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


Mikhail Gorbachev, who set out to revitalize the Soviet Union but eventually unleashed forces that led to the collapse of communism, the break-up of the state and the end of the Cold War, died on Tuesday evening. The last Soviet leader was 91 years old.
Gorbachev died after a long illness, according to a statement from Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital. Gorbachev is survived by a daughter and two granddaughters. He is to be buried in a Moscow cemetery next to his wife.
In less than seven years, Gorbachev unleashed a breathtaking series of changes. But they quickly overtook it and brought about the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the liberation of Eastern European nations from Russian rule, and the end of decades of East-West nuclear confrontation. The Russians blamed him for the implosion of the Soviet Union, whose territory fractured into 15 separate nations.
Grilled around the world – he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War – and vilified 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 power watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on December 25, 1991. The Union Soviet was written into oblivion a day later. “I see myself as a man who initiated the necessary reforms for the country, for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told the AP in a 1992 interview. would have started all over again if it had to be done over again? Yes indeed.”
These reforms began after he took office as general secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and launched a campaign to end his country’s economic and political stagnation. He freed political prisoners, allowed open debate and multi-candidate elections, gave his countrymen the freedom to travel, stopped religious oppression, reduced nuclear arsenals, established closer ties with the West and did not resist the fall of communist regimes in the satellite states of Eastern Europe. Beginning in November 1985, he began summit meetings with world leaders, particularly US Presidents Ronald Reagan and george bush, which led to deep and unprecedented reductions in US and Soviet nuclear arsenals. But the forces he unleashed eluded him.
Long-suppressed ethnic tensions have erupted, sparking unrest in hotspots. Strikes and social unrest followed price hikes and shortages of consumer goods. In one of the lowest moments of his tenure, he sanctioned the crackdown on restive Baltic republics in early 1991.



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