“It would be naive to think that the problems plaguing mankind today can be solved with means and methods which were applied or seemed to work in the past...”
- Mikhail Gorbachev
|Stavropol Krai in red.|
In the 1930's, Gorbachev's maternal grandfather was arrested during Stalin's Great Purge and imprisoned and tortured for 14 months, but he was not executed. Southern Russia went through a big drought at around the same time, and many of Gorbachev's neighbors died of starvation. Gorbachev became a full member of the Communist Party in 1952 when he attended Moscow University.
Gorbachev first began working in the Stavropol territorial prosecutor's office. Ten days later, he became the Assistant Director of Propaganda. He rose through the ranks. He became the first secretary of Stavropol's Komsomol (youth) Committee in 1956. Five years later, he became the delegate to the party congress. In the 1960's, he became the regional agricultural administrator and party leader.
He became a full member of the Politburo in 1980. Four years later, Yuri Andropov, general secretary of the Communist Party, died. After Konstantin Chernenko, the new general secretary, died one year later, Gorbachev became the latest general secretary in 1985.
He tried turning the Soviet command economy into a market economy with social welfare and lots of government control, also trying to increase production with less waste. He continued the Cold War with America until the end of 1987, where Gorbachev gave in. In the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (the INF treaty), nuclear weapons received their first mutually agreed reduction. In 1989, the Communist Party no longer held a monopoly on power. Elections required two candidates - one Communist and another non-Communist. Gorbachev became the first and last president of the Soviet Union on March 15, 1990. Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan and encouraged the fall of the Berlin Wall. He won the Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990, obviously becoming the only Soviet President (or General-Secretary) to have received the prize.
Mikhail Gorbachev let the other members in the Soviet Union exit and become democracies. These included the Baltic nations, Belarus and Ukraine, the Caucasus and steppe nations, the Balkans, Hungary, and Poland.
Boris Yeltsin was a former Communist arguing for liberalization of the economy and was elected the President of the Russian Republic in the summer of 1991. In August, Gorbachev went down to the Crimea for a vacation, like many Russians of the time.
Concerned about their future, Communist 'conservatives' launched a coup after seizing Gorbachev. Yeltsin led the opposition to the coup, which failed. The public distrusted most Communists by this point, and that included Gorbachev.
The Soviet Union was over by Christmas of 1991, and Gorbachev stepped down.