Mikhail Gorbachev, a Soviet official, served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) from 1985 to 1991. The President of the Soviet Union in 1990-91, Gorbachev is best known for his efforts to democratize his country’s political system and decentralize its economy. Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1990.
1. Gorbachev was named a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1971, and he was appointed a party secretary of agriculture in 1978. Gorbachev was then elected as general secretary of the CPSU.
2. Gorbachev’s primary goal was to improve his country’s economy. To accomplish this goal he called for rapid technological modernization and increased worker productivity. He also worked to eliminate the inconveniences of Soviet bureaucracy so that government could be more efficient and responsive. Unfortunately, Gorbachev did not meet the lofty goals that he set for himself, although the country did see improvements.
3. Gorbachev’s glasnost (“openness”) policy allowed for the freedoms of expression and of information to be expanded. Under Gorbachev’s perestroika (“restructuring”) policy, the first attempts were made to democratize the Soviet political system.
4. One of Gorbachev’s initial goals was to create better relations and trade with western and eastern developed nations. One noteworthy event took place in December of 1987 when Gorbachev signed an agreement with the U.S. for the two countries to destroy all existing stocks of intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles. Gorbachev also oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan from 1988-1989.
5. Gorbachev was responsible for many changes in the way that Russia’s government existed. Through his efforts at restructuring and consolidation, the new bicameral parliament, called the U.S.S.R. Congress of People’s Deputies, was created in 1988. Under Gorbachev’s leadership the Congress abolished the Communist Party’s constitutionally guaranteed monopoly of political power in the Soviet Union. This action would pave the way for the legalization of other political parties in the Soviet Union.
6. Gorbachev was the main factor in putting in place the series of events that would change the political face of Europe and begin the process of bringing the Cold War to an end. Gorbachev agreed to the phased withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe including East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In the summer of 1990, he agreed to the reunification of East and West Germany.
7. In 1990, Gorbachev received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his achievements in international relations.
8. A collapsing economy, rising public frustration at his administration and the continued shift of power to the constituent republics in Russia all led to the decline of Gorbachev’s authority. Gorbachev and his family were even held under house arrest for a period.
9. Gorbachev’s position of authority gradually weakened. Despite Gorbachev’s attempts to shift fundamental political powers to the Soviet Union’s constituent republics instead of the republic being created by Yeltsin, he was unsuccessful. On Dec. 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned the presidency of the Soviet Union, a position that no longer exists in Russia. Despite his attempts to regain political authority in his country, Gorbachev was unsuccessful and instead turned his attention towards public speaking and political activism.
10. On Sept. 30, 2008, it was announced that Gorbachev and Lebedev (a Russian billionaire and former lawmaker) were forming a new political party. The two paired and purchased a newspaper together where they were able to express their views.