Mikhail Gorbachev, reformer who changed Russia and the world, dies at 91



Mikhail Gorbachev, who set out to revitalise the Soviet Union but ended up unleashing forces that led to the collapse of communism, the breakup of the state and the end of the Cold War, died late Tuesday. The last Soviet leader was 91.
Gorbachev died after a long illness, according to a statement by Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital. Gorbachev issurvived by a daughter and two granddaughters. He is to be buried at a Moscow cemetery next to his wife.
In less than seven years, Gorbachev unleashed a breathtaking series of changes. But they quickly overtook him and resulted in the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the freeing of Eastern European nations from Russian domination and the end of decades of East-Westnuclear confrontation. Russians blamed him for the implosion of the Soviet Union, whose territory fractured into 15 separate nations.
Toasted globally — he won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War — and reviled at home, Gorbachev’s decline was humiliating. His power hopelessly sapped by an attempted coup against him in August 1991, he spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on December 25, 1991. The Soviet Union wrote itself into oblivion a day later. “I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told the AP in a 1992 interview. “I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed.”
Those reforms kicked off after he took over as general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and began a campaign to end his country’s economic and political stagnation. He freed political prisoners, allowed open debate and multicandidate elections, gave his countrymen freedom to travel, halted religious oppression, reduced nuclear arsenals, established closer ties with the West and did not resist the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern European satellite states. Starting November 1985, he began summit meetings with world leaders, especially US Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush, which led to unprecedented, deep reductions in the American and Soviet nuclear arsenals. But the forces he unleashed escaped his control.
Long-suppressed ethnic tensions flared, sparking unrest in trouble spots. Strikes and labor unrest followed price increases and shortages of consumer goods. In one of the low points of his tenure, he sanctioned acrackdown on the restive Baltic republics in early 1991.


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Date: September 1, 2022