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Who is Mikhail Gorbachev

by Vishul Malik

Mikhail Gorbachev: The Man of “New Thinking” Mikhail Gorbachev stands as a perfect example of a leader who has always wanted the world to be a better and safer place.…

Mikhail Gorbachev: The Man of “New Thinking”

Mikhail Gorbachev stands as a perfect example of a leader who has always wanted the world to be a better and safer place. He is the one leader who has made for himself a

Mikhail Gorbachev

unique place in the history of Russia and in the history of the world. He is remembered today for playing a quintessential role in terminating the Cold War and for many a great mission in history.

A man who was at the right place and at the right time, Mikhail Gorbachev is much loved by his people. He is known for his drive towards positivity, be it to reform the Russian empire or to make peace with the United States. He is a hero in the real sense of the term and a man who will always be associated with some of the most significant historical events in Russia and in the world.


His Growing Years

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev as he was named was born in a Russian-Ukrainian peasant family on 2 March 1931 in a small village of Privolnoye, located at Krasnogvardeisky District in the Stavropol Territory of southern Russia. He is the son of a combine harvester driver, Sergei Gorbachev and of Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva, a peasant. As a child, Mikhail was said to be a quick and passionate learner and developed an interest in mechanics. He supplemented the family’s income by working as a combine harvest operator like his father.

He graduated from high school in 1950, winning a silver medal. Encouraged by his father, he then went on to pursue a career in law at the Moscow University. He was one of the few who did not have to appear for his entrance exam owing to his outstanding academic result. While a student of the university he joined hands with the Communist Party. It was here that he met his future wife Raisa Titarenko. He completed his graduation, earning in law degree in the year 1955. He is also said to be a qualified agricultural economist, the degree of which he earned via correspondence from the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture in the year 1967.

He returned to Stavropol soon after and went on to hold a number of positions. He was given a job at the Stavropol Territorial Prosecutor’s office.

His involvement in activities in the Young Communist League when he was in high school soon earned him a position as an assistant director of the Propaganda Department at the Territorial Committee of the Komsomol youth league (YCL).


His Development in the Communist Party

Gorbachev gradually climbed up through the ranks of the Communist league. He became the First Secretary and Bureau member of the Stavropol City Communist Party Committee on 26 September 1966. He eventually became the Second Secretary of the Stavropol Territorial Communist Party Committee on 5 August 1969. The following year, on 10 April 1970, he was appointed the First Secretary of the Stavropol Territorial Communist Party Committee. He was soon appointed the member of the Communist Party Central Committee in the year 1971 and three years later he became the Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs. Eventually, in 1978, he went on to become the Central Committee’s Secretariat for Agriculture. This position made the family move to Moscow, plunging Gorbachev into national politics.


His Role in National Politics

In the year 1980, Gorbachev was appointed to the Political Bureau of the Central Agency, receiving full membership of this ruling group. Though Gorbachev was regarded too young for the membership; yet he soon came into the limelight under the Andropov government. He owes his swift rise to power to Mikhail Suslov, the chief ideologist of the Central Community of the Communist Party (CPSU). Gorbachev became the successor to Konstantin Chernenko and soon after his death on 11 March 1985; Gorbachev became the General Secretary of the CPSU by the Politburo. This made him the youngest member of the Politburo.


As the General Secretary

Immediately after being appointed the General Secretary, he started implementing various reforms. His aim to breathe new life into the Soviet’s economy and society led to the implementation of two major policies known as glasnost and perestroika. The former refers to the citizen’s ability to openly speak about their opinions and the latter refers to the restructuring needs to reform the economy of the Soviet Union. He encouraged the use of computers and technology. He also introduced campaigns against alcoholism and corruption. He also made possible the release of many political prisoners.


USSR Congress of People’s Deputies and Presidency

His attempt to remodel the government’s legislative in order to liberate them from the clutches of the CPSU led to the formation of a new bicameral parliament known as the USSR Congress of People’s Deputies. Some of the members were directly elected by the people via multicandidate election. A new ruling body was created in turn, the USSR Supreme Soviet. On 25 May 1989, Gorbachev was appointed the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (head of the state).

The Congress of People’s Deputies elected Gorbachev as the President of the Soviet Union on 15 March 1990 with 59% of its votes. During his tenure as the president, Gorbachev thrived towards establishing a warmer relation with the developed nations of the East and the West.

It was during his reign that the Soviet troops were asked to withdraw from Afghanistan and Mongolia. Gorbachev was instrumental in terminating the Cold War and for abandoning the Brezhnev Doctrine. He has also played a key role in the overthrow of the Berlin Wall and in the reunification of Germany. His leadership quality, remarkable achievements and his excellent contributions to the betterment of the world made him the true achiever of the Nobel Peace Prize, which was conferred to him on 15 October 1990. Today, Gorbachev is acclaimed widely for his “new thinking” in matters of foreign affairs.


