Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
   + [ Public Service ]
  Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Mikhail Gorbachev's story, you might also like:
George H.W. Bush,
John Hume,
Paul Nitze,
Shimon Peres,
Colin Powell,
Albie Sachs,
Desmond Tutu
and Lech Walesa

Teachers can find prepared lesson plans featuring Mikhail Gorbachev in the Achievement Curriculum section:
The Democratic Process

Related Links:
Green Cross
Nobel Lecture

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Profile of Mikhail Gorbachev Biography of Mikhail Gorbachev Interview with Mikhail Gorbachev Mikhail Gorbachev Photo Gallery

Mikhail Gorbachev Biography

Nobel Prize for Peace

Mikhail Gorbachev Date of birth: March 2, 1931

Print Mikhail Gorbachev Biography Print Biography

  Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev Biography Photo
Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev was born in the village of Privolnoye near Stavropol, Russia. From the age of 13 he worked on a collective farm, where his father was a mechanic. He was an exceptional student and earned a law degree at Moscow University where he joined the Communist Party and became Secretary of the law department's Young Communist League. After returning to the Stavropol area he rose in the League hierarchy to become Regional Secretary of the League, and in 1961 first became a delegate to the Party Congress. He spent the 1960s working his way up through the territorial bodies of the Party and continuing his education in agronomy and economics.

As an agricultural administrator and party leader in his native region, he acquired a reputation for innovation and incorruptible honesty, and he soon rose in the Party hierarchy. He was first elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1970, and served on commissions dealing with conservation, youth policy, and foreign affairs. In 1971 he was elected to the Central Committee. In 1978 he became First Secretary of the Stavropol territorial committee and by 1980 was a full member of the Politburo.

The death of the long-time General Secretary of the Communist Party, Leonid Brezhnev, presented a brief opportunity for change in the Soviet Union. Brezhnev's successor, Yuri Andropov, appeared to be grooming Gorbachev as his own successor, but after Andropov's unexpected death, Gorbachev was passed over for the top spot and the aged Konstantin Chernenko came. to power. When Chernenko too died barely a year after taking power, it was at last clear to the Party hierarchy that younger leadership was needed and Gorbachev became General Secretary. He was ready to make long overdue reforms in the Soviet system.

Mikhail Gorbachev Biography Photo
For six years Gorbachev carried off a delicate balancing act, forcing reforms on a recalcitrant old guard, while trying to contain the demand for change from radical reformers within and without the Communist Party. He permitted an unprecedented freedom of expression in the USSR and ended the disastrous Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan.

By 1989 the demand for reform had spread to the Soviet satellite states of Central Europe. Gorbachev notified the Communist leaders of those coutries that he would not intervene militarily to keep them in power as his predecessors had done. Without the support of the Red Army, these dictatorships were quickly forced to yield to their democratic opposition, and Gorbachev began the withdrawal of the remaining Soviet forces from Central Europe. In 1990 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his foreign policy initiatives.

Gorbachev continued to press for democratization in the Soviet Union and permitted free elections in Russia and the other republics of the Soviet Union. He survived an attempted coup by Communist hardliners in 1991 but relinquished office after the elected presidents of the constituent republics undertook to replace the old Soviet Union with a Confederation of Independent States.

Since leaving office, he has continued to advocate the development of private ownership in a market economy, and the non-violent resolution of conflicts in a democratic society. In 1992 he inaugurated the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, known as the Gorbachev Foundation. Gorbachev has served as President of the organization since its founding. The following year, he inaugurated a new environmental organization, Green Cross International.

In the 1990s, Gorbachev was a vocal critic of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's privatization policies, and of Yeltsin's efforts to expand the powers of the presidency. Gorbachev himself mounted an unsuccessful campaign for President of Russia in 1996. He founded a new political movement, the Social Democratic Party of Russia, in 2001, but it won few adherents. Gorbachev stepped down as head of the party in 2004 and it was later decertified by the national government. Gorbachev formed a new faction, the Union of Social Democrats in 2007, but within a year he set this aside and joined billionaire financier Alexander Lebedev in founding the Independent Democratic Party.

Mikhail Gorbachev Biography Photo
Gorbachev owns a part interest in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which generally opposes the ruling party of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev, but he has expressed support for some of Medvedev's foreign policy positions, including military action in South Ossetia. Gorbachev has opposed American foreign policy in a number of areas, such as intervention in the former Yugoslavia, as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He has also been critical of U.S. economic policy and the role of the International Monetary Fund.

In 2009, Gorbachev joined his former adversary Lech Walesa and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a public observance of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although he has not played a major role in post-Soviet Russian politics, Mikhail Gorbachev's role in the historic transformation of the former Soviet Union has won him recognition around the world as one of the most influential statesmen of the 20th century.

This page last revised on Nov 08, 2010 18:22 EDT
How To Cite This Page