Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev has died at age 91

Former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the last to hold that particular title, reportedly passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91, Breitbart reported.

Gorbachev had gained fame and respect in the West, but infamy and loathing at home in Russia, for implementing policies in the late 1980s like “glasnost,” or openness, and “perestroika,” or restructuring, in an effort to internally reform the Soviet Union that actually resulted in the rapid break-up and fall of the communist empire in 1991.

The final Soviet premier

According to the Associated Press, Gorbachev was born in March 1931 to a family of peasants on a collective farm in southern Russia and, after he attended university at Moscow State, advanced up through the ranks as a member of the Communist Party.

He quickly developed a reputation as a “maverick” who was unafraid to criticize the Party and other Soviet leaders, but nonetheless continued to gain stature and became a member of the Politburo in 1980 and was elected at 54 years old as premier of the Soviet Union in 1985.

It was shortly after Gorbachev had attained that position of power that he began to reach out to the West via high-level summits with various leaders, including U.S. President Ronald Reagan, to try and improve relations.

It was also during that time that he instituted a number of internal reforms that were intended to strengthen the faltering communist empire but instead brought about economic ruin, sparked revolutions in the non-Russian Soviet republics, a failed coup against him, and ultimately led to the fracture and dismantling of the once-vaunted Soviet Union and his resignation in 1991.

Loved and hated

The AP noted that Gorbachev, in a 1992 interview, said, “I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” and added, “I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination.”

Gorbachev was hailed across the Western world as being credited with ending the Cold War and was even awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his efforts that, at that time, substantially reduced the risks of a global nuclear war.

Yet, while praised by the West, Gorbachev was largely a hated man by most Russians due to the sharp economic consequences wrought by his reforms and the collapse of the Soviet Union, which helps explain the rather muted current reaction of many Russians to the news of his death, NBC News reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who previously blamed Gorbachev for “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” in reference to the fall of the Soviet Union, issued a terse statement Wednesday in which he expressed his “deep condolences” to the family that had lost “a politician and statesman who had a huge impact on the course of world history.”

Honorific state funeral

NBC News noted that there is no word yet on whether Gorbachev will be honored with a state funeral, which would seem to befit such an impactful leader, given that some Russian officials, including Putin, still quite obviously hold a grudge against the final Soviet premier for what he had done.

The AP noted that, according to Russian media, Gorbachev will be buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife, Raisa Maximovna Titorenko, who had died of leukemia in 1999. He is survived by his daughter, Irina, and two granddaughters.

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