Mikhael Gorbachev
(Mikhael Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union)

Last Soviet leader Gorbachev passed away aged 91

Mikhael Gorbachev, the eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, died at the age of 91 after a “serious and long illness,” the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital announced on Tuesday (Aug. 30). He led the Soviet Union from 1985 until its breakup in 1991. During that time, he reached arms control deals with the US, 
and partnerships with Western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since World War Two. Additionally, he was the head of state when the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall fell.

His policy of glasnost and perestroika – openness and restructuring –allowed people to criticise the government in a way which had been previously unthinkable. But his internal reforms helped weaken the Soviet Union to the point where it fell apart, a moment that Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century.

Putin send a telegram of condolences to Gorbachev’s family on Wednesday (Aug.31), in which he described the former Soviet Union President as a “politician and statesman who had a huge impact on the course of world history.” “He led our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes, large-scale foreign policy, economic, and social challenges. He deeply understood that reforms were necessary and sought to offer his own solutions to pressing problems,” Putin’s telegram, published on the Kremlin’s website, read.

Other world leaders also paid tribute to Gorbachev. United States President Joe Biden in a statement referring to him as a “rare leader” and a “man of remarkable vision.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Gorbachev’s “tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all”. French President Emmanuel Macron called Gorbachev “a man of peace whose choices opened up a path of liberty for Russians”.

Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 “for the leading role he played in the radical changes in East-West relations” but was widely despised at home. Many Russians never forgave him for the turbulence that his reforms unleashed, considering the subsequent plunge in their living standards too high a price to pay for democracy.

When he made one ill-fated attempt to return to political life in 1996, runnning against his former protégé Boris Yeltsin for the Russian presidency, got less than 1% of the vote.

He will be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported citing the Gorbachev Foundation, which he created to address global priorities in the post-Cold War period.
Gorbachev is survived by a daughter, Irina, and two granddaughters.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Ria Novosti