- Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai, Russia Soviet Union.
- Both of his grandfathers were arrested on false charges in the 1930s; his paternal grandfather Andrey Moiseyevich Gorbachev was sent to exile in Siberia.
- His father was a combine harvester operator and Red Army veteran, named Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev.
- His mother, Maria Panteleyevna.He was brought up mainly by his Ukrainian maternal grandparents.
- In his teens, he became a leader in the Komsomol, a Communist youth organization. He operated combine harvesters on collective farms and won the Red Labor Banner in 1949 for helping his father break harvesting records.
- He entered Moscow State University in 1950 and graduated in 1955 with a degree in law. While at the university, he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and soon became very active within the party.
- In 1967 he qualified as an agricultural economist via a correspondence master’s degree at the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture.
- Gorbachev met his future wife, Raisa Titarenko, daughter of a Ukrainian railway engineer, at Moscow State University.
- They married on 25 September 1953 and moved to Stavropol upon graduation. She gave birth to their only child, daughter Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya in 1957.
- Raisa Gorbacheva died of leukemia in 1999. Gorbachev has two granddaughters (Ksenia and Anastasia) and one great granddaughter (Aleksandra).
RISE IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY
- Gorbachev rose in the Communist League hierarchy and worked his way up through territorial leagues of the party. He was promoted to Head of the Department of Party Organs in the Stavropol Regional Committee in 1963.
- In 1970, he was appointed First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee, a body of the CPSU, becoming one of the youngest provincial party chiefs in the nation.
- In this position he helped reorganise the collective farms, improve workers’ living conditions, expand the size of their private plots, and gave them a greater voice in planning.
- He was made a member of the Communist Party Central Committee in 1971. Three years later, in 1974, he was made a Deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Chairman of the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs. He was subsequently appointed to the Central Committee’s Secretariat for Agriculture in 1978.
RISE IN THE COMMUNIST PARTY
- In 1979, Gorbachev was elected a candidate (non-voting) member of the Politburo, the highest authority in the country, and received full membership in 1980.
- During Yuri Andropov’s tenure as general secretary (1982–1984), Gorbachev became one of the Politburo’s most visible and active members.
- Gorbachev’s positions within the CPSU created more opportunities to travel abroad, and this would profoundly affect his political and social views in the future as leader of the country.
- Andropov died in 1984, and indicated that he wanted Gorbachev to succeed him as general secretary. Instead, the aged Konstantin Chernenko took power.
- Gorbachev was elected general secretary by the Politburo on 11 March 1985, only three hours after Chernenko’s death. Upon his accession at age 54, he was the youngest member of the Politburo.
- Mikhail Gorbachev was the Party’s first leader to have been born after the Revolution.
- As de facto ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform the stagnating Party and the state economy by introducing glasnost (“openness”), perestroika (“restructuring”), demokratizatsiya (“democratization”), and uskoreniye (“acceleration” of economic development), which were launched at the 27th Congress of the CPSU in February 1986.
- Gorbachev’s primary goal as general secretary was to revive the Soviet economy after the stagnant years. He called for fast-paced technological modernization and increased industrial and agricultural productivity, and tried to reform the Soviet bureaucracy to be more efficient and prosperous.
- Gorbachev soon came to believe that fixing the Soviet economy would be nearly impossible without reforming the political and social structure of the Communist nation. A number of reformist ideas were discussed by Politburo members.
- One of the first reforms Gorbachev introduced was the anti-alcohol campaign, begun in May 1985, which was designed to fight widespread alcoholism in the Soviet Union. Prices of vodka, wine, and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted.
- As a result, alcohol production migrated to the black market economy and dealt a blow to state revenue—a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles.
- Gorbachev initiated his new policy of perestroika (literally “restructuring” in Russian) and its attendant radical reforms in 1986.The “reconstruction” was proposed in an attempt to overcome the economic stagnation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress. .
- The Central Committee Plenum in January 1987 saw the crystallisation of Gorbachev’s political reforms, including proposals for multi-candidate elections and the appointment of non-Party members to government positions.
- He also first raised the idea of expanding co-operatives. Economic reforms took up much of the rest of 1987, as a new law giving enterprises more independence .
- 1988 would see Gorbachev’s introduction of glasnost, which gave the Soviet people freedoms that they had never previously known, including greater freedom of speech.
- The press became far less controlled, and thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released. Gorbachev’s goal in undertaking glasnost was to pressure conservatives within the CPSU who opposed his policies of economic restructuring, and he also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people would support his reform initiatives.
- The Law on Cooperatives, enacted in May 1988, was perhaps the most radical economic reform of the early Gorbachev era. For the first time the law permitted private ownership of businesses in the service, manufacturing, and foreign-trade sectors.
- The law initially imposed high taxes and employment restrictions, although these were ignored by some Soviet Socialist Republics (SSRs). Under the new law, the restructuring of large “All-Union” industrial organizations also began.
- In June 1988, at the CPSU’s Party Conference, Gorbachev launched radical reforms meant to reduce party control of the government apparatus.
