Mikhail Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the Southern region of Russia, studying law at Moscow state university before climbing the ranks of the Soviet communist party and becoming leader in 1990. Gorbachev’s presidency differs from that of his predecessors, as he actively sought to improve relations and trade with the West by reducing Cold War tensions. British Prime minister Margaret Thatcher even noted how easy and pleasant Mikhail Gorbachev was to talk to and work with.
Gorbachev introduced two plans to help modernise the Soviet Union: glasnost (meaning openness) and perestroika (meaning restructuring). By engaging the public and decreasing censorship Gorbachev hoped to transform the Stalinist Soviet regime to more of a modern social democracy that America favoured. While glasnost was greatly welcomed, the restructure of the Soviet economy was not very successful.
To some, Gorbachev’s new approach to Soviet governance was too much of a change, with many fearing that the USSR would lose its identity and appear weak. In 1991, die hard members of the Communist party attempted to remove Gorbachev from power due to fear that the USSR was at risk of being dissolved.
In August of that year, Gorbachev was grounded within his holiday home in Crimea as military forces stormed the Russian parliament forcing political opponent Boris Yeltin to prevent the Coup whilst Gorbachev was stranded. Yeltin’s leadership during the Coup had given him the edge, leading to Gorbachev’s downfall.
Gorbachev’s glasnost policy had already set the scene for the end of the USSR. Yeltin banned all communist activity and several key nations were in favour of a new commonwealth of republics. This dissolved the Soviet Union with Gorbachev resigning and effectively ended the Cold War at the same time.