AUGUST 30, 2022
Mikhail Gorbachev, who avoided bloodshed to end the Cold War but was unable to save the fall of the Soviet Union, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92, according to hospital sources quoted by Russian news agencies.
The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, worked to bring about the reunification of Germany by negotiating armaments reduction agreements with the United States and forming alliances with Western nations.
In contrast to previous Kremlin leaders who had dispatched tanks to put down uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, he refrained from employing force when pro-democracy rallies swept across the Soviet bloc countries of communist Eastern Europe in 1989.
But the protests fueled demands for independence in the 15 Soviet republics, which culminated in the country’s chaotic dissolution during the following two years.
Gorbachev made unsuccessful attempts to stop that catastrophe.
He had intended to revitalise the system by allowing some political and economic freedoms when he was appointed general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, at the age of just 54, but his changes spiralled out of control.
His “glasnost” (free speech) policy encouraged nationalists to push for independence in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and elsewhere while also allowing hitherto unimaginable criticism of the party and the state.
Many Russians never forgave Gorbachev for the unrest his reforms caused because they believed the following decline in their standard of living was too great a cost to pay for democracy.
“He gave us all freedom, but we don’t know what to do with it,” liberal economist Ruslan Grinberg said on June 30 after visiting Gorbachev in the hospital.