Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War without bloodshed but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, died on Tuesday at the age of 92, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing hospital officials.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, struck a deal with the U.S. to cut arms and forged partnerships with Western powers to dismantle the Iron Curtain that has divided Europe since World War II and unify Germany.
When pro-democracy protests swept the Soviet bloc countries of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he used no force — unlike previous Kremlin leaders who sent tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 .
But the protests sparked a desire for autonomy in the Soviet Union’s 15 republics, which disintegrated in chaotic fashion over the next two years.
Gorbachev tried to prevent this collapse, but in vain.
In 1985, when he became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union at the age of 54, he set out to revive the system by introducing limited political and economic freedoms, but his reforms got out of hand.
His “open” policy – freedom of speech – allowed previously unimaginable criticism of the party and state, but also encouraged nationalists who began to fight for independence in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and elsewhere.
Many Russians have never forgiven the turmoil caused by Gorbachev’s reforms, because they see the subsequent dramatic drop in living standards as a high price to pay for democracy.
On June 30, after visiting Gorbachev in the hospital, liberal economist Ruslan Greenberg told Armed Forces news outlet Zvezda: “He gave us all the freedom — but we don’t know what to do. manage.”
(Apart from the title, this story was unedited by NDTV staff and was posted from a syndicated feed.)