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Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev was born in 1931 to a poor farming family in southwest Russia.  His life revolved around working on the farms of Stavropol until he went to college in 1952. Graduating college with a law degree allowed Gorbachev to escape the peasant lifestyle many Soviets were accustomed to during communist rule. In 1953, Joseph Stalin died, giving young leaders in the Communist Party a chance to climb the party ladder. In 1955, Gorbachev graduated from Moscow University and was immediately appointed First Secretary of the Kosomol Territorial Committee.  The Kosomol was the Communist Youth Organization, thus being appointed as the leader of the group was a high honor due to this organization’s vital role in the Communist Party.  This further enhanced Gorbachev’s résumé and, in 1960, he was appointed as the top regional official of Stavropol’s Kosomol.  In 1961, Gorbachev was appointed as the delegate of Stavropol and a year later was appointed as a top official in Stavropol, responsible for all farming, industrial, and administrative positions in the region.  Gorbachev wanted to gain more experience in his field, so he studied at the Stavropol Agricultural Institute and graduated with a degree in agriculture economy.  Gorbachev was appointed First Secretary of the Stavropol territory in 1970 and began a series of food production programs that made him a shining leader in the Communist Party.  In this position, Gorbachev governed 2.4 million people. For the next 15 years, he was recognized by other party leaders and was eventually elected to the Soviet Parliament.

Gorbachev continued to rise in ranks until 1989, when he was elected as the Executive President of the Soviet Union.  His presidency was at the height of the Cold War and he believed the war was the product of mistrust between the United States and the Soviet Union.  He initiated Glasnost, a program that began to give more rights back to the people.  Glasnost, or “openness,” eventually encouraged general openness with other nations in the Cold War.  Gorbachev’s famous quote, “I detest lies,” sums up the purpose and honesty of the Russians for Glasnost. The period of Glasnost eventually ended the Cold War, which was symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Gorbachev’s second famous program was Perestroika.  Known as the “dismantling” of Soviet Communism, this program fixed economic, social, and political problems.  Perestroika’s main goal was to make the Soviet Union more Americanized by allowing more choice and freedom to the public. Glasnost, Perestroika, and the ending of the Cold War all contributed to the downfall of communism which had lasted nearly 80 years. Due to his peace-keeping efforts, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.  In 1991 Gorbachev was overthrown by a coup led by Boris Yeltsin and was forced to step down from the presidency. Since then, Gorbachev has written books on world and Russian politics, ran for president of Russia, and has headed numerous international organizations such as the Gorbachev Foundation, Green Cross International, and the Civic Forum movement.  He now lives in Moscow and remains active in the Russian political sphere.

Research by Nick Anderson
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum
Cosby High School Research 2010


"Mikhail Gorbachev." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 10 May. 2010 <>.

"Mikhail Gorbachev." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2010. Advameg, Inc, 2010. Web. <>.

The Nobel Foundation, . "Mikhail Gorbachev." Nobel Prize. Nobel Prize, 2010. Web. 30 Apr 2010. <>.


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