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Last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

Gorbachev died on August 30 at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow

MOSCOW, August 31. /TASS/. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, died on August 30 at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow.

Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931 in the village of Privolnoye, Stavropol Region, to a peasant family.

He drove a combine harvester before entering the law school of Moscow State University and became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952. After his graduation in 1955, Gorbachev held a number of posts in the Young Communist League (Komsomol) and party organizations in Stavropol, rising to the position of first secretary of the regional party committee in 1970.

Gorbachev became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1971 and was appointed a party secretary of agriculture in 1978. In 1980 he was promoted to a full member of the Politburo, the highest decision-making authority in the Communist Party.

After the death of Konstantin Chernenko, the general secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev, the youngest member of the Politburo, was elected as his successor in March 1985.

When Gorbachev became the Soviet leader, he launched perestroika ("restructuring") and pushed through economic and political reforms, including privatization of state-owned property and legalization of individual enterprise.

In 1986 Gorbachev introduced the policy of glasnost (openness) aimed at reducing censorship and bringing freedom of expression to the media.

In foreign affairs, Gorbachev cultivated warmer relations with the West and initiated the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. He also signed a number of agreements with western leaders on the reduction of nuclear weapons. His reforms in foreign policy led to the democratization of the eastern European bloc and the end of the Cold War.

In 1990 Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for the leading role he played in the radical changes in East-West relations.

As the Communist Party was losing power and prestige, Gorbachev created the new legislature, the Congress of People’s Deputies, which elected him first president of the USSR on March 15, 1990.

In the late 1980s economic problems in the Soviet Union became more serious and calls for independence of the USSR constituent republics began to increase. In order to stop the country’s collapse, Gorbachev proposed signing a new union treaty that would have turned the USSR into a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy and military.

In August 1991 a group of Communist Party hardliners staged a coup to seize the control of the country from Gorbachev and disrupt the signing of the new treaty. After the coup failed, Gorbachev resumed his duties, but his position was been irretrievably weakened.

On December 8, 1991 the leaders of the RSFSR, Ukraine and Belarus, Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich met in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park in Belarus to sign an agreement to establish a Commonwealth of Independent States.

On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev stepped down as president of the Soviet Union, which ceased to exist that same day.

Out of office, Gorbachev established his International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, or "Gorbachev Foundation" in 1992.

In 1996, he ran for president of Russia but garnered just 0.51% of the vote. He remained active in public life and published several dozen books.

Gorbachev and his wife Raisa were married for 46 years before her death of leukemia in 1999. The former Soviet leader is outlived by his daughter Irina (born in 1957) and two granddaughters, Ksenia and Anastasia.