A great statesman and an outstanding leader, Mikhail Gorbachev played a quintessential role in terminating the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the re-unification of the East and West Germany. Right from a young age, he displayed immense dedication and organizational skills and had a bent towards politics. With the increasing age, his inclination for political pursuits also increased and he became a prominent member of the Communist party. In 1970, he became one of the youngest provincial party chiefs and in 1979 became the youngest member of Politburo. Same year, he was made the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which he served until 1991. Gorbachev became the first and the last President of the Soviet Union. Under his presidency, he sought to reform the party and the state economy by introducing the concepts of openness, restructuring, democratization and accelerated economic development. Furthermore, he brought about various technological advancements that secured increased productivity and reduced wastage. His efforts to democratize country’s political system and decentralize its economy led to the downfall of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. To know in details about his life, childhood and works, read on.
- Mikhail Gorbachev was born to Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev and Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva. While his father was a combine harvester and World War II veteran, his mother was employed as a kolkhoz worker.Since a young age, he had an aptitude for learning and trained himself very well at operating machines. He started contributing to the house income and by 1948, became the youngest ever to win the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for his active role in bringing in that year’s bumper crop.He graduated from high school with a silver medal. In 1950, he enrolled at the Moscow University and graduated from the same in 1955 with a degree in law.In 1967, he secured a correspondence master’s degree from the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture, after which he became a qualified agricultural economist.Career
- He was involved in politics since young, being a Communist party member while still in high school. However, he was officially recognized and granted full membership only in 1952.His reputation as a hardworking and dedicated activist worked for him as he was soon promoted up the ranks, becoming Head of the Department of Party Organs in the Stavropol Agricultural Kraikom in 1963.By 1970, he became First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, thus becoming the youngest provincial party chiefs in the nation. Working in this capacity, he improved the basic living standard of the workers and helped them reorganize collective farms. He even assisted them in expanding private plots.Once simply a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, he rose up the ranks to become the Central Committee's Secretary for Agriculture in 1978. A year later, he was appointed to the Politburo and received full membership in 1980.During Yuri Andropov’s term as the General Secretary, his visibility increased by miles as he was counted as one of the most active members. His travels abroad shaped his political and social view.With the death of Andropov and his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, the need for a younger leadership became evident. As such, in 1985, Gorbachev was elected as the General Secretary by the Politburo.He aimed at bringing forth a change and reform in the party and the state economy by introducing concepts of openness, restructuring, democratization and accelerated economic development.With an attempt to increase the efficiency of the Soviet bureaucracy, he brought about various technological advancements to enhance productivity and reduce waste. He established a market economy that was more socially oriented and raised an anti-alcohol campaign.Apart from domestic issues, he built on a rapport with the then US president Ronald Reagan to improve Soviet relations with the leaders of Western nations. It was due to the budding relationship of the two that the Cold War came to a close.In 1987, he signed a treaty with Reagan according to which both the countries had to destroy the existing stock of intermediate range nuclear tipped missiles. From 1988-89, he oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan after their nine-year occupation of that country.In an effort to restructure the government’s legislative and release them from the grip of CPSU, he introduced a bicameral parliament called the U.S.S.R. Congress of People’s Deputies and organized elections that required Communist Party members to contest in multi-candidate elections.In 1989, he was elected as the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. In contrast to his predecessors, he had gained greater influence and was a real standing parliament with substantial legislative powers due to the reformative policy.On March 15, 1990, the Congress of People’s Duties elected him as the first president of the Soviet Union with about 59% of the Deputies vote. Later in May, the Congress met to elect representatives who would be elected as the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.During his term as the President, he stressed on peaceful international relations. Not only did he play a pivotal role to end the Cold War, but was instrumental in encouraging the fall of the wall of Berlin and the reunification of Germany.He also diligently dealt with domestic matters and economic reforms. The pressing issue then was the emergence of different ethnic groups which had waged a war against each other. Furthermore, Ukrainians and Lithuanians demanded independence for themselves.Amidst dealing with the issues of the country, he faced strong competition from opposition leader Boris Yeltsin, a former Communist Party member, who emphasized on bringing about a radical change in the economy.Yeltsin was elected as the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and no sooner was elected as the President of the Russian Federation by 57.3% of the vote.In 1991, he was captured in a coup to seize power. Despite being an opposition leader, Yeltsin intervened and personally manned a resistance against the coup, which finally released Gorbachev.Upon returning, the increasing distrust towards him and steeping support for Yeltsin led to his stepping down as the President of the Soviet Union and handing of power to Yeltsin. His resignation was followed by the dissolution of Soviet Union.Post presidency, he established a Social Democratic Party of Russia from which he resigned in 2004. Three years henceforth, he formed a new political party Union of Social Democrats.Political career aside, he has also appeared in popular media. Not only did he star in films and television commercials, he also recorded album of old Russian ballads.Awards & Achievements
- For his outstanding leadership skills and remarkable contributions to the overall betterment of world development, he was conferred with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990.In his lifetime, he has received various national and foreign decorations including Russia’s highest state decoration Order of St. Andrew, Order of the Badge of Honour, Order of Lenin, Order of Honour, Order of October Revolution, and so on.Various universities across the globe have felicitated him with honorary doctorate degree. Furthermore, he also received the Indira Gandhi Prize (India) and Ronald Reagan Freedom Award (US).Personal Life & Legacy
- He tied the nuptial knot in 1953 with fellow student Raisa Titarenko, whom he met at Moscow State University. Four years later, the couple was blessed with a daughter.Trivia
- This Nobel Peace Prize laureate was the first president of the Soviet Union, serving from 1990 to 1991. He has a prominent port wine stain on his forehead.
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