Mikhail Gorbachev: the former Soviet leader is dead | world news

Mikhail Gorbachev: the former Soviet leader is dead | world news

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has died at the age of 91, according to Russian media.

His office said earlier that he was undergoing treatment at Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital.

He died after a long illness, the medical establishment was quoted as saying by news agencies.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, and US President Ronald Reagan chat as they meet in Reykjavik, Iceland, Saturday, October 11, 1986. Photo: AP
Mikhail Gorbachev with former US President Ronald Reagan during a meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in October 1986. Photo: AP

Tributes to the man who brought about the end of the Cold War – live updates

Mr Gorbachev was known for ending the Cold War without bloodshed, but failed to prevent the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He forged 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 and bring about the reunification of Germany.

When pro-democracy protests swept through the Soviet bloc nations of communist Eastern Europe in 1989, he refrained from using force.

Unlike former Kremlin leaders who deployed tanks to crush uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

But the protests fueled the self-rule aspirations of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics, which crumbled over the next two years.

Read more: A village boy whose democratic instinct and aversion to nuclear weapons changed the 20th century

When he became General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, at the age of 54, he set out to revitalize the system by introducing limited political and economic freedoms, but his reforms spiraled out of control.

Baroness Thatcher greets former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa outside her London home.  07-Dec-1993
Mr Gorbachev with Baroness Thatcher in December 1993

His policy of “glasnost” – freedom of speech – enabled previously unthinkable criticism of the party and state, but also emboldened nationalists who began to push for independence in the Baltic republics of Latvia, from Lithuania, Estonia and elsewhere.

Many Russians never forgave Mr. Gorbachev for the turmoil his reforms unleashed, as they felt the subsequent fall in their standard of living was too high a price for democracy to pay.

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