Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War, has died: reports
Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War without bloodshed but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died aged 91, Russian news agencies said on Tuesday. citing hospital officials.
Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, entered into arms reduction agreements with the United States and partnerships with Western powers to remove the iron curtain that had divided Europe since World War II and bring about the reunification of Europe. Germany.
When pro-democracy protests swept through the Soviet bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force – unlike former Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush the uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.
But the protests fueled the self-rule aspirations of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics, which disintegrated chaotically over the next two years.
Gorbachev struggled in vain to prevent this collapse.
When he became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985 at just 54, he set out to revitalize the system by introducing limited political and economic freedoms, but his reforms spiraled out of control.
His policy of « glasnost » – freedom of speech – enabled previously unthinkable criticism of the party and state, but also emboldened nationalists who began pushing for independence in the Baltic republics of Latvia, from Lithuania, Estonia and elsewhere.
Many Russians have never forgiven Gorbachev for the turmoil his reforms unleashed, viewing the subsequent fall in their standard of living as too high a price to pay for democracy.
After visiting Gorbachev in hospital on June 30, liberal economist Ruslan Grinberg told the armed forces newspaper Zvezda: « He gave us all freedom, but we don’t know what to do with it. »