The End of the Soviet Union

There is no denying the fact that Gorbachev’s political ventures were positive for the reformation in various areas, however his reforms did not have any positive effect on the economy of the Soviet Union. The economy of the Soviet Union not only took a severe downturn, but it also brought the nation very near to disaster. In the midst of the failing Soviet economy, war sparked off between various ethnic groups within the USSR, with groups like Ukrainians and Lithuanians and other republics demanding independence. The power of the Soviet Union weakened and many Eastern bloc countries deserted communism.

As Gorbachev was trying to bridge all the broken pieces together, there surfaced Gorbachev’s rival, Boris Yeltsin in the scene. A former Communist Party member, Yeltsin introduced radical changes in the economy and was gaining a new level of prominence. He was the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR before being elected the President of the Russian Federation.

In August 1991, a group of Communist Party conservatives captured Gorbachev in a coup to grab power and put him under house arrest from 19 to 21 August 1991. The coup was unsuccessful due to the tough resistance by Boris Yeltsin and other reformers. Though Gorbachev came back to power, the coup had drastically weakened his name and fame. The public grew increasingly suspicious of Gorbachev and hailed Yeltsin as their new hero.

By the end of the year 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed making Gorbachev resigned from his position as the president of the Soviet Union. The complete power was handed over to Yeltsin.


Life After

Gorbachev created the Gorbachev Foundation in January of 1992 and became its president. The foundation emphasizes on the social, political, and economic changes that were taking place in Russia and also works towards promoting humanistic ideals. He also established the Green Cross International in 1993, an environmental organization for which he was also the president. The year 1996 saw Gorbachev run for presidency of Russia. He, however, received few votes.


Personal Life

It was at the Moscow State University that Gorbachev met Raisa Titarenko his future wife. The duo got married in September of 1953. Their only daughter Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya was born in the year 1957. Gorbachev’s wife died in 1999 of leukemia.


Awards and Decorations

Gorbachev received the Indira Gandhi Prize from the Government of India in the year 1987, the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 1989, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award in 1992, the Grawemeyer Award in 1994, the Freedom Award in 1998, the Point Alpha Prize in the year 2005, and others.

He received honorary degree from such universities as Westminster College, Missouri; the University of Calgary, Canada; the Durham University, England, etc.

He is also the recipient of the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for the recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. Gorbachev has been crowned with such decorations as: the Order of St. Andrew in 2011, the Order of Honour in 2001, the Order of Lenin in 1971, 1973 and 1981, the Order of the Badge of Honour in 1966, etc. He received Medal “For Labour Valour,” Medal “For Strengthening Military Cooperation.” Medal “In Commemoration of the 1500th Anniversary of Kiev,” and the Jubilee Medal “Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.


Alma MaterMoscow State University

Full Name Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev
Born On 2 March 1931 (age 83)
Place of Birth Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union.
Nationality Russian
Political Party Independent Democratic Party (2008-present) Union of Social Democrats (2007 –present)
Spouse Raisa Titarenko (1953 -1999; her death)
Children Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya
Mother Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva
Father Sergei Gorbachev
Religion Atheist
Profession Lawyer
President of the Soviet Union In office: 15 March 1990 – 25 December 1991
General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union In office: 11 March 1985 – 24 August 1991
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet In office: 25 May 1989 – 15 March 1990
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet In office: 1 October 1988 – 25 May 1989
Full member of the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th Politburo In office: 21 October 1980 – 24 August 1991
Member of the 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th Secretariat In office: 27 November 1978 – 24 August 1991
Candidate member of the 25th Politburo In office: 27 November 1979 – 21 October 1980
Soviet Union and Russian Decorations
  • Order of St. Andrew (2011),
  • Order of Honour (2001)
  • Order of Lenin (1971, 1973, 1981)
  • Order of October Revolution (1978)
  • Order of the Badge of Honour (1966)
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labour (1947).
  • Medal “For Labour Valour”
  • Medal “For Strengthening Military Cooperation”
  • Medal “In Commemoration of the 1500th Anniversary of Kiev”
  • Jubilee Medal “Forty Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945”
Foreign Decorations and Awards
  • 1987, Indira Gandhi Prize from Government of India
  • 1989, Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold of the United Nations Association of Germany (DGVN) in Berlin
  • 1990, Nobel Peace Prize for his active part in the peace process
  • 4 May 1992, Ronald Reagan Freedom Award
  • 6 May 1992, Honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.
  • 1993, Legum Doctor, honoris causa from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
  • 1994 Grawemeyer Award by the University of Louisville, Kentucky.
  • 1995, Honorary Doctorate from Durham University,
  • 20 October 1996, Courage of Conscience award
  • 1998, Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • 2002, Honorary degree of a Doctor in Laws (LL.D.)
  • 2004, Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for recording of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.
  • 2005, Point Alpha Prize
  • 2011, Honoris causa doctorate from University of Li鑒e in Li鑒e, Belgium.

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