were subordinated directly to the Government of the Soviet Union...

. Calls for greater independence from Moscow's rule grew louder, especially in the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia which had been annexed into the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in 1940. Nationalist feeling also took hold in Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In December 1986, the first signs of the nationalities problem that would haunt the later years of the Soviet Union's existence surfaced as riots, named Jeltoqsan
Jeltoqsan
The Jeltoqsan or "December" of 1986 were riots that took place in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan in response to General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's dismissal of Dinmukhamed Konayev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan and an ethnic Kazakh, and the subsequent appointment of Gennady...

, occurred in Alma Ata
Almaty
Almaty , also known by its former names Verny and Alma-Ata , is the former capital of Kazakhstan and the nation's largest city, with a population of 1,348,500...

 and other areas of Kazakhstan after Dinmukhamed Kunayev was replaced as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan
Communist Party of Kazakhstan
The Communist Party of Kazakhstan is a political party in Kazakhstan. -Origin:The Communist Party of Kazakhstan was founded 1936 when Kazakhstan was granted a Union Republic status within the Soviet Union...

. Nationalism would then surface in Russia in May 1987, as 600 members of Pamyat
Pamyat
Pamyat is a Russian nationalist organization identifying itself as the "People's National-patriotic Orthodox Christian movement." The group's stated focus is preserving Russian culture.- History :...

, a nascent Russian nationalist group, demonstrated in Moscow and were becoming increasingly linked to Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

, who received their representatives at a meeting.

Glasnost
Glasnost
Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

 hastened awareness of the national sovereignty problem. The free flow of information had been so completely suppressed for so long in the Soviet Union that many of the ruling class had all but forgotten that the Soviet Union was an empire conquered through military force and consolidated by the persecution of millions of people, and not a union voluntarily entered into by local populations. Thus, the extremity of local desire for independent control of their own affairs took these leaders by surprise, and the leaders were unprepared for the depth of the long pent-up feelings that were released.

Violence erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh—an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan—between February and April, when Armenians living in the area began a new wave of demands to transfer of NKAO from Azerbaijan to Armenia which eventually led to full scale Nagorno-Karabakh War
Nagorno-Karabakh War
The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan...

. Gorbachev imposed a temporary solution, but it did not last, as fresh trouble arose in Nagorno-Karabakh between June and July. Turmoil would once again return in late 1988, this time in Armenia itself, when the Leninakan Earthquake
Leninakan Earthquake
The Spitak Earthquake was a tremor with a magnitude of 6.9, that took place on December 7, 1988 at 11:41 local time in the Spitak region of Armenia, then part of the Soviet Union...

 hit the region on 7 December. Poor local infrastructure magnified the hazard and some 25,000 people died. Gorbachev was forced to break off his trip to the U.S. and cancel planned travels to Cuba and Britain.

In March and April 1989 elections
Soviet Union legislative election, 1989
In 1989, elections were held for the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union. The main elections were held on 26 March and a second round on 9 April...

 to the Congress of People's Deputies took place throughout the Soviet Union. This returned many pro-independence republicans, as many CPSU candidates were rejected. The televised Congress debates allowed the dissemination of pro-independence propositions. Indeed, 1989 would see numerous nationalistic protests. Initiated by the Baltic republics in January, laws were passed in most non-Russian republics giving precedence for the republican language over Russian.

9 April would see the crackdown of nationalist demonstrations by Soviet troops in Tbilisi
Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

. There would be further bloody protests in Uzbekistan in June, where Uzbeks and Meskhetian Turks clashed in Fergana. Apart from this violence, three major events that altered the face of the nationalities issue occurred in 1989. Estonia had declared its sovereignty
Estonian Sovereignty Declaration
The Estonian Sovereignty Declaration , fully: Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Estonian SSR was issued on November 16, 1988 during the Singing Revolution in Estonia. The declaration asserted Estonia's sovereignty and the supremacy of the Estonian laws over the laws of the Soviet Union...

 on November 16, 1988, to be followed by Lithuania in May 1989 and by Latvia in July (the Communist Party of Lithuania
Communist Party of Lithuania
The Communist Party of Lithuania was a communist party in Lithuania, established in early October 1918. The party was banned in December 1926.-History:...

 would also declare its independence from the CPSU in December). This brought the Union and the republics into clear confrontation and would form a precedent for other republics.

Around the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

 in July 1989, the Soviet government formally acknowledged that the plan had included the inclusion of the Baltic states into the Soviet sphere of influence, which preceded and paved the way for their annexation into the USSR in 1940. The revelation supported the long-denied proposition that the Baltic states had been involuntarily brought into the Soviet Union and substantially boosted the Baltic aspirations to re-establish their independence. Finally, the Eastern bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 fragmented in the autumn of 1989, raising hopes that Gorbachev would extend his non-interventionist doctrine to the internal workings of the USSR.
Crisis of the Union: 1990–1991


1990 began with nationalist turmoil in January. Azerbaijanis rioted and troops were sent in to restore order; many Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

ns demonstrated in favour of unification with the post-Communist Romania; and Lithuanian demonstrations continued. The same month, in a hugely significant move, Armenia asserted its right to veto laws coming from the All-Union level, thus intensifying the 'war of laws' between republics and Moscow.

