Gorbachev was the president of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) who served as the 8th leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev played a significant role in ending the Cold War, democratizing the political system of Russia and decentralizing its economy which led to the end of the communist era and the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991. He played a significant role in ending the postwar domination of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union and he received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
5. Early Life
Born on March 2nd, 1931, in Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev hailed from a mixed Russian-Ukranian family who were immigrants from Chernigov Governorates and Voronezh. Gorbachev was born to Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev, his father, a combine harvester and WWII veteran, and his mother, Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva, a kolkhoz worker. When Gorbachev was a toddler, he experienced the Soviet famine which took place between 1932 and 1933. In a memoir he wrote, Gorbachev recalled how terrible the famine was with almost half of the population of Privolnoye his village starving to death including three of his father's siblings, two sisters, and a brother. During the 1930s both of Gorbachev’s grandfathers were arrested on false charges with Andrey Moiseyevich Gorbachev his paternal grandfather being sent to exile in Siberia. Gorbachev was mostly brought up his maternal grandparents who were of Ukrainian descent. During his teenage years, Gorbachev operated combine harvesters on various farms. In 1955, Gorbachev graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in law. At the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture, through a correspondence master’s degree, Gorbachev qualified as an agriculture economist in 1967. While at the University, Gorbachev joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) soon after becoming an active member.
4. Rise to Power
Gorbachev's rise to power commenced when he started rising up the Communist League hierarchy through the party's territorial leagues. By 1963, Gorbachev was appointed the Stavropol Regional Committee's Head of Party Organs Department. By 1970, he was appointed as Stavropol Regional Committee's First Party Secretary. Gorbachev was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between March 1985 and August 1991. From October 1988 to March 1990, and he was also the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. Between March 15, 1990, to December 25, 1991, Gorbachev served as the 1st President of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev played a significant role in contributing to respect for human rights when he led the end of communism in Russia and parts of Europe which ultimately ended the Cold War. Seeing that Russia was financially crippled since it was poor at the time, Gorbachev opted to end the Cold War instead of spending millions of dollars building nuclear weapons in the war against the US. Gorbachev had enough power which he used to make change within the Russian government.
Gorbachev went through some challenges starting from the famine that struck his village. Growing up was not easy as he had to see his grandfathers being caught, imprisoned, and tortured. During his political career, Gorbachev went through some challenges as well. He faced several challenges with his efforts to bring domestic reform in the Soviet Union. Another major problem that Gorbachev faced was the growing ethnic unrest among Russian republics. Gorbachev's biggest blow came with the collapse of the Soviet Union which was evident by 1991. In December of the same year, he resigned as president and soon after that the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a nation.
1. Death and Legacy
Mikhail Gorbachev is still alive, aged 86 years. In 1992, Gorbachev was awarded the Harvey Prize together with honorary doctorates from various universities, in 1990, he was given the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 1989, he was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal. Even though his legacy might seem forgotten, Gorbachev will always be remembered as more than a footnote in the troubled history of Russia and the greatest reformer of the 20th century.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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