Mikhail Gorbachev, the last President of the Soviet Union and one of the most influential leaders of his time, died in Moscow aged 91. His death was announced on Tuesday by Russian news agencies.
Here are five facts about Mr Gorbachev:
Mikhail Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931, in Privolnoye, a rural locality in Stavropol Krai in southwest Russia. His parents were peasants. At the age of 15, he joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) in 1946, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Mr Gorbachev graduated with a degree of law in 1955.
He held a number of posts in the Young Communist League and later in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Mr Gorbachev’s rise is credited to Mikhail Suslov, a leading Soviet Communist ideologue, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. He became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union in 1985, succeeding Konstantin Chernenko.
Gorbachev, in power between 1985 and 1991, helped bring US-Soviet relations out of a deep freeze. He helped take down the long-standing Iron Curtain separating Eastern communist states and Western non-communist states, even cultivating friendlier relations with them. In doing so, he helped end the Cold War. In 1990, Mr Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize for his “leading role in the peace process” in Europe, Encyclopaedia Britannica said. He is remembered fondly as “Gorby” in the West.
As the USSR collapsed, Mr Gorbachev was superseded by the younger Boris Yeltsin, who became post-Soviet Russia’s first President. From then on, Mr Gorbachev was relegated to the sidelines, devoting himself to educational and humanitarian projects. He made a disastrous attempt to return to politics and ran for President in 1996 but received just 0.5 per cent of the vote.
In 2006, Mr Gorbachev teamed up with Russian billionaire and former lawmaker Aleksandr Lebedev to purchase a major stake in independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which challenged Kremlin policies. His relationship with President Vladimir Putin was difficult at times, but the Russian leader nonetheless expressed his “deep sympathies” after Gorbachev’s death.