Russia: Mikhail Gorbachev, last president of the USSR, died at the age of 91, announces a hospital dependent on the Russian presidency

The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, died Tuesday August 30 at the age of 91 in Russia, announced the central clinical hospital (TSKB), quoted by Russian press agencies. “Today in the evening (tuesday)after a long serious illness, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev died”said this hospital dependent on the Russian presidency.

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Mikhail Gorbachev had taken the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. Aware that a crisis was lurking, he had launched a liberalization called “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (transparency) in order to reform the Soviet system and to reduce the influence of old party bosses. Millions of Soviets then discovered unprecedented freedoms, but also shortages, economic chaos and nationalist revolts. Mikhail Gorbachev was also the one who ordered an end to the Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan, and let the Berlin Wall fall.

Between 1990 and 1991, he served as President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, before having to resign on December 25, 1991, which led to the end of the USSR.

A controversial record

Under his mandate, there was no lack of excesses: the entry of Soviet tanks into Lithuania, the repression of peaceful demonstrators in Georgia, or the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. It had been passed over in silence for days, contributing to contamination of hundreds of thousands of people.

In the West, the leaders of the capitalist world were fascinated by this new interlocutor open to negotiation. Nuclear disarmament agreement, refusal to intervene militarily to defend the iron curtain… The Soviet leader was decidedly different. This respect will never disappear in the West, due to its restraint when the Berlin Wall and the communist regimes of Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland crumbled. He will be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

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For the Russians, on the contrary, Mikhail Gorbachev destroyed the great power status of their homeland. In the years following the end of the USSR, many Russians were plunged into abject poverty, confronted with political chaos and a bloody war in Chechnya. In June 1991, when Boris Yeltsin was elected president of Soviet Russia by universal suffrage, Mikhail Gorbachev tried to save the USSR by proposing greater internal autonomy. The project collapsed on August 19, 1991, when the hard line Communist Party attempted a putsch against him. Boris Yeltsin will be the hero of the resistance to this failed coup. Mikhail Gorbachev resigns on December 25. Five years later, when he was a presidential candidate against Yeltsin, he obtained less than 1% of the vote.

Critics of Westerners from 2014

After his resignation, Mikhail Gorbachev had become a herald of the environmental cause. He had created the Gorbachev Foundation, dedicated to socio-economic studies, and had supported the main Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

A virulent time against Vladimir Putin, confident in 2011 of his “shame” from having supported him at the turn of the 2000s, he then directed his criticism increasingly against Westerners, starting with the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 by Russia.

Before his death, he had not spoken publicly about the massive Kremlin offensive in Ukraine.

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