The Soviet Union’s Last Leader Dies at 91

August 30, 2022
A photo of a sunset over a lake.

I am convinced that Russia can succeed only through democracy.

The Soviet Union’s final leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in 2017. Gorbachev passed away on Tuesday at age 91.

Gorbachev — who is described by many to have been "one of the most significant political leaders of the second half of the 20th century" — is survived by his daughter and two granddaughters.

  • Gorbachev became president of the Soviet Union in 1985 and sought to revitalize the country, introducing freedoms into a society which had been under strict, direct rule for generations. His actions included freeing political prisoners, lifting restrictions on the media and allowing multi-candidate elections and open-debate. Although not his main goal (he wanted to empower the country through his policies), the changes he made eventually led to the disbandment of the Soviet Union, "a once-fearsome superpower whose territory fractured into 15 separate nations" (Associated Press) — and, by proxy, the end of the Iron Curtain (the reach and influence of the Soviet Union to other countries in Eastern Europe) and the end of the Cold War (the posturing and nuclear arms race/rivalry between the Soviet Union and the U.S., as well as their allies).
  • After surviving an attempted coup and resigning in 1991, Gorbachev told The Associated Press: "I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world. 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."
  • Although Gorbachev was criticized in Russia and disliked in certain circles, he received awards and honors from all over the world. He won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending the Cold War; in his Nobel Lecture (a requirement of Nobel Prize winners), he said: "Peace is not unity in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of differences."

Mikhail Gorbachev, who steered Soviet breakup, dead at 91 (Associated Press)

Mikhail Gorbachev, Reformer of Soviet Union and Its Last Leader, Dies at 91 (The Wall Street Journal)

Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Reformist Soviet Leader, Is Dead at 91 (The New York Times)

by Jenna Lee,