Soon after, the CPSU, which had already lost much of its control, began to lose even more power as Gorbachev deepened political reform. The February Central Committee Plenum advocated multi-party elections; local elections held between February and March returned a large number of pro-independence candidates. The Congress of People's Deputies then amended the Soviet Constitution in March, removing Article 6, which guaranteed the monopoly of the CPSU. The process of political reform was therefore coming from above and below, and was gaining a momentum that would augment republican nationalism. Soon after the constitutional amendment, Lithuania declared independence and elected Vytautas Landsbergis
Vytautas Landsbergis
Professor Vytautas Landsbergis is a Lithuanian conservative politician and Member of the European Parliament. He was the first head of state of Lithuania after its independence declaration from the Soviet Union, and served as the Head of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas...

 as Chairman of the Supreme Council (head of state).

On 15 March, Gorbachev himself was elected as the only President of the Soviet Union
President of the Soviet Union
The President of the Soviet Union , officially called President of the USSR was the Head of State of the USSR from 15 March 1990 to 25 December 1991. Mikhail Gorbachev was the only person to occupy the office. Gorbachev was also General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between...

 by the Congress of People's Deputies and chose a Presidential Council
Presidential Council (USSR)
The Presidential Council was created in March 1990 to replace the Politburo as the major policymaking body in the USSR. According to article 127 in the Soviet constitution the job of the presidential council was "to implement the basic thrust of USSR's domestic and foreign policy and ensure the...

 of 15 politicians. Gorbachev was essentially creating his own political support base independent of CPSU conservatives and radical reformers. The new Executive was designed to be a powerful position to guide the spiraling reform process, and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Congress of People's Deputies had already given Gorbachev increasingly presidential powers in February. This would be again a source of criticism from reformers. Despite the apparent increase in Gorbachev's power, he was unable to stop the process of nationalistic assertion. Further embarrassing facts about Soviet history were revealed in April, when the government admitted that the NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 had carried out the infamous Katyn Massacre
Katyn massacre
The Katyn massacre, also known as the Katyn Forest massacre , was a mass execution of Polish nationals carried out by the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs , the Soviet secret police, in April and May 1940. The massacre was prompted by Lavrentiy Beria's proposal to execute all members of...

 of Polish army officers during World War II; previously, the USSR had blamed Nazi Germany
National Socialist German Workers Party
The National Socialist German Workers' Party , commonly known in English as the Nazi Party, was a political party in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party , existed from 1919 to 1920...

. More significantly for Gorbachev's position, Boris Yeltsin was reaching a new level of prominence, as he was elected Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR
The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, led by a chairman, was the de jure leader office of the Russian SFSR between 1938 and 1990...

 in May, effectively making him the de jure leader of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

. Problems for Gorbachev would once more come from the Russian parliament in June, when it declared the precedence of Russian laws over All-Union level legislation.

Gorbachev's personal position continued changing. At the 28th CPSU Congress in July, Gorbachev was re-elected General Secretary but this position was now completely independent of Soviet government, and the Politburo had no say in the ruling of the country. Gorbachev further reduced Party power in the same month, when he issued a decree abolishing Party control of all areas of the media and broadcasting. At the same time, Gorbachev was working to consolidate his presidential position, culminating in the Supreme Soviet granting him special powers to rule by decree in September in order to pass a much-needed plan for transition to a market economy. However, the Supreme Soviet could not agree on which program to adopt. Gorbachev pressed on with political reform, his proposal for setting up a new Soviet government, with a Soviet of the Federation consisting of representatives from all 15 republics, was passed through the Supreme Soviet in November. In December, Gorbachev was once more granted increased executive power by the Supreme Soviet, arguing that such moves were necessary to counter "the dark forces of nationalism". Such moves led to Eduard Shevardnadze's
Eduard Shevardnadze
Eduard Shevardnadze is a former Soviet, and later, Georgian statesman from the height to the end of the Cold War. He served as President of Georgia from 1995 to 2003, and as First Secretary of the Georgian Communist Party , from 1972 to 1985. Shevardnadze was responsible for many top decisions on...

 resignation; Gorbachev's former ally warned of an impending dictatorship. This move was a serious blow to Gorbachev personally and to his efforts for reform.

Meanwhile, Gorbachev was losing further ground to nationalists. October 1990 saw the founding of DemRossiya
Democratic Russia
Democratic Russia was generic name for several political entities that played a transformative role in Russia's transition from Communist rule:...

, the Russian pro-reform coalition; a few days later, both Ukraine and Russia declared their laws completely sovereign over Soviet level laws. The 'war of laws' had become an open battle, with the Supreme Soviet refusing to recognise the actions of the two republics. Gorbachev would publish the draft of a new union treaty in November, which envisioned a continued union called the Union of Sovereign Soviet Republics, but, going into 1991, the actions of Gorbachev were steadily being overtaken by the centrifugal secessionist forces.

January and February would see a new level of turmoil in the Baltic republics. On 10 January 1991 Gorbachev issued an ultimatum-like request addressing the Lithuanian Supreme Council demanding the restoration of the validity of the constitution of the Soviet Union in Lithuania and the revoking of all anti-constitutional laws. In his Memoirs, Gorbachev asserts that, on 12 January, he convened the Council of the Federation and political measures to prevent bloodshed were agreed, including sending representatives of the Council of the Federation on a "fact-finding mission" to Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

. However, before the delegation arrived, the local branches of the KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 and armed forces had worked together to seize the TV tower in Vilnius; Gorbachev asked the heads of the KGB and military if they had approved such action, and there is no evidence that they, or Gorbachev, ever approved this move. Gorbachev cites documents found in the RSFSR Prokuratura after the August coup, which only mentioned that "some 'authorities'" had sanctioned the actions.

