Last Soviet Union President, Mikhail Gorbachev, dies aged 91

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Mikhail Gorbachev, who ended the Cold War but failed to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union, has died aged 91.

The Central Clinical Hospital in Russia said in a statement that Gorbachev died on Tuesday after a long illness.

In 1985, aged 54, Gorbachev became the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, setting out to revitalise the party by introducing peace talks, as well as political and economic freedoms.

As the last Soviet President, he managed to strike up 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.

Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, and U.S. President Ronald Reagan talk during their meeting in Iceland in 1986. Photo: AP Photo/Scott Stewart

When pro-democracy protests swept across the Soviet bloc nations in 1989, he refrained from using force, unlike previous Kremlin leaders who had sent tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Nevertheless, the protests fuelled aspirations for autonomy in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union and he failed to prevent the subsequent collapse.

Twenty-five years after the collapse, Gorbachev told The Associated Press that he had not considered using widespread force to keep the USSR together because he feared chaos in the nuclear country.

In 1990, Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War and spent his later years collecting accolades and awards from all corners of the world.

Pope John Paul II shakes hands with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in the first-ever meeting between a Kremlin chief and a Pontiff, in Vatican, Friday, Dec. 1, 1989. Photo: AP Photo/Massimo Sambucetti

However, at home, he was widely despised with Russians blaming him for the 1991 implosion of the Soviet Union and quickly became a scapegoat for the country’s troubles.

His run for president in 1996 was a national joke, and he polled less than 1% of the vote.

As for his opinions on Russia’s current President, Vladimir Putin, whilst Gorbachev protested Putin’s actions to limit media freedom, he did concede that the Russian President had done much to restore stability and prestige to Russia after the tumultuous decade following the Soviet collapse.

This year on March 2, Putin congratulated Gorbachev on his 91st birthday.

“You have lived a long, fulfilling life, and you’ve rightfully earned great prestige and recognition,” Putin was quoted as saying by TASS.

“It is gratifying that today your multifaceted work contributes to the implementation of much-needed social, educational, charitable projects, as well as to the development of international humanitarian cooperation.”

SOURCE: AP News

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