The Club of Budapest
Mihail Gorbacsov (1931-2022)
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (2 March 1931 – 30 August 2022) was a Russian and Soviet politician who served as the last leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 to the country's dissolution in 1991. He served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 and additionally as head of state beginning in 1988, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1989 to 1990 and the only President of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991. Ideologically, Gorbachev initially adhered to Marxism–Leninism but moved towards social democracy by the early 1990s.
Although committed to preserving the Soviet state and its socialist ideals, Gorbachev believed significant reform to be necessary, particularly after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He withdrew troops from the Soviet–Afghan War and embarked on summits with United States president Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War. Domestically, his policy of glasnost ("openness") allowed for enhanced freedom of speech and press, while his perestroika ("restructuring") sought to decentralize economic decision-making to improve its efficiency. His democratization measures and formation of the elected Congress of People's Deputies undermined the one-party state. Gorbachev declined to intervene militarily when various Eastern Bloc countries abandoned Marxist–Leninist governance in 1989–1990. Internally, growing nationalist sentiment threatened to break up the Soviet Union, leading Marxist–Leninist hardliners to launch the unsuccessful August Coup against Gorbachev in 1991. In the coup's wake, the Soviet Union dissolved against Gorbachev's wishes. After resigning the presidency, he launched the Gorbachev Foundation, became a vocal critic of Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and campaigned for Russia's social-democratic movement. Gorbachev died in 2022 after a period of illness.
Widely considered one of the most significant figures of the second half of the 20th century, Gorbachev remains the subject of controversy. The recipient of a wide range of awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, he is praised for his role in ending the Cold War, introducing new political and economic freedoms in the Soviet Union, and tolerating both the fall of Marxist–Leninist administrations in eastern and central Europe and the reunification of Germany. Conversely, in Russia he is often derided for facilitating the dissolution of the Soviet Union—an event which weakened Russia's global influence and precipitated an economic collapse in Russia and associated states. He was an Honorary Member of the Club of Budapest. Rest in Peace.