A book called Alpha – the KGB's Top Secret Unit also suggests that a "KGB operation co-ordinated with the military" was undertaken by the KGB Alpha Group
Alpha Group
The Alpha Group , is an elite component of Russia's Spetsnaz as well as the dedicated counter-terrorism unit of the Federal Security Service...

. Archie Brown
Archie Brown
Archibald Haworth Brown CMG, FBA, commonly known as Archie Brown , is a British political scientist and historian. In 2005, he became Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he was a Professor of Politics and Director of St....

, in The Gorbachev Factor, uses the memoirs of many people around Gorbachev and in the upper echelons of the Soviet political landscape, to implicate General Valentin Varennikov
Valentin Varennikov
Valentin Ivanovich Varennikov was a Soviet/Russian general and politician, best known for being one of the planners and leaders of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, as well as one of the instigators of the Soviet coup attempt of 1991.-Early life:Valentin Varennikov was born to a poor Cossack family...

, a member of the August coup plotters, and General Viktor Achalov, another August coup conspirator. These persons were characterised as individuals "who were prepared to remove Gorbachev from his presidential office unconstitutionally" and "were more than capable of using unauthorised violence against nationalist separatists some months earlier". Brown
Archie Brown
Archibald Haworth Brown CMG, FBA, commonly known as Archie Brown , is a British political scientist and historian. In 2005, he became Emeritus Professor of Politics at Oxford University and an Emeritus Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, where he was a Professor of Politics and Director of St....

 criticises Gorbachev for "a conscious tilt in the direction of the conservative forces he was trying to keep within an increasingly fragile coalition" who would later betray him; he also criticises Gorbachev "for his tougher line and heightened rhetoric against the Lithuanians in the days preceding the attack and for his slowness in condemning the killings" but notes that Gorbachev did not approve any action and was seeking political solutions.

As a result of continued violence, at least 14 civilians were killed and more than 600 injured from 11–13 January 1991 in Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, Lithuania. The strong Western reaction and the actions of Russian democratic forces put the president and government of the Soviet Union into an awkward situation, as news of support for Lithuanians from Western democracies started to appear. Further problems surfaced in Riga
Riga
Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 702,891 inhabitants Riga is the largest city of the Baltic states, one of the largest cities in Northern Europe and home to more than one third of Latvia's population. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial,...

, Latvia, on 20 and 21 January, where OMON (special Ministry of the Interior) troops killed 4 people. Archie Brown suggests that Gorbachev's response this time was better, condemning the rogue action, sending his condolences and suggesting that secession could take place if it went through the procedures outlined in the Soviet constitution. According to Gorbachev's aide, Shakhnazarov (quoted by Archie Brown), Gorbachev was finally beginning to accept the inevitability of "losing" the Baltic republics, although he would try all political means to preserve the Union. Brown believes that this put him in "imminent danger" of being overthrown by hard-liners against the secession.

Gorbachev thus continued to draw up a new treaty of union which would have created a truly voluntary federation in an increasingly democratised Soviet Union. The new treaty was strongly supported by the Central Asian republics, who needed the economic power and markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. However, the more radical reformists, such as Russian SFSR President Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

, were increasingly convinced that a rapid transition to a market economy was required and were more than happy to contemplate the disintegration of the Soviet Union if that was required to achieve their aims. Nevertheless, a referendum on the future of the Soviet Union was held in March (with a referendum in Russia on the creation of a presidency), which returned an average of 76.4% in the nine republics where it was taken, with a turn-out of 80% of the adult population. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova did not participate. Following this, an April meeting at Novo-Ogarevo between Gorbachev and the heads of the nine republics issued a statement on speeding up the creation of a new Union treaty.

In May, a hardline newspaper published “Architect amidst the Ruins
Architect amidst the Ruins
The Architect amidst the Ruins was an open letter by Gennady Zyuganov, then a relatively little known party functionary, to Alexander Yakovlev, the ideologist of Perestroika, also known as the Architect of Perestroika...

”, an open letter
Open letter
An open letter is a letter that is intended to be read by a wide audience, or a letter intended for an individual, but that is nonetheless widely distributed intentionally....

 criticizing Yakovlev (often referred to as the Architect of Perestroika) which was signed by Gennady Zyuganov
Gennady Zyuganov
Gennady Andreyevich Zyuganov is a Russian politician, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation , Chairman of the Union of Communist Parties - Communist Party of the Soviet Union , deputy of the State Duma , and a member of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe...

. Many also saw this publication as the start of a campaign to oust Gorbachev.

Meanwhile, on 12 June 1991 Boris Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Federation
President of the Russian Federation
The President of the Russian Federation is the head of state, supreme commander-in-chief and holder of the highest office within the Russian Federation...

 by 57.3% of the vote (with a turnout of 74%).
The August 1991 coup


In contrast to the reformers' moderate approach to the new treaty, the hard-line apparatchik
Apparatchik
Apparatchik is a Russian colloquial term for a full-time, professional functionary of the Communist Party or government; i.e., an agent of the governmental or party "apparat" that held any position of bureaucratic or political responsibility, with the exception of the higher ranks of management...

s, still strong within the CPSU and military establishment, were completely opposed to anything which might lead to the break-up of the Soviet Union. On the eve of the treaty's signing, the hardliners struck.

