Former leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev dies at age 91

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Gorbachev in Moscow, 2019
Image: Russian State Duma.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, died Tuesday evening in Moscow, Russia according to state news media and the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital "after a severe and prolonged illness". He was 91 years old.

As the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev led the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. During his tenure he oversaw major reforms, which became known as glasnost and perestroika. These reforms led to reductions in nuclear weapons and the end of the Cold War, which started shortly after the end of World War II. Ultimately, it also led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union itself.

"I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens," Gorbachev once said of his efforts.

"[Gorbachev] gave freedom to hundreds of millions of people in Russia and around it, and also half of Europe," said Russian politician Grigory Yavlinsky. "Few leaders in history have had such a decisive influence on their time."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has previously stated he would like to reverse the fall of the Soviet Union, expressed his "deepest condolences" according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.