Keen to learn but short on time? Get to grips with the life of Mikhail Gorbachev in next to no time with this concise guide.
Arriving at a pivotal moment for national and international politics, Gorbachev was one of the key drivers behind the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War. His career led him from humble origins in rural Russia to the highest position of power in the Soviet Union, and his actions as leader earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and the title of ‘Man of the Decade’ from Time magazine.
In just 50 minutes you will:
• Have a more thorough understanding of Gorbachev’s life and political career
• Discover Gorbachev’s role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain
• Analyse the way in which Gorbachev’s political ideology led to tensions between Communism and democracy in Russia
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When he was named General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, making him the last effective leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev knew he would have to make radical changes if he wanted the Soviet Union to get out of the rut it was stuck in. The effects of his actions would, however, be greater and his decisions would have a lasting impact on the history of Russia, Europe, Communism and the Cold War. He was to revolutionise the global order as it had stood since 1945, and the Soviet model that had been in place since 1922.
Although in Russia he remains one of the least popular leaders of the 20th century, the West considers him a hero, and awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for ending the Cold War, after electing him Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1987 and Man of the Decade in 1989. Gorbachev thus brought about a true ‘Gorbymania’ in the United States. The world can indeed not forget that he strove to make Communism more democratic, that he freed thousands of dissidents, that he granted independence to the Eastern bloc countries, that he brought Russia closer to the West and that he obtained a bilateral reduction in nuclear and chemical weapons, marking the end of the Cold War. His influence on the course of history is therefore undeniable and of extremely high importance.
Photograph of Gorbachev.
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in Privolnoye, a village in Stavropol territory, in the South of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains.
Gorbachev came from a family of farmers. His parents, Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev (1909-1976) and Maria Panteleyevna Gopkalo (1911-1993), worked in a kolkhoz (farm in which the methods of production are collectivised). Under Stalin (Soviet leader, 1878-1953), his paternal grandfather had been sent into forced labour in 1934 because he refused the collectivisation of land and was suspected of sabotage, while his maternal grandfather had been arrested and imprisoned in 1937-1938, as he was suspected of being responsible for a secret organisation.
Did you know?
Mikhail Gorbachev was born with an angioma, a red mark, on his forehead. This physical characteristic, which did not seem to bother him and which he never tried to hide, made him quite easily recognisable.
During German occupation (August 1942-January 1943), the young Mikhail had to work in the fields to feed his village; as his family were desperately short on money, he only started his education again at the beginning of the academic year in 1944. Subsequently, he spent his free time working on farms and, at the age of 17, was awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour for his excellent service as a combine harvester driver, which allowed him to consider studying at university. He was a member of Komsomol, the Communist youth division, from the age of 14.
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