Hardliners in the Soviet leadership, calling themselves the 'State Emergency Committee', launched the August coup
Soviet coup attempt of 1991
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , also known as the August Putsch or August Coup , was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...

 in 1991 in an attempt to remove Gorbachev from power and prevent the signing of the new union treaty. During this time, Gorbachev spent three days (19, 20 and 21 August) under house arrest at a dacha
Dacha
Dacha is a Russian word for seasonal or year-round second homes often located in the exurbs of Soviet and post-Soviet cities. Cottages or shacks serving as family's main or only home are not considered dachas, although many purpose-built dachas are recently being converted for year-round residence...

 in the Crimea
Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 before being freed and restored to power. However, upon his return, Gorbachev found that neither union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands as support had swung over to Yeltsin, whose defiance had led to the coup's collapse.

Furthermore, Gorbachev was forced to fire large numbers of his Politburo and, in several cases, arrest them. Those arrested for high treason included the "Gang of Eight
Gang of Eight (Soviet Union)
The State Committee on the State of Emergency was a group of eight high-level officials within the Soviet government, the Communist party and the KGB who attempted a coup against Mikhail Gorbachev on 18 August 1991...

" that had led the coup, including Kryuchkov
Vladimir Kryuchkov
Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov was a former Soviet politician and Communist Party member, having been in the organization from 1944 until he was dismissed in 1991...

, Yazov, Pavlov
Valentin Pavlov
Valentin Sergeyevich Pavlov was a Soviet official who became a Russian banker following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Born in the city of Moscow, then part of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Pavlov began his political career in the Ministry of Finance in 1959...

 and Yanayev
Gennady Yanayev
Gennady Ivanovich Yanayev was a Soviet Russian politician and statesman whose career spanned the rules of Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, and culminated during the Gorbachev years. Yanayev was born in Perevoz, Gorky Oblast...

. Pugo was found shot; and Akhromeyev
Sergei Akhromeyev
Sergey Fyodorovich Akhromeyev was a soviet military figure, Hero of the Soviet Union , Marshal of the Soviet Union .Akhromeyev was a Naval Infantry junior officer during the German-Soviet War, serving with distinction on the Leningrad front. At one point he was ordered to guard and hold a road on...

, who had offered his assistance but was never implicated, was found hanging in his Kremlin office. Most of these men had been former allies of Gorbachev's or promoted by him, which drew fresh criticism.
Aftermath of the coup and the final collapse

Following the coup, Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 ordered the CPSU to suspend its activities on the territory of Russia and closed the Central Committee
Central Committee
Central Committee was the common designation of a standing administrative body of communist parties, analogous to a board of directors, whether ruling or non-ruling in the twentieth century and of the surviving, mostly Trotskyist, states in the early twenty first. In such party organizations the...

 building at Staraya Ploschad. The Russian flag
Flag of Russia
The flag of Russia is a tricolour flag of three equal horizontal fields, white on the top, blue in the middle and red on the bottom. The flag was first used as an ensign for Russian merchant and war ships and only became official in 1896...

 now flew beside the Soviet flag at the Kremlin
Kremlin
A kremlin , same root as in kremen is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the best-known one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there...

. Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the CPSU on 24 August and advised the Central Committee to dissolve. Gorbachev's hopes of a new Union were further hit when the Congress of People's Deputies dissolved itself on 5 September. Though Gorbachev and the representatives of eight republics (excluding Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) signed an agreement on forming a new economic community on 18 October, events were overtaking Gorbachev.

With the country in a rapid state of deterioration, the final blow to Gorbachev's vision was effectively dealt by a Ukrainian referendum on 1 December, where the Ukrainian people voted for independence. The presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus met in Belovezh Forest, near Brest, Belarus
Brest, Belarus
Brest , formerly also Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk , is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets rivers meet...

, on 8 December, founding the Commonwealth of Independent States
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

 and declaring the end of the Soviet Union in the Belavezha Accords
Belavezha Accords
The Belavezha Accords is the agreement which declared the Soviet Union effectively dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States in its place...

. Gorbachev was presented with a fait accompli and reluctantly agreed with Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

, on 17 December, to dissolve the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Gorbachev resigned on 25 December and the Soviet Union was formally dissolved the following day on 26 December 1991. Two days after Gorbachev left office, on 27 December, Yeltsin moved into Gorbachev's old office.

Gorbachev had aimed to maintain the CPSU as a united party but move it in the direction of social democracy
Social democracy
Social democracy is a political ideology of the center-left on the political spectrum. Social democracy is officially a form of evolutionary reformist socialism. It supports class collaboration as the course to achieve socialism...

. But when the CPSU was proscribed after the August coup
Soviet coup attempt of 1991
The 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt , also known as the August Putsch or August Coup , was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev...

, Gorbachev was left with no effective power base beyond the armed forces.

Post-Presidency



Following his resignation and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev remained active in Russian politics. During the early years of the post-Soviet era, he expressed criticism at the reforms carried out by Russian president Boris Yeltsin. When Yeltsin called a referendum for 25 April 1993 in an attempt to achieve even greater powers as president, Gorbachev did not vote and instead called for new presidential elections.

