Gorbachev, Mikhail (Russia)

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Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1985–91. A reformer, he oversaw the democratization and modernization of the Soviet Union via his policies of glasnost (‘openness’) and perestroika (‘restructuring’). His leadership led to the fall of communism throughout Eastern Europe and to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Early Life

Gorbachev was born in Privolye in the Stravopol region of Russia on 2 March 1931. He became a member of the Young Communist League when he was 15 and worked as a machine operator before undertaking studies at Moscow State University. It was here in 1952 that he joined the Communist Party and 3 years later he earned a law degree. In 1956 he married Raisa Titorenko, whom he had met at the university.

In the coming years he held a number of party positions in Stavropol and in 1962 he began a 5 year correspondence course at the Stavropol Agricultural Institute. By 1970 he had been appointed 1st...

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