Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a Russian and former Soviet politician. He was the eight and last leader of the Soviet Union, having been General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. He was the country’s head of state from 1988 until 1991. Take a look below for 30 more interesting and fascinating facts about Mikhail Gorbachev.
1. Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai in 1931 into a peasant Ukrainian-Russian family, and in his teens, operated combine harvesters on collective farms.
2. He graduated from Moscow State University in 1955 with a degree in law.
3. While he was at the university, he joined the Communist Party, and soon became very active within it.
4. In 1970, he was appointed the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Region Committee, First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet in 1974, and appointed a candidate member of the Politburo in 1979.
5. Within three years of the death of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, following the brief “interregna” of Andropov and Chernenko, Gorbachev was elected general secretary by the Politburo in 1985.
6. Before he reached the post, Gorbachev had occasionally been mentioned in Western newspapers as a likely next leader and a man of the younger generation at the top level.
7. Gorbachev’s policies of openness and restructuring and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War.
8. Under his program, the role of the Communist Party in governing the state was removed from the constitution, which inadvertently led to crisis-level political instability with a surge of regional nationalist and anti-communist activism culminating in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
9. Gorbachev later expressed regret for his failure to save the Soviet state, though he has insisted that his policies weren’t failures but rather were vitally necessary reforms, which were sabotaged and exploited by opportunists.
10. He was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 1989, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, and the Harvey Prize in 1992, as well as honorary doctorates from various universities.
11. His father, Sergey, was a combine harvester as well as a veteran of World War II.
12. His mother, Maria, was a kolkhoz worker, or collective farm worker.
13. When Gorbachev graduated from high school, he did so with a silver medal.
14. He attended Moscow University from 1950 through 1955. He graduated with a degree in law.
15. Gorbachev earned his correspondence master’s degree in 1967 through the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture. The degree qualified him to be an agricultural economist.
16. Even though Gorbachev became a member of the Communist Party in his high school and university days, he was granted full membership in 1952.
17. He was a government lawyer in Stavropol before he became a ranking leader of Komsomol or the Union of Young Communists.
18. In 1970, Gorbachev was the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Kaikom. As the youngest provincial party chief, he worked to improve the basic living standard of workers in industry and farming.
19. As General Secretary, Gorbachev increased economic development, allowed for more technological advancements to increase productivity and reduce waste, and focused on social issues such as an anti-alcohol campaign.
20. In 1987, Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan signed a treaty to destroy existing intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles. In the next few years, he also worked on the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Russian occupied Afghanistan.
21. Gorbachev remained active after leaving the presidency. For example, he established the Social Democratic Party of Russia, then resigned in 2004.
22. In 2007, he created the Union of Social Democrats.
23. Gorbachev is still a public figure in films, television commercials for companies like Pizza Hut, and even music.
24. He released an album of Russian ballads.
25. He married Raisa Titarenko in 1953, The couple had one daughter, Irina. They remained married until Raisa’s death in 1999.
26. Gorbachev has a recognizable birthmark on his head. The “port-wine stain” is the result of a vascular anomaly.
27. Gorbachev was active in the Swiss environmentalist organization, Green Cross International. He was president of the organization in 2003.
28. In 1948, he became the youngest recipient of the Order of the Red Banner of Labor.
29. In 2005, he got the Point Alpha Prize for his role in the German reunification.
30. He’s the only communist to do advertising work from an appearance in a Pizza Hut commercial.