Following a failed run for the presidency in 1996, Gorbachev established the Social Democratic Party of Russia
Social Democratic Party of Russia
The Social Democratic Party of Russia was a political party founded in Russia by Mikhail Gorbachev on November 26, 2001. First name of party is: Social Democratic Party of Russia . It was a coalition of several social democratic parties, had approximately 12,000 members, but had no seats in the...

, a union between several Russian social democratic parties. He resigned as party leader in May 2004 following a disagreement with the party's chairman over the direction taken in the 2003 election campaign
Russian legislative election, 2003
Legislative elections were held in the Russian Federation on December 7, 2003. At stake were the 450 seats in the State Duma , the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia ....

. The party was later banned in 2007 by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
Supreme Court of the Russian Federation
The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is the court of last resort in Russian administrative law, civil law and criminal law cases. It also supervises the work of lower courts. Its predecessor is the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union....

 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 political party, called the Union of Social-Democrats
Union of Social Democrats
Union of Social Democrats is an all-Russian non-governmental organization founded on October 20, 2007 by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev....

. In June 2004, Gorbachev represented Russia at the funeral of Ronald Reagan.

Gorbachev has also appeared in numerous media channels since his resignation from office. In 1993, Gorbachev appeared as himself in the Wim Wenders
Wim Wenders
Ernst Wilhelm "Wim" Wenders is a German film director, playwright, author, photographer and producer.-Early life:Wenders was born in Düsseldorf. He graduated from high school in Oberhausen in the Ruhr area. He then studied medicine and philosophy in Freiburg and Düsseldorf...

 film Faraway, So Close!
Faraway, So Close!
Faraway, So Close! is a 1993 film by German director Wim Wenders. The screenplay is by Wenders, Richard Reitinger and Ulrich Zieger. The film is a sequel to Wenders' 1987 film Wings of Desire. Actors Otto Sander and Bruno Ganz reprise their roles as angels visiting earth. The film also stars...

, the sequel to Wings of Desire
Wings of Desire
Wings of Desire is a 1987 Franco-German romantic fantasy film directed by Wim Wenders. The film is about invisible, immortal angels who populate Berlin and listen to the thoughts of the human inhabitants and comfort those who are in distress...

. In 1997, Gorbachev appeared with his granddaughter Anastasia in an internationally screened television commercial for Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut
Pizza Hut is an American restaurant chain and international franchise that offers different styles of pizza along with side dishes including pasta, buffalo wings, breadsticks, and garlic bread....

. The U.S. corporation's payment for the 60-second ad went to Gorbachev's not-for-profit Gorbachev Foundation
Gorbachev Foundation
The Gorbachev Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, founded by the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1991 and began its work since January 1992. The foundation is active in researching the Perestroika era, current issues of Russian...

. In 2007, French luxury brand Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton Malletier – commonly referred to as Louis Vuitton , or shortened to LV – is a French fashion house founded in 1854 by Louis Vuitton. The label is well known for its LV monogram, which is featured on most products, ranging from luxury trunks and leather goods to ready-to-wear, shoes,...

 announced that Gorbachev would be shown in an ad campaign for their signature luggage.

Following Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

's death on 23 April 2007, Gorbachev released a eulogy for him, stating that Yeltsin was to be commended for assuming the "difficult task of leading the nation into the post-Soviet era", and "on whose shoulders are both great deeds for the country and serious errors."

On 16 June 2009, Gorbachev announced that he had recorded an album of old Russian romantic ballads entitled Songs for Raisa to raise money for a charity dedicated to his late wife. On the album, he sings the songs himself accompanied by Russian musician Andrei Makarevich
Andrei Makarevich
Andrey Vadimovich Makarevich is a Soviet and Russian rock musician, founder of the Russia's oldest still active rock band Mashina Vremeni .-Biography:Makarevich was born in Moscow to the parents of Belarusian and Jewish origin...

.

Since his resignation, Gorbachev has remained involved in world affairs. He founded the Gorbachev Foundation
Gorbachev Foundation
The Gorbachev Foundation is a non-profit organization headquartered in San Francisco, California, founded by the former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1991 and began its work since January 1992. The foundation is active in researching the Perestroika era, current issues of Russian...

 in 1992, headquartered in San Francisco. He later founded Green Cross International
Green Cross International
Green Cross International is an environmental organisation founded by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1993, building upon the work started by the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil...

, with which he was one of three major sponsors of the Earth Charter
Earth Charter
The Earth Charter is an international declaration of fundamental values and principles considered useful by its supporters for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century...

. He also became a member of the Club of Rome
Club of Rome
The Club of Rome is a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues. Founded in 1968 at Accademia dei Lincei in Rome, Italy, the CoR describes itself as "a group of world citizens, sharing a common concern for the future of humanity." It consists of current and...

 and the Club of Madrid
Club of Madrid
The Club de Madrid is an independent non-profit organization created to promote democracy and change in the international community. Composed of 80 former Presidents and Prime Ministers from 56 countries, the Club de Madrid is the world’s largest forum of former Heads of State and Government.Among...

, an independent non-profit organization composed of 81 democratic former presidents and Prime Ministers from 57 different countries.

In the decade that followed the Cold War, Gorbachev opposed both the U.S.-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the U.S.-led Iraq War in 2003. On 27 July 2007, Gorbachev criticized U.S. foreign policy: “What has followed are unilateral actions, what has followed are wars, what has followed is ignoring the UN Security Council, ignoring international law and ignoring the will of the people, even the American people,” he said. That same year, he visited New Orleans, a city hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

, and promised he would return in 2011 to personally lead a local revolution if the U.S. government had not repaired the levees by that time. He said that revolutionary action should be a last resort.

