Mikhail Gorbachev, like his predecessors Tsar Nicholas II and Romulus Augustus the Roman Emperor, oversaw the fall of once great power.

He died at the age of 91. The final and eighth leader of Soviet Union did not defend his reformist position until the fall of communist states in 1991.

Gorbachev actually signed his resignation letter six years after he assumed control and one year after he won the country’s sole presidential election.

In 1985, he took control of a Soviet Union in chaos. He also laid the foundation for 1991’s end to the Cold War and the rise of current President Vladimir Putin at the beginning of the new millennium.

In 1985, Gorbachev was elevated to the rank of General Secretary. His revolutionary anti-Stalinist reforms were a promise to the Soviet Union. However, his efforts did not help the Soviet Union. He helped to end the Cold War with America.

Ronald Reagan (L) and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (R) at the first Summit in Geneva, Switzerland, 19 November 1985

Ronald Reagan (L), and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, (R), at the Geneva Summit, Switzerland on 19 November 1985

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, born 1931 in the isolated village of Privolnoye during Josef Stalin’s rule in southwestern Russia.

Although Stalin’s grandfather had established collectivization by creating the first village-level communal farm, Stalin’s Soviet dream of collectingivisation was not realized. The Soviet famine in 1932-1933 which saw forced crop requisition kill an estimated five millions people, was a vivid memory of the Soviet leader.

Gorbachev lost two of his uncles and an aunt to starvation. Both Gorbachev’s grandfathers were then sent to Gulag labour camps, a few decades later.

However, this did not deter his family from their dedication to the communist cause. Sergey Gorbachev received the Order of Lenin award in 1948 for harvesting 800,000 kg of grain.

Gorbachev was a brilliant student and politician from childhood. He was able to get into Moscow State University to study law in 1950 without having to take a single exam.

He met Raisa here, his wife. She went on to be a passionate Marxist/Leninist philosopher lecturer and eventually became the First Lady.

Irina was sent by the couple to Stavropol’s ‘ordinary school’, rather than the one for party members.

Stalin’s demise in 1953 made Gorbachev a new hero. Nikita Chrushchev was the first Soviet leader to be reformed and became the Communist Party’s First Secretary.

Gorbachev quietly worked his way through politics to achieve the first ‘de-Stalinisation” of Soviet Union.

Leonid Brzenev was his first boss, and for seven more years he led the Stavropol Region before being elevated to the Central Committee in 1978.

Mikhail Gorbachev meeting with workers of the Peugeot factory near Paris during his visit to France, October 1985

Mikhail Gorbachev with Peugeot workers near Paris in October 1985, as part of his trip to France.

Gorbachev became the General Secretary for the Communist Party, in 1985. He was finally free to exercise his reformist muscle without being retaliated by the hardliners.

Glasnost, also known as ‘openness’ and implemented in 1986 was a major ideological shift in Soviet thought. It was in stark contrast with Stalin’s autoritarian regime.

As Gorbachev implemented anti-corruption steps and encouraged citizens to scrutinize the Kremlin, freedom of press and speech became possible for the first times.

The Soviet leader won no admirers among Communist Party hardliners. However, Gorbachev created Gorbachev’s iconic ‘Perestroika’ plan for reconstruction. Further liberal reforms were then swept into place, much to the delight of George W Bush, the US President at the time.

In 1987, he unleashed a furious tirade on Stalin, saying, ‘To be faithful to historical fact, we must see both Stalin’s undisputed contribution to socialism’s struggle and his abuses by those around him. These were grave consequences that had serious implications for our lives and society’s future.

“The immense and unspeakable guilt of Stalin and his immediate circle before the party, the people and for their wholesale repressive actions and lawlessness are unforgiveable.”

Soviet Union was no longer a socialist global superpower. Instead, it had embraced liberalization and consolidation under Gorbachev.

In 1988, after nine years of Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in the Cold War, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan again. He made the extraordinary decision to pull troops out of that disastrous incursion.

His isolationism, combined with “glasnost”, may have inspired the 1989 Revolutions in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany against Moscow.

Brezhnev doctrine allowed for the Kremlin intervention in any socialist country – Gorbachev almost abandoned that policy. Citizens could then rise up and not be repressed.

Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91, chats to US President Ronald Reagan in 1985

Mikhail Gorbachev talks to US President Ronald Reagan about his death at 91

However, Gorbachev stated 1988, in spite of fury from the Communist Party’s traditional wing, “The Soviet People Want Full-blooded And Unconditional Democracy.”

This meant that Gorbachev would give more to NATO, and restore relations with the USA.

The first time he met Ronald Reagan (then President of USA) in Geneva was 1985. They laid the foundations for better relations between Washington and Moscow and ended the Cold War with three summits.

He would call Reagan, two decades after their first meeting, ‘a great President’. The Soviet leadership was able launch an important but difficult dialogue with him.

He won the 1990 presidency election with ease and proposed further privatization and decentralization of the economy.

However, this meant that reformist leader was caught between the old guard, and Boris Yeltsin (the new liberal challenger), who both urged leadership to make a choice between capitalism and binary communism.

Yeltsin ended up leading his country to a new age – something Francis Fukuyama (political scientist) called “The End of History” and Gorbachev was forced out of power.

Months later Yeltsin, who was believed to be supported by Washington, signed with eleven Republic leaders a decree dissolving Soviet Union.

The Soviet last leader was not simply extinct from politics.

Putin was fiercely criticized by him in 2016. He stated that the president currently rules via ‘friends at school’, meaning people with whom they played football together.

Gorbachev’s ability to reach peace with the US was demonstrated by the August 2019 expiration of his Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, 32 years in operation.