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Mikhail Gorbachev speaker - Photo by Veni - CC BY 2.0

Mikhail Gorbachev

speaker location icon Russia

General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1985-91)

Nobel Peace Prize winner (1990)

Led Perestroika and the liberalisation of Soviet Russia

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed General Secretary of the party despite being the youngest member of the Politburo.

He embarked on a comprehensive program of political, economic, and social liberalisation. The government released political prisoners, allowed increased emigration, attacked corruption, and encouraged the critical reexamination of Soviet history.

In a series of summit talks (1985-88), Mikhail Gorbachev improved relations with U.S. President Ronald Reagan. By 1989 he had brought about the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and had sanctioned the end of the Communist monopoly on political power in Eastern Europe. For his contributions to reducing East-West tensions, he was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize.

With the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on 8th December 1991, the federal government of the Soviet Union ceased to function, and on 25th December, 1991 Gorbachev resigned as president marking the end of the Soviet Union.

In September 2008, Mikhail Gorbachev and business oligarch Alexander Lebedev announced they would form the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, and in May 2009 Gorbachev announced that the launch was imminent. This was Gorbachev’s third attempt to establish a political party, having started the Social Democratic Party of Russia in 2001 and the Union of Social Democrats in 2007.

Our Comment

"Mikhail Gorbachev’s role in the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall means he is one the most respected politicians of his era. His actions directly led to a new, and radically changing, world order, he is therefore unrivalled in his ability to commentate upon it."

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