Concerning the 2008 South Ossetia war
2008 South Ossetia war
The 2008 South Ossetia War or Russo-Georgian War was an armed conflict in August 2008 between Georgia on one side, and Russia and separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the other....

, in a 12 August 2008 op-ed essay in The Washington Post
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is Washington, D.C.'s largest newspaper and its oldest still-existing paper, founded in 1877. Located in the capital of the United States, The Post has a particular emphasis on national politics. D.C., Maryland, and Virginia editions are printed for daily circulation...

, Gorbachev criticized the U.S. support for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
Mikheil Saakashvili
Mikheil Saakashvili is a Georgian politician, the third and current President of Georgia and leader of the United National Movement Party.Involved in the national politics since 1995, Saakashvili became president on 25 January 2004 after President Eduard Shevardnadze resigned in a November 2003...

 and for moving to bring the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 into the sphere of its national interest. He later said the following:
In September 2008 Gorbachev announced he would make a comeback to Russian politics along with a former KGB
KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 officer, Alexander Lebedev
Alexander Lebedev
Alexander Yevgenievich Lebedev is a Russian businessman, referred to as one of the Russian oligarchs.In May 2008, he was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the richest Russians and as the 358th richest person in the world with an estimated fortune of $3.1 billion...

. Their party is known as the Independent Democratic Party of Russia
Independent Democratic Party of Russia
The Independent Democratic Party of Russia was the proposed name of a new liberal party that was announced in late September 2008 to be founded by the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and State Duma deputy of Fair Russia Alexander Lebedev...

. He also is part owner of the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta
Novaya Gazeta
Novaya Gazeta is a Russian newspaper well known in the country for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian political and social affairs....

.

On 20 March 2009, Gorbachev met with United States President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 and Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden
Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. is the 47th and current Vice President of the United States, serving under President Barack Obama...

 in efforts to "reset" strained relations between Russia and the United States.

On 27 March 2009, Gorbachev visited Eureka College
Eureka College
Eureka College is a liberal arts college in Eureka, Illinois related by covenant to the Christian Church and founded in 1855. It has a strong focus on the mutual development of intellect and character. Stated core values are learning, service and leadership...

, Illinois, which is the alma mater of former president Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

. He toured the campus and later traveled to Peoria, Illinois
Peoria, Illinois
Peoria is the largest city on the Illinois River and the county seat of Peoria County, Illinois, in the United States. It is named after the Peoria tribe. As of the 2010 census, the city was the seventh-most populated in Illinois, with a population of 115,007, and is the third-most populated...

, as the keynote speaker at the Reagan Day Dinner.

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev accompanied former Polish leader Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa
Lech Wałęsa is a Polish politician, trade-union organizer, and human-rights activist. A charismatic leader, he co-founded Solidarity , the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland between 1990 and 95.Wałęsa was an electrician...

 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany . Merkel, elected to the Bundestag from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary coalition from 2002 to 2005.From 2005 to 2009 she led a...

 at a celebration in Berlin on 9 November 2009.

On 27 October 2010, it was announced that a gala evening is being prepared to celebrate Gorbachev’s 80th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall situated on the northern edge of the South Kensington area, in the City of Westminster, London, England, best known for holding the annual summer Proms concerts since 1941....

 in London. Senior statesmen including Sir John Major and Gerhard Schroeder will be in attendance for the charity event in March 2011. The event's objective is to raise £5 million for cancer charities and the fundraising is supported by stars including Bono
Bono
Paul David Hewson , most commonly known by his stage name Bono , is an Irish singer, musician, and humanitarian best known for being the main vocalist of the Dublin-based rock band U2. Bono was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and attended Mount Temple Comprehensive School where he met his...

, Jose Carreras
José Carreras
Josep Maria Carreras i Coll , better known as José Carreras , is a Spanish Catalan tenor particularly known for his performances in the operas of Verdi and Puccini...

, Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant
Hugh John Mungo Grant is an English actor and film producer. He has received a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA, and an Honorary César. His films have earned more than $2.4 billion from 25 theatrical releases worldwide. Grant achieved international stardom after appearing in Richard Curtis's...

, Elizabeth Hurley
Elizabeth Hurley
Elizabeth Jane Hurley is an English model and actress who became known as a girlfriend of Hugh Grant in the 1990s. In 1994, as Grant became the focus of worldwide media attention due to the global box office success of his film Four Weddings and a Funeral, Hurley accompanied him to the film's Los...

 and Alan Rickman
Alan Rickman
Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman is an English actor and theatre director. He is a renowned stage actor in modern and classical productions and a former member of the Royal Shakespeare Company...

.

On 7 June 2010, Gorbachev gave an interview before an "almost an annual pilgrimage" to London for a summer gala to raise money for The Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, which funds cancer care for children. The clinic in St. Petersburg can house 80 child patients.
From the Interview:
"Her death, after several years of ill-health, left Gorbachev bereft. He lives in Moscow, has not remarried and finds solace with his daughter and grand-daughters.
He would not be coaxed to talk about Raisa, except fleetingly in the context of the charity. "

Criticism of Vladimir Putin


Since at least March 2011, Gorbachev has become critical of Putin and Medvedev's government. His main grievances about the "tandem" are backsliding on democracy, corruption and the dominance of security officers. Gorbachev is also dissatisfied by the fact that he has not been allowed to register his social democratic party.

