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, 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.
The eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, he was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991.
Gorbachev was also the country’s head of state from 1988 until 1991, serving as the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989, chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1989 to 1990, and president of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991.
Ideologically, Gorbachev initially adhered to Marxism–Leninism, but he moved towards social democracy by the early 1990s.
Gorbachev believed significant reform was necessary, particularly after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
He withdrew from the Soviet–Afghan War and embarked on summits with United States president Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War.
Domestically, his policy of glasnost (“openness”) allowed for enhanced freedom of speech and press, while his perestroika (“restructuring”) sought to decentralize economic decision-making to improve efficiency.
His democratization measures and formation of the elected Congress of People’s Deputies undermined the one-party state.
Gorbachev declined to intervene militarily when various Eastern Bloc countries abandoned Marxist–Leninist governance in 1989–1990.
Internally, growing nationalist sentiment threatened to break up the Soviet Union, leading Marxist–Leninist hardliners to launch the unsuccessful August Coup against Gorbachev in 1991.
In the wake of this, the Soviet Union dissolved against Gorbachev’s wishes and he resigned.
After leaving office, he launched his Gorbachev Foundation, became a vocal critic of Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin, and campaigned for Russia’s social-democratic movement.