Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR

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Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he is resigning as president of the Soviet Union. In truth, there was not much of a Soviet Union from which to resign—just four days earlier, 11 of the former Soviet republics had established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), effectively dismembering the USSR. The Soviet Union, for all intents and purposes, had already ceased to exist.

In his farewell speech to the nation, Gorbachev indicated that the recent establishment of the CIS was the primary motive for his resignation, claiming he was “concerned about the fact that the people in this country are ceasing to become citizens of a great power and the consequences may be very difficult for all of us to deal with.” In words that were sometimes prideful, sometimes resentful, Gorbachev stated that he stood on his record of achievement. He had, he claimed, overseen the Soviet Union’s trip down the “road of democracy.” His reforms “steered” the communist economy “toward the market economy.” He declared that the Russian people were “living in a new world” in which an “end has been put to the Cold War and to the arms race.” Admitting “there were mistakes made,” Gorbachev remained adamant that he “never had any regrets” about the policies he pursued.

In reality, Gorbachev had lost much of his power and prestige in the Soviet Union even before the establishment of the CIS. The economy was unstable. No one seemed pleased by Gorbachev-some opponents demanded even more political freedom while hard-liners in his government opposed any movement toward reform. In August 1991, he survived a coup attempt only through the assistance of Russian Federation president Boris Yeltsin. Following the failed attempt, Yeltsin became a vocal critic of the slow pace of economic and political reforms in the country. As Gorbachev’s power slipped away, Yeltsin took over the Kremlin and other Soviet government facilities and replaced the Soviet flag with the flag of Russia. After over 70 years of existence, the Soviet Union—America’s archenemy in the Cold War—was gone.

READ MORE: How Gorbachev and Reagan's Friendship Helped Thaw the Cold War

Mikhail Gorbachev’s 4 main achievements in the international arena

&ldquoA leader must pay attention to domestic affairs and have serious leverage at home,&rdquo Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs journal, says while talking about Mikhail Gorbachev. &ldquoAnd if a leader, however popular abroad, doesn&rsquot enjoy enough support at home&hellip well, Gorbachev&rsquos example proves that this is a weak position.&rdquo

Indeed, Mikhail Gorbachev&rsquos USSR, suffering from severe economic crises, wasn&rsquot a stable state and, despite all his efforts, fell apart, which is hardly a compliment as a leader. And it leads to many Russians doubting Gorbachev&rsquos legacy: in 2016, 58% believed he &ldquoplayed a negative role in Russia&rsquos history.&rdquo

At the same time, while his domestic policy was questionable, on the international arena Gorbachev made many changes (some would argue for the better), given that before him, the Cold War was at its peak, with Moscow and Washington on the brink of war. Here&rsquos what he did.

1. Withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

The last Soviet troop column crosses Soviet border after leaving Afghanistan.

For nine years (Dec. 1979 &ndash Feb. 1989), the USSR had been burdened by the Afghan War, where it tried to guarantee the continued power of the pro-Soviet government. The Afghan War became &ldquothe USSR&rsquos own Vietnam&rdquo, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor of U.S. president Jimmy Carter, once said, and cost 15,000 Soviet lives.

So Gorbachev ended it: in February 1989, the Soviet military contingent left Afghanistan for good. &ldquoWe finished this grim chapter,&rdquo Gorbachev recalled 30 years later. &ldquoEveryone [in the government] agreed: it&rsquos impossible to solve the Afghan problem by military means.&rdquo

What followed: The pro-Soviet government fell in no time, but the war wasn&rsquot over, as the Taliban took over again, which led to the U.S. invading Afghanistan in 2001. 30 years on, Afghanistan is still not at peace.

2. Adoption of &ldquothe Sinatra doctrine&rdquo

Fall of the Communist government in Czechoslovakia, celebrated by the locals.