When being interviewed by the BBC to reflect on the 20th anniversary of the August Coup, Gorbachev again announced his dissatisfaction with the policies and rule of Putin. Speaking of the status of democracy in the Russian Federation, he proclaimed: "The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it." Gorbachev also stated that he believes Putin should not seek a third term as the Russian president in 2012.

Call for global restructuring


Gorbachev calls for a kind of perestroika or restructuring of societies around the world, starting in particular with that of the United States, because he is of the view that the economic crisis of 2007–present shows that the Washington Consensus
Washington Consensus
The term Washington Consensus was coined in 1989 by the economist John Williamson to describe a set of ten relatively specific economic policy prescriptions that he considered constituted the "standard" reform package promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries...

 economic model is a failure that will sooner or later have to be replaced. According to Gorbachev, countries that have rejected the Washington consensus and the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

 approach to economic development, such as Brazil and China, have done far better economically on the whole and achieved far more fair results for the average citizen, than countries that have accepted it.

Honours and accolades



Soviet Union and Russia Decorations

  • Order of St. Andrew the first-called (2011), The highest state decoration of Russia
    Russia
    Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

    . He was awarded because of his hard work during his USSR leadership.
  • Order of Honour (2001)
  • Order of Lenin
    Order of Lenin
    The Order of Lenin , named after the leader of the Russian October Revolution, was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union...

     (1971, 1973, 1981)
  • Order of October Revolution (1978)
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour
    Order of the Red Banner of Labour
    The Order of the Red Banner of Labour was an order of the Soviet Union for accomplishments in labour and civil service. It is the labour counterpart of the military Order of the Red Banner. A few institutions and factories, being the pride of Soviet Union, also received the order.-History:The Red...

     (1947) He was awarded when he was only 16 and was one of the youngest recipient of the award.
  • Order of the Badge of Honour (1966)

Foreign decorations and awards

  • In 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
    Nobel Peace Prize
    The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

     for "his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community."

  • On 4 May 1992, Gorbachev was awarded the first ever Ronald Reagan Freedom Award
    Ronald Reagan Freedom Award
    The Ronald Reagan Freedom Award is the highest civilian honor bestowed by the private Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. The award is given to "those who have made monumental and lasting contributions to the cause of freedom worldwide."...

     at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
    Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
    The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs is the presidential library and final resting place of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. Designed by Hugh Stubbins and Associates, the library is located in Simi Valley, California, about northwest of...

     in Simi Valley
    Simi Valley
    Simi Valley is a synclinal valley in Southern California in the United States. It is an enclosed or hidden valley surrounded by mountains and hills. It is connected to the San Fernando Valley to the east by the Santa Susana Pass & 118 freeway, and in the west the narrows of the Arroyo Simi and 118...

    , California.

  • In 1993 Gorbachev was awarded a Legum Doctor, honoris causa from Carleton University
    Carleton University
    Carleton University is a comprehensive university located in the capital of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario. The enabling legislation is The Carleton University Act, 1952, S.O. 1952. Founded as a small college in 1942, Carleton now offers over 65 programs in a diverse range of disciplines. Carleton has...

     in Ottawa
    Ottawa
    Ottawa is the capital of Canada, the second largest city in the Province of Ontario, and the fourth largest city in the country. The city is located on the south bank of the Ottawa River in the eastern portion of Southern Ontario...

    , Canada. He was also given an honorary degree from The University of Calgary
    University of Calgary
    The University of Calgary is a public research university located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Founded in 1966 the U of C is composed of 14 faculties and more than 85 research institutes and centres.More than 25,000 undergraduate and 5,500 graduate students are currently...

     in Calgary
    Calgary
    Calgary is a city in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It is located in the south of the province, in an area of foothills and prairie, approximately east of the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies...

    , Alberta, Canada. In the same year, he was conferred with the Freedom of the City of Aberdeen
    Freedom of the City of Aberdeen
    Aberdeen's Freedom ceremony has its origins in the 12th Century. There have been 38 Freedom ceremonies in Aberdeen since the start of the 20th Century...

    .

  • Gorbachev was the 1994 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award
    Grawemeyer Award
    The Grawemeyer Awards are five awards given annually by the University of Louisville in the state of Kentucky, United States. The prizes are presented to individuals in the fields of education, ideas improving world order, music composition, religion, and psychology...

     for improving world order, awarded by the University of Louisville
    University of Louisville
    The University of Louisville is a public university in Louisville, Kentucky. When founded in 1798, it was the first city-owned public university in the United States and one of the first universities chartered west of the Allegheny Mountains. The university is mandated by the Kentucky General...

    , Kentucky.

  • In 1995, Gorbachev received an Honorary Doctorate from Durham University
    Durham University
    The University of Durham, commonly known as Durham University, is a university in Durham, England. It was founded by Act of Parliament in 1832 and granted a Royal Charter in 1837...

    , County Durham, England for his contribution to "the cause of political tolerance and an end to Cold War-style confrontation".

  • For his historic role in the evolution of glasnost
    Glasnost
    Glasnost was the policy of maximal publicity, openness, and transparency in the activities of all government institutions in the Soviet Union, together with freedom of information, introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev in the second half of the 1980s...