- He proposed a new executive in the form of a presidential system, as well as a new legislative element, to be called the Congress of People’s Deputies.
- Elections to the Congress of People’s Deputies were held throughout the Soviet Union in March and April 1989. This was the first free election in the Soviet Union since 1917. Gorbachev became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (or head of state) on 25 May 1989.
- On 15 March 1990, Gorbachev was elected as the first executive President of the Soviet Union with 59% of the Deputies’ votes. He was the sole candidate on the ballot.
- Nonetheless, the Congress posed problems for Gorbachev: Its sessions were televised, airing more criticism and encouraging people to expect ever more rapid reform.
- Communist rule in the Soviet Union weakened, and centralized power from Moscow was unable to combat centrifugal forces in the South. In the elections, many Party candidates were defeated. Furthermore, Boris Yeltsin was elected as mayor of Moscow and returned to political prominence to become an increasingly vocal critic of Gorbachev.
- Gorbachev chose Gennady Yanayev, the head of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions and a known hardliner. This decision would come back to haunt Gorbachev later.
- In contrast to the controversy at home over his domestic reforms, Gorbachev was largely hailed in the West for his ‘New Thinking’ doctrine in foreign affairs.
- During his tenure, he sought to improve relations and trade with the West by reducing Cold War tensions. He established close relationships with several Western leaders, such as West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl U.S. President Ronald Reagan, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- Gorbachev proposed that the Soviets and Americans both cut their nuclear arsenals in half. He went to France on his first trip abroad as Soviet leader in October. November saw the Geneva Summit between Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan
- January 1986 would see Gorbachev make his boldest international move so far, when he announced his proposal for the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe and his strategy for eliminating all of the Soviet nuclear arsenal by the year 2000 .
- He also began the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Mongolia on 28 July.Gorbachev and Reagon(US) signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 1987.
- In February 1988, Gorbachev announced the full withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. An estimated 14,453 Soviets were killed between 1979 and 1989 as a result of the Afghanistan War.
- Also during 1988, Gorbachev announced that the the Eastern bloc nations to freely determine their own internal affairs. A month earlier, on 4 June 1989, elections had taken place in Poland and the communist government had already been deposed.
- Moscow’s abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine allowed the rise of popular upheavals in Eastern Europe throughout 1989, in which Communism was overthrown.
- By the end of 1989, revolts had spread from one Eastern European capital to another, ousting the regimes built in Eastern Europe after World War II.
- Except in Romania, the popular upheavals against the pro-Soviet regimes were all peaceful.Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on 15 October 1990.
DISSOLUTION OF USSR
- Calls for greater independence from Moscow’s rule grew louder, especially in the Baltic republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which had been annexed into the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in 1940. Nationalist feeling also took hold in Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.
- Estonia had declared its sovereignty on 16 November 1988, to be followed by Lithuania in May 1989 and by Latvia in July. Gorbachev made the decision not to use military force in order to maintain the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
- On 15 March 1990, Gorbachev himself was elected as the first—and as it turned out, only—President of the Soviet Union.
COUP OF AUGUST 1991
- Soviet leaders, calling themselves the ‘State Committee on the State of Emergency’, launched the August coup in an attempt to remove Gorbachev from power and prevent the signing of the new union treaty.
- Under the pretense that Gorbachev was ill, his vice president, Yanayev, took over as president. Gorbachev spent three days (19, 20, and 21 August) under house arrest at his dacha in the Crimea before being freed and restored to power.
- However, upon his return, Gorbachev found that neither Union nor Russian power structures heeded his commands, as support had swung over to Yeltsin, whose defiance had led to the coup’s collapse.
- For all intents and purposes, the coup destroyed Gorbachev politically. On 24 August, he advised the Central Committee to dissolve, resigned as general secretary and dissolved all party units within the government. Shortly afterward, the Supreme Soviet suspended all Party activities on Soviet territory. In effect, Communist rule in the Soviet Union had ended.
- By the autumn, Gorbachev could no longer influence events outside Moscow, and he was challenged even there by Yeltsin. Following the coup, Yeltsin suspended all CPSU activities on Russian territory and closed the Central Committee building at Staraya Square.
- However, on 12 December 1991 all except Georgia signed the AlmaAta Protocol which formally established the CIS.On the night of 25 December, in a nationally televised speech, Gorbachev announced his resignation as president.
- That same night after he left office, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin and was replaced with the Russian tricolor flag.
- Following his resignation and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev remained active in Russian politics. Following a failed run for the presidency in 1996, Gorbachev established the Social Democratic Party of Russia.He resigned as party leader in May 2004.
- Later that year, Gorbachev founded a new political party, called the Union of Social Democrats.Gorbachev appeared in numerous media channels after his resignation from office.
- On 16 June 2009, Gorbachev announced that he had recorded an album of old Russian romantic ballads entitled Songs for Raisa to raise money for a charity dedicated to his late wife.
- Since his resignation, Gorbachev has remained involved in world affairs. He founded the Gorbachev Foundation in 1992, headquartered in Moscow. He later founded Green Cross International, with which he was one of three major sponsors of the Earth Charter.