Russian Media: Gorbachev Dead at 91

He was the Soviet Union's final leader
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 30, 2022 3:46 PM CDT
Russian Media: Gorbachev Dead at 91
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses a group of 150 business executives in San Francisco, Monday, June 5, 1990.   (AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)

Mikhail Gorbachev, who as the last leader of the Soviet Union waged a losing battle to salvage a crumbling empire but produced extraordinary reforms that led to the end of the Cold War, has died at 91, Russian media reported Tuesday. News organizations quoted a statement from the Central Clinical Hospital as saying he died after a long illness. No other details were given. Though in power less than seven years, Gorbachev unleashed a breathtaking series of changes. But they quickly overtook him and resulted in the collapse of the authoritarian Soviet state, the freeing of Eastern European nations from Russian domination, and the end of decades of East-West nuclear confrontation, the AP reports.

By the end of his rule he was powerless to halt the whirlwind he had sown. His power hopelessly sapped by an attempted coup against him in August 1991, he spent his last months in office watching republic after republic declare independence until he resigned on Dec. 25, 1991. The Soviet Union wrote itself into oblivion a day later. A quarter-century after the collapse, Gorbachev told the AP he had not considered using widespread force to try to keep the USSR together because he feared chaos in a nuclear country. "The country was loaded to the brim with weapons. And it would have immediately pushed the country into a civil war," he said.

"I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world," Gorbachev, who may have had a greater impact on the second half of the 20th century than any other political figure, told the AP in 1992, shortly after he left office. Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War and spent his later years collecting accolades and awards from all corners of the world. Yet he was widely despised at home, where his former allies made him a scapegoat for the country’s troubles. The official news agency Tass reported that Gorbachev will be buried at Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery next to his wife. (More Mikhail Gorbachev stories.)

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