Who Was Mikhail Gorbachev?

Mikhail Gorbachev was the final president of the Soviet Union, serving from March 1990 to December 1991. He introduced policies that were considered revolutionary and directly influenced the removal of the Communist Party from leadership of the country.

Gorbachev grew up on a farm, but he would eventually attend Moscow State University and earn a degree in law. He joined the Communist Party during this time, rising through the ranks and being appointed to the Politburo in 1979. He became its General Secretary in 1985.

Gorbachev's rapid rise gave him many opportunities to travel abroad, and this may have influenced his policies. Starting in 1985, he gradually began introducing the guiding concepts of glasnost (transparency in government), perestroika (political and economic reform), demokratizatsiya (multi-candidate elections) and uskoreniye (social and economic development). These reforms were centered on shoring up the country's economy. Gorbachev was elected as the President of the Soviet Union in 1990, as he was the only candidate on the ballot.

Gorbachev's presidency was marked by increased dialogue with other nations and increased freedoms for Soviet citizens domestically. His economic policies were problematic, however, leading to financial ruin for the country. He was ousted in a coup in August of 1991, and the Soviet Union was dissolved shortly after.