    , and for his leadership in the disarmament negotiations with the United States during the Reagan administration, Gorbachev was awarded the Courage of Conscience award 20 October 1996.

  • In 2002, Gorbachev received an honorary degree of a Doctor in Laws (LL.D.) "in recognition of his political service and contribution to peace" from Trinity College, Dublin
    Trinity College, Dublin
    Trinity College, Dublin , formally known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin, was founded in 1592 by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I as the "mother of a university", Extracts from Letters Patent of Elizabeth I, 1592: "...we...found and...

    , Ireland.

  • Gorbachev, together with Bill Clinton
    Bill Clinton
    William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

     and Sophia Loren
    Sophia Loren
    Sophia Loren, OMRI is an Italian actress.In 1962, Loren won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Two Women, along with 21 awards, becoming the first actress to win an Academy Award for a non-English-speaking performance...

    , were awarded the 2004 Grammy Award
    Grammy Award
    A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

     for Best Spoken Word Album for Children
    Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children
    The Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children was an honor presented at the Grammy Awards, a ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, to recording artists for works containing quality "spoken word" performances aimed at children...

     for their recording of Sergei Prokofiev's
    Sergei Prokofiev
    Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev was a Russian composer, pianist and conductor who mastered numerous musical genres and is regarded as one of the major composers of the 20th century...

     Peter and the Wolf
    Peter and the Wolf
    Peter and the Wolf , Op. 67, is a composition written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936 in the USSR. It is a children's story , spoken by a narrator accompanied by the orchestra....

    .

  • In 2005, Gorbachev was awarded the Point Alpha Prize for his role in supporting German reunification
    German reunification
    German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

    . He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Münster
    University of Münster
    The University of Münster is a public university located in the city of Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. The WWU is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, a society of Germany's leading research universities...

    .

  • In 2011, Gorbachev was awarded a honoris causa doctorate from University of Liège
    University of Liège
    The University of Liège , in Liège, Wallonia, Belgium, is a major public university in the French Community of Belgium. Its official language is French.-History:...

     in Liège
    Liège
    Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

    , Belgium.

Religious affiliation


Gorbachev was baptised in the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 as a child.

At the end of a November 1996 interview on CSPAN's Booknotes, Gorbachev described his plans for future books. He made the following reference to God: "I don't know how many years God will be giving me, [or] what His plans are."

In 2005, he said that Pope John Paul II's "devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us" following the pontiff's death. "What can I say—it must have been the will of God. He acted really courageously." In a 1989 meeting, he had told him "We appreciate your mission on this high pulpit, we are convinced that it will leave a great mark on history."

Gorbachev was the recipient of the Athenagoras Humanitarian Award of the Order of St. Andrew Archons
Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are honorees of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who have been selected from among the laity due to service to those portions of the Eastern Orthodox Church under his particular guidance....

 of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople , part of the wider Orthodox Church, is one of the fourteen autocephalous churches within the communion of Orthodox Christianity...

 on 20 November 2005.

On 19 March 2008, during a surprise visit to pray at the tomb of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy, Gorbachev made an announcement which has been interpreted to the effect that he was a Christian. Gorbachev stated that "St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, another Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

. His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life." He added, "It was through St Francis that I arrived at the Church, so it was important that I came to visit his tomb."

However, a few days later, he reportedly told the Russian news agency Interfax, "Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies—I can't use any other word—about my secret Catholicism, [...] To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist." In response, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox patriarch Alexei II
Patriarch Alexius II
Patriarch Alexy II was the 15th Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church....

 told the Russian media: "In Italy, he (Gorbachev) spoke in emotional terms, rather than in terms of faith. He is still on his way to Christianity. If he arrives, we will welcome him."

Naevus flammeus



Though some suggested that he might have his prominent port wine birthmark surgically removed, Gorbachev opted not to, as once he was publicly known to have the mark, he believed it would be perceived as his being more concerned with his appearance than other more important issues.

See also

  • Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev
    Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev
    Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev was a Soviet politician and historian who was a Soviet governmental official in the 1980s and a member of the Politburo and Secretariat of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union...

    , key Gorbachev advisor and ally
  • Black January
    Black January
    Black January , also known as Black Saturday or the January Massacre, was a violent crackdown of the Azerbaijani independence movement in Baku on January 19–20, 1990, pursuant to a state of emergency during the dissolution of the Soviet Union....

     – Soviet crackdown on Azeri protests in 1990
  • Boris Yeltsin
    Boris Yeltsin
    Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

  • Dissolution of the Soviet Union
    Dissolution of the Soviet Union
    The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

  • Earth Charter
    Earth Charter
    The Earth Charter is an international declaration of fundamental values and principles considered useful by its supporters for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century...

  • Index of Soviet Union-related articles
  • Revolutions of 1989
    Revolutions of 1989
    The Revolutions of 1989 were the revolutions which overthrew the communist regimes in various Central and Eastern European countries.The events began in Poland in 1989, and continued in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and...

  • Sergei M. Plekhanov
    Sergei M. Plekhanov
    Sergei M. Plekhanov is a former Soviet Union government adviser who served under the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev. He is also the former Deputy Director of the Institute for the Study of the USA and Canada in Russia, specializing in Russian politics and Russia-United States relations...

    , other former Gorbachev advisor on the United States and Canada.

External links




Interviews and articles