Mikhail Gorbachev
Last Komissar


NameGorbachev, Mikhail (1931-)
BiographyAs General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), Mikhail Gorbachev was the eighth and last leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
Born 2nd March 1931 in the village of Privol'noye, Krasnogvardeisk district, Stavropol Krai of peasant parents. His father was a decorated member of the Red Army and a local party official.1 1 Zhores Medvedev, Gorbachev, 1987, p22.
Gorbachev became a candidate member of the CPSU in 1950, at the age of 18.2
The families of Gorbachev and his wife (Raisa) were victimised under Stalin.3
Studied law at Moscow State University. During this time he was the Komsomol Secretary of the Law Faculty.4
2 Medvedev, p34.
3 Alexander Elder, Rubles to Dollars, 1999, p18.
4 Medvedev, p38.
Came to power 11th March 1985, on the death of the previous General Secretary, Constantine Chernenko.
Introduced Glasnost (voice-ness) and Perestroika (rebuilding, restructuring) in an attempt to reinvigorate the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was not a liberal-democrat; his reforms were not designed to end the Soviet Union but to give it new life. In true Soviet style, Gorbachev felt obliged to justify his policies by reference to Lenin. Although Lenin did indeed have a policy called 'Glasnost', Lenin's policy had meant that all media were to be the 'voice' of the Bolshevik Party - in other words, it meant the banning of all independent media.
These reforms, and Gorbachev's statement that the Soviet Union would not militarily prevent satellite states from asserting their independence led to centrifugal forces and threats to legitimacy beyond the limited flexibility of late-soviet Russia, and concerned harliners pressured Gorbachev. Gorbachev's concessions to hardline demands led his reformist Politburo to abandon him, leaving him politically isolated.
After the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and the disintegration of Central European and Balkan communist regimes in 1989, hardliner senior communists attempted to overthrow Gorbachev in a coup, holding him captive while they made their bid for power. In a 'counter-coup', Boris Yeltsin was able to topple the Soviet regime, ending both communist dictatorship and Gorbachev's political career.
Though lionised in the West, Gorbachev's oblivion was confirmed when he received less than one percent of the popular vote in the 1996 Presidential election.
LinksThe official Mikhail Gorbachev web page
  • Dr Alexander Elder, Rubles to Dollars: Making Money on Russia's Expanding Financial Frontier, New York Institute of Finance, New York, 1999.
  • Zhores Medvedev, Gorbachev (with revisions), Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1987.
  • See AlsoBoris Yeltsin, Anatoly Sobchak, Vadim Bakatin, Yevgeny Primakov

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