Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union, died on Aug. 30 in Moscow’s Central Clinical Hospital. According to , it is speculated that Gorbachev died after a long battle with kidney disease. Gorbachev was buried on Sept. 3 in Moscow’s Novodevichy cemetery, the resting place of many prominent Russians, BBC News reports. Gorbachev’s death comes at a time when Russia is in intense political turmoil.
Global leaders respected Gorbachev for integrating democratic ideals into the Communist system and pioneering a peaceful end to the Cold War. After the announcement of his death, world leaders praised the impact Gorbachev had on history. In a White House statement, U.S. President Joe Biden commended Gorbachev’s leadership and vision. According to Euronews, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel shared her own thoughts about Gorbachev saying, “He showed by example how a single statesman can change the world for the better.” BBC News reports that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised Gorbachev as a “trusted and respected leader” who “opened the way for a free Europe.”
Gorbachev became a member of the Communist Party in 1952. After more than 30 years going up the ranks of the party and gaining popularity, CNN explains, he became leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. Gorbachev knew that change was necessary for the Soviet Union’s survival. He implemented the principles of glasnost and perestroika (openness and restructuring) in the hopes of creating a better society for the Soviet people and improving the Soviet economy. During his presidency that Gorbachev saw the harmful effects of Soviet Communism: isolation and corruption. This triggered a chain reaction of pro-democratic policies and actions. Some of which included, establishing multiparty elections in Soviet cities, removing hundreds of corrupt bureaucrats from their positions, and lifting restrictions from the media, according to .
Throughout his six years as president, Gorbachev reformed the Soviet Union and had many impressive accomplishments. He lifted the Iron Curtain giving Eastern European countries their independence and led the path to a peaceful end to the Cold War. CNN states that Gorbachev’s proposal to eliminate all long-range missiles held by the United States and the Soviet Union resulted in the creation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and endured as a pillar of arms control for three decades. Gorbachev was then awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in ending the Cold War, reports NPR.
After his presidency, Gorbachev continued to bring awareness to causes meaningful to him. He spoke out on nuclear disarmament, the environment and poverty. He launched the Gorbachev Awards to celebrate those who are making a positive change in the world. In 2007 he became head of a new Russian political movement called the Union of Social Democrats, states CNN.
While the West may view Gorbachev is a positive light, many Russians have a different opinion of the former Soviet Union leader. According to Euronews, Vitaly Milonov, a Russian member of parliament, called Gorbachev “worse than Hitler for our country.” Furthermore, Russia’s state-owned news agencies reported on Gorbachev’s death with brief statements and a very matter-of-fact tone. Russian President Vladimir Putin stayed concise in his condolence statement about Gorbachev’s death, remarking briefly on Gorbachev’s reforms, reports Reuters.