Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was the final President of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991. He was born in Russia, or what would become Russia, in 1931, making him 88 years old now.
Gorbachev is best known for bringing an end to the Cold War, a series of conflicts between the Soviet Union and the United States, among other countries. He democratized the Communist Soviet Union, weakening it from the inside and eventually dissolving it.
Mr. Gorbachev, let’s tear down some facts!
Mikhail Gorbachev Facts
1. Mikhail Gorbachev won a Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1990, just after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, an interesting fact about Mikhail Gorbachev. He was awarded the prize specifically for his work in Eastern Europe. Once he was in power, Gorbachev advocated for Soviet Union to pull their military forces and weapons out of the Eastern European countries that were not part of the Soviet Union, but under Soviet control. When the countries asserted their independence, Gorbachev let them go in peace.
2. Gorbachev ran unopposed for President
In 1988, Gorbachev made some changes to the Soviet Union constitution. Among these changes were the institution of a Parliament in which some of its members were elected by the people. Unlike the government body that came before it, this Parliament had real power to rule. In 1989, Gorbachev was elected as the Chairman of the Parliament, and nobody ran against him for the Presidency, so Gorbachev won by default.
3. He held many offices on his way to the top
An interesting fact about Mikhail Gorbachev is that he was the son of peasants. In 1946, he joined the young communists league, then studied law at Moscow State University. He rose through the ranks, and by 1970 Gorbachev became the first secretary of the regional party committee. Just a year later, he was upgraded to a member of the central committee. In 1978, Gorbachev was made the secretary of agriculture. In 1980, he became a member of the Politburo, the policy making body of the central committee. In 1988, he became the chairman of the national legislature, at which point he restructured the government and was elected as President of the Soviet Union.
4. The first thing Gorbachev did was try to kick the economy into shape
Once Gorbachev was in a position of power, he tried to bring the economy back to life after a previous leader, Leonid Brezhnev, let it crumble. Gorbachev called for modernized technology, increased worker productivity, and a more efficient bureaucracy. However, these adjustments did not create any lasting changes, and so Gorbachev would have to do more. He put the Soviet Union into a state of Glasnost, or openness, so that they were less isolated. So began the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
5. He took down the Soviet Union from the Inside
Along with Glasnost, Gorbachev started a campaign of perestroika, which translates to “restructuring.” He restructured the government by making it more like a western democracy, with multiple candidates up for election and a secret ballot. He allowed a lot more self-expression in his citizens, and reporters were allowed to be critical of the government. Gorbachev was a lot friendlier to other countries, especially the United States. He worked with Ronald Reagan to lessen the tension of the Cold War by getting rid of their immediate range nuclear tipped missiles and having peace talks. He also joined NATO, an international organization the Soviets had called their enemy.
An interesting fact about Gorbachev is that he also tried to introduce some ideas from Western economy and the free market, but these measures were much less effective than the government reform. The government was unwilling to release control of the nation’s economy to the people.
6. He tore down the Wall between East and West Berlin
In the days of the Soviet Union, Germany was split right down the middle. Half of the country was in the Soviet Union, and the other half wasn’t. German’s capital city of Berlin was split down the center by the Berlin Wall. In 1990, Gorbachev agreed to finally tear down that wall, reuniting Germany, lifting the Iron Curtain between the east and west, and symbolically ending the Cold War.
7. Other countries wanted in on the freedom
Once Gorbachev loosened his grip on the Soviet Union, the republics that made it up had hope for freedom, and once one gets a taste for freedom, they usually demand more. Republics such as Uzbekistan and Georgia had a lot of unrest among its citizens, and Lithuania attempted revolution. Gorbachev was willing to let them go, but this was not the way, so he used military force to suppress revolution. Then he wrote ways for these republics to lawfully leave the Soviet Union into the constitution. Gorbachev also supported reformists in eastern Europe, and when those countries didn’t want to be communist anymore, he let them go in peace.
Of course, this release of power destabilized the Soviet Union, and Gorbachev’s power disappeared.
8. Mikhail Gorbachev ran for President of Russia
After the Soviet Union broke up, Gorbachev attempted to return to power the Democratic way, he ran for President. However, he lost badly. An interesting fact about Mikhail Gorbachev is that he didn’t even earn one percent of the votes. Maybe he should have stuck to running unopposed, but then the world would have turned out a lot differently.
In recent years, Gorbachev spends his time as a speaker, and a member of Russain think tanks, discussing ideas. Several years ago, he announced that he would create a new political party in Russia, but this has never come to fruition.
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