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Mikhail Gorbachev: Last Soviet Leader Dies Aged 91

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev won the Nobel peace prize in 1990. Public Domain

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader whose reforms brought about the demise of communism, died on Tuesday in Moscow. He was ninety-one.

Gorbachev died after a “difficult and protracted illness,” Russian news agencies reported. Recent reports suggested he was suffering from a kidney ailment, according to hospital reports.

Celebrated abroad as the savior who delivered freedom to millions of Soviet citizens, he was often blamed at home for the chaotic years that ensued.

He served as leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. His attempts at reform helped to end the Cold War but also ended the political supremacy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and dissolved the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev’s decline towards the end of the Soviet Union was humiliating. His power was hopelessly sapped by an attempted coup against him in August 1991, and he spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on December 25, 1991. The Soviet Union wrote itself into oblivion a day later.

Gorbachev may have had a greater impact on the second half of the twentieth century than any other political figure.

“I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told The Associated Press in a 1992 interview shortly after he left office.

“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,” he said.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

World leaders pay tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his deepest condolences following Gorbachev’s death, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agency Interfax, according to Reuters.

US president Joe Biden said he was a man of “remarkable vision,” and that he was held in high esteem for leading his country on the path to reform.

“These were the acts of a rare leader—one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it,” Biden said in a statement. “The result was a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, described Gorbachev as a “towering leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace.”

European Union President Ursula von der Leyen praised him as a “trusted and respected leader” who “opened the way for a free Europe.”

“This legacy is one we will not forget,” she added.

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