Mikhail Gorbachev was the first president of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for his leadership role in ending the Cold War and promoting peaceful international relations. He also received many other awards for his work including the St. Andrew Award from Russia, the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award, and the Indira Gandhi Prize.
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Russia on March 2, 1931. His father Sergei Gorbachev, and his mother, named Maria Panteleyeva. His parents were peasants. As a child, Mikhail had a passion for learning. He also worked in agriculture while attending school. His father operated a combine harvester for a living. Sergei passed his experience to his son, Mikhail. Mikhail was a quick learner and showed an aptitude for mechanics. As a teenager, he contributed to the family’s income by driving tractors at a local machine station.
The economic climate during his childhood was also one of turmoil. Southern Russia suffered a major drought. Since the region depended on farming for both food and income, its residents suffered from famine, and many died of starvation.
Mikhail graduated from high school with a silver medal in 1950. In 1955 he went to Moscow University where he received a degree in law. He also met his wife Raisa Titorenko there and joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Political Involvement & Presidency:
After graduating, Mikhail Gorbachev first worked as a member of the Communist Youth Organization. Next to several years, he became a leader in the Communist Party. First, in 1970, Mikhail became First Secretary for the entire Stavropol territory. Following year, in 1971, he moved to Moscow as the Secretary of Agriculture. In 1980 he was selected to be a member of the Politburo, the most powerful group in the Communist Party. Mikhail Gorbachev was the youngest member of the Politburo.
When Mikhail Gorbachev took over as leader, the Soviet economy was struggling. He wanted to reform the economy as well as the government. To do this he needed support, so he began to replace some of the older members of the politburo with younger men who shared his vision.
Mikhail Gorbachev also made attempts to end the Cold War and improve relations with the west. He met with United States President Ronald Reagan and signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces-INF (in 1987) treaty regarding nuclear weapons. He also removed Soviet troops from Afghanistan ending the Soviet Afghanistan War.
Mikhail also indicated that the Soviet Union would no longer interfere with other countries in Eastern Europe. This caused a huge change in the world. Without the dread of the Soviet Union, countries such as Eastern Germany, Poland, and Hungary got rid of their communist governments. They tried to improve relations with France, UK, and West Germany; like previous Soviet leaders, he was interested in pulling Western Europe away from U.S. influence.
He continued to pursue good relations with China to heal the Sino-Soviet Split. In 1989 he visited Beijing and there met its leader Deng Xiaoping; Deng shared Gorbachev’s belief in economic reform but rejected calls for democratization. For his excellent leadership and his contributions to the overall betterment of world development, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 15, 1990.
Although Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms allowed for more freedom, many states used this freedom to protest and eventually claim independence from the Soviet Union. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had collapsed. By Christmas, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev stepped down from his position as president of the Soviet Union, and the Union was split into separate countries.