Video:Profile of Mikhail Gorbachevwith David Wilson
Mikhail Gorbachev led an impressive and accomplished life, serving as a leader of the Soviet Union during the late 1980s and early 90s. Learn about this communist leader's life in this history video from About.comSee Transcript
Transcript:Profile of Mikhail Gorbachev
Hello, my name's David Wilson. I'm an historian and a teacher of U.S. and World History, here today for about.com. Today, we're going to be taking a look at Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Gorbachev's Rise to Power
Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. He was the first Soviet leader born after the Russian Revolution. Gorbachev presided over the USSR during the tipping points of the Cold War.
He was born to a Ukranian-Russian peasant family in 1931. Gorbachev worked diligently and was successful in becoming the youngest member of the Politburo, the executive committee for the USSR's Communist Party.
After his ascension to power in the mid 1980s, Gorbachev sought to rekindle a stagnant Soviet economy. After his initial attempts failed, he implemented a series of deeper reforms that cut at the heart of the totalitarian ideology in place since the days of Stalin.
Glasnost, which means Russian for “openness,” was a new policy that allowed for significantly more freedom of information and expression. A major result of this policy could be seen in the ability of news outlets of report more freely and offer editorial opinions and criticism, with much greater frankness than had been previously allowed.
The other major policy Gorbachev instituted was called Perestroika, which was Russian for “restructuring.” With Perestroika, he tried to initiate small, incremental steps towards the democratization of the Soviet political system. Another key aspect of the policy centered on the implementation of some free market concepts as an attempt to move past the years of economic stagnation that the Soviet Union had faced.
Gorbachev's Relationship with the US
Gorbachev also played a major role in the reduction of tensions between the United States of America and the USSR. He built a relatively strong relationship with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the two were instrumental in reducing tensions between their longtime rival nations. In 1987 he and Reagan signed a treaty, which largely reduced the threat of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.
Gorbachev's Fall from Power
Gorbachev's time atop the Soviet power structure came to an end in 1991 after several difficult years that saw six Soviet Block Eastern European countries overthrow their Communist governments. He was removed from power as part of a short-lived coup by Communist hardliners. Shortly after the failed coup, reformer Boris Yeltsin ascended to power and the Soviet Union was soon no more.
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