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Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and Cold War figure, dead at 91

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Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2022. 4:51 pm CST.

Photo Credit: Ian Gavan/Getty Images/CNN

By Aaron Humes: The former and final leader of the Soviet Union who oversaw its deconstruction and the end of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev, has died at the age of 91, NBC News reports, citing the Gorbachev Foundation.

The Russian Central Clinical Hospital said the Nobel Peace Prize winner died Tuesday evening after a long and serious illness according to the Interfax news agency; he will be buried next to his late wife Raisa in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden are among those expressing their condolences.

Secretary-General Guterres said, “The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace…”; President Biden added that he was a rare leader because he had the “imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it.”

President Biden cited the two words most commonly associated with Gorbachev – glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), saying that he believed in them “not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.”

Gorbachev grew up a committed communist but embraced democratic reform, refusing to repress pro-democracy rallies which began in Poland and swept across the Soviet bloc in 1989. The Soviet Union quickly began to disintegrate as the captive Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia peeled away and other nations that had long been under Moscow’s yoke, including Ukraine, sought independence.

Gorbachev ushered in sweeping changes like “perestroika” and “glasnost,” reforms that sought to restructure the Soviet Union’s lagging economy and make its government more transparent. After defeating an attempted coup, he resigned on Christmas Day 1991, with the Soviet Union dissolving a day later.

In 1992, he told the Associated Press he had no regrets: “I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world…I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination…”

A journalist and close friend of Gorbachev’s, Alexey Venediktov, told Forbes Russia this year that Gorbachev was “disappointed” by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and that he believed Gorbachev’s legacy was being destroyed.

 

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