In October 1989, commenting on Mikhail Gorbachev&rsquos new approach towards the socialist states of Eastern Europe, Soviet Foreign Ministry&rsquos spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said jokingly: &ldquoWe now have the Frank Sinatra doctrine. He has a song, My Way. So every country decides on its own which road to take.&rdquo

That meant Moscow was no longer eager (or able) to support the Communist governments in such countries as Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, no matter what: from that moment on, the Eastern Europe was free to choose its own way.

What followed: It&rsquos unclear if it was expected, but the Warsaw Pact countries turned out to be fed up with socialism to such an extent that, by the end of 1989, communist governments were falling everywhere. In 1991, the military organization of the East Bloc, the Warsaw Pact, officially ceased to exist.

3. &lsquoLetting&rsquo the Berlin Wall fall

&ldquoMr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!&rdquo U.S. President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet leader in 1987, during a speech in Berlin, a city that had been cut in two by a wall separating West and East Germany, since 1961. Reagan knew who to talk to: the USSR was East Germany&rsquos political sponsor and had a serious military contingent deployed in the country.

And Gorbachev reacted to his call &ndash not with words, but with action. By late 1989, there was no sense in the wall&rsquos existence: as Hungary opened borders with Austria (the Sinatra doctrine in action!), one could get from East Germany to West via Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria. On November 9, 1989, East German authorities opened the border and the wall was brought down.

&ldquoNot only did we not try to use the power of the Soviet battalions deployed in the GDR &ndash we did everything possible for this process to go peacefully,&rdquo Gorbachev noted in 2019. &ldquoHow could we prevent the GDR from uniting with the FRG if the GDR&rsquos people wanted it?&rdquo

What followed: Germany reunified fully in 1990. Chancellor Angela Merkel called the day the Berlin Wall fell &ldquothe moment of happiness&rdquo for all Germans.

4. Reducing nuclear armaments

Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush in 1991.

One of Gorbachev&rsquos most important achievements was slowing down the nuclear armaments race (if not stopping it entirely). In 1987, he and Ronald Reagan signed the INF Treaty, which banned both Soviet and American missiles with ranges of 500&ndash5,500 km (short- and intermediate-range). For the first time in the world&rsquos history, two nuclear superpowers obliged themselves to get rid of a whole class of weapons, making Europe a far safer continent.

The other crucial Soviet-American treaty of Gorbachev&rsquos era was the START-I (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), signed in 1991, just months before the USSR fell apart. The START-I treaty limited the two powers to have a maximum of 6,000 nuclear warheads atop a total of 1,600 carriers (ballistic missiles and bombers), which led to the largest removal of nuclear arms in history.

&ldquoSuch openness in the most secret field, between former opponents, was unprecedented,&rdquo Vladimir Dvorkin, former Gorbachev&rsquos associate, wrote. &ldquoEven close allies such as the U.S., Britain and France never reached such a deal.&rdquo

What followed: The U.S. left the INF Treaty in 2019. As for START, the newest version of it (signed by Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama in 2010) is to last at least until 2021.

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Former Soviet leader Gorbachev turns 90

MOSCOW (AP) - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev turned 90 on Tuesday, receiving greetings from the Kremlin and global leaders while Russians remained divided over his legacy.

Gorbachev, who has stayed in a hospital as a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic, was scheduled to have a video call Tuesday with his aides and associates who gathered at his foundation to congratulate him.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Gorbachev in a letter published by the Kremlin, hailing him as “one of the most outstanding statesmen of modern times who made a considerable impact on the history of our nation and the world.” Putin also praised Gorbachev for continuing to work on international humanitarian projects.

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among global leaders who congratulated Gorbachev on his birthday.

Speaking in an interview with the Tass news agency published Tuesday, Gorbachev reaffirmed that the domestic political reforms he launched and his efforts to end the Cold War had no alternative.

“I deeply believe that Perestroika was necessary and we were taking it in the right direction,” he said. “The main domestic achievement was to give freedom to the people and put an end to the totalitarian system. And the most important things on the international stage were ending the Cold War and conducting radical nuclear weapons cuts