Mikhail Gorbachev

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Mikhail Gorbachev

General Secretary of the Communist Party of Russia
In office
March 11, 1985 – August 24, 1991
Preceded by Konstantin Chernenko
Succeeded by Boris Yeltsin (as President of Russia)

President of the Soviet Union
In office
March 15, 1990 – December 25, 1991

Born 2 March 1931
Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, Russia
Died 30 August 2022 (aged 91)
Moscow, Russia
Spouse(s) Raisa Gorbacheva
(m. 1952 - 1999)

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (2 March 1931 - 30 August 2022), was the last effective leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 till 1991. Embarking on a new openness with the outside not previously seen under Soviet rule, Gorbachev became quite popular among Democratic Socialists in the West. Gorbachev was Ukrainian on his mother's side.

Gorbachev was an enthusiast for the conservative game of chess, which may have influenced his outlook.[1]

Early life

Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev attended Moscow University, where he studied law. In 1953 he married Raisa Titorenko, a fellow student. He returned to Stavropol and began to move gradually upward in the Communist Party.

General Secretary

Following the death of Communist leader Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, Gorbachev was elected General Secretary.[2] As General Secretary, Gorbachev improved relations with the United States and embarked on an extensive mission of attempying to reform the Communist Soviet Union under policies known as glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring"). It is questioned to what extent he intended to bring about the wholesale changes that swept the Soviet Union and its satellites and how much events moved out of control.

According to declassified CIA documents, George Soros targeted the Soviet government as early as 1987. Soros worked closely with a CIA linked non-governmental organization, the Institute for East-West Security Studies, to take advantage of Glasnost and Perestroika for the purpose of infiltrating and sabotaging the Soviet economic and political system.[3]


On April 26, 1986, there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant - an emergency that had no analogues in the history of nuclear energy. Under Gorbachev's glasnost openness program, the public was not informed. As a result, Chernobyl for many years became a hoard of rumors and myths.


The Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast within the Muslim Azerbaijan SSR was a region with a predominantly Christian Armenian population. The long-standing conflict between the two peoples flared up with renewed vigor in 1987. Gorbachev's team urged the parties to solve problems through discussion, completely ignorant of the Caucasian specifics. Moreover, Moscow's emissaries who came to Azerbaijan and Armenia made mutually exclusive promises, which only exacerbated the situation. Gradually, the matter turned to acts of violence.

In February 1988, pogroms on ethnic grounds took place in the satellite city of Baku Sumgait, the victims of which were more than 30 people. For almost three days, anarchy reigned in Sumgait, against the background of which extremists brutally killed local Armenians, including women and children.

Only the intervention of units of the Soviet Army stopped the massacre. The Sumgait nightmare demanded from Gorbachev quick and clear decisions in the field of national policy. But instead, a new round of talking began.

Moscow's inability to deal with the Nagorno-Karabakh problem showed the weakness of the Moscow center, which extremists in other Republics took advantage of.

Georgian Republic

In 1989, after Soviet troops moved into Tbilisi to crack down on protests and killed at least 20 people,[4] Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to preserve communism in what was then an enslaved Republic of the Soviet Union.[5]

End of single party rule

Under glasnost and perestroika the political activity of the population grew, and the meetings of the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR, which started in May 1989, were watched by the entire Soviet Union. No effective solutions were developed, and 'people power' turned into cheap populism.

In March 1990, the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR abolished the 6th Article of the Constitution on the leading and guiding role of the CPSU. Thus, the single party system in the country was ended.

By this time the country was in a deep political and economic crisis.

Gorbachev (left) signs agreement with President G.H.W. Bush

German reunification and NATO's pledge not to expand

The East German Republic had been a member of the Warsaw Pact. With the Fall of the Berlin Wall, discussions on German unification ensued. Gorbachev was willing to allow the former Esat German Republic to leave the Warsaw Pact and become part of NATO in a united Germany, under condition that NATO would not expand eastward beyond the German-Polich border (Oder-Neise Line). Gorbachev ultimately agreed to a proposal from then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (DOS) that NATO would not move “one inch” beyond the Oder-Neise Line.

On Feb. 9, 1990, Baker said: “We consider that the consultations and discussions in the framework of the 2+4 mechanism should give a guarantee that the reunification of Germany will not lead to the enlargement of NATO’s military organization to the East.” On the next day, then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said: “We consider that NATO should not enlarge its sphere of activity.”[6] Gorbachev's mistake was not to get it in writing as a legally-binding agreement.[7]

Gorbachev and Yeltsin agreed to collapsing the Soviet Union in exchange for a non-NATO expansion pledge. In 2021 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denied such agreements ever existed or discussions even took place.[8]
“U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous ‘not one inch eastward’ assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents …

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels. … The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of ‘pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.’ …

President George H.W. Bush had assured Gorbachev during the Malta summit in December 1989 that the U.S. would not take advantage (‘I have not jumped up and down on the Berlin Wall”) of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests.’”[9]

The minutes of a March 6, 1991 meeting in Bonn, West Germany between political directors of the foreign ministries of the US, UK, France, and Germany contain multiple references to “2+4” talks on German unification in which Western officials made it “clear” to the Soviet Union that NATO would not push into territory east of Germany. “We made it clear to the Soviet Union – in the 2+4 talks, as well as in other negotiations – that we do not intend to benefit from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe,” the document in British foreign ministry archives quotes US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Canada Raymond Seitz. “NATO should not expand to the east, either officially or unofficially,” Seitz added. A British representative also mentions the existence of a “general agreement” that membership of NATO for eastern European countries is “unacceptable.”[10]


After surviving the unsuccessful August Coup of 1991, and following subsequent referendums in the constituent Soviet republics seeking independence, Gorbachev was forced to resign office on December 25, 1991. The Soviet Union was dissolved the following day. Although still thought of fondly in the West, Gorbachev did not maintain his popularity at home. After his "retirement" he was forced to live on a pension that deteriorated quickly in value as the Russian currency collapsed in the post-Communist era.

Attitude toward religion

Gorbachev, as Soviet president, campaigned for the establishment of freedom of religion laws in the Soviet Union, viewing the exercise of religious expression as a valuable source of societal cohesion. However, he remains a lifelong atheist.[11]

In April 1990, Gorbachev granted a one-on-one meeting to arch anti-Communist Sun Myung Moon. Father Moon urged him to grant religious freedom to his nation, saying:

"Mr. President, you have already achieved much success through perestroika, but that alone will not be sufficient for reform. You need to immediately allow freedom of religion in the Soviet Union. If you try to reform only the material world, without the involvement of God, perestroika will be doomed to fail. Communism is about to end. The only way to save this nation is to allow the freedom of religion. The time is now for you to act with the courage that you have shown in reforming the Soviet Union and become a president of the world who works to bring about world peace."[12]

He also asked him to revive diplomatic relations with South Korea.

President Gorbachev met President Roh in San Francisco in June that year for a bilateral summit. Then, on September 30, 1990, South Korea and the Soviet Union signed a historic agreement to open diplomatic relations for the first time in eighty six years.[13]


In 1992 Gorbachev founded The International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies (The Gorbachev Foundation), an independent think tank committed to "democratic values and moral, humanistic principles in the life of society".[14] He is also the founding president and a board member of the environmental group Green Cross International.[15] An advocate of population control, Gorbachev is also a member of Club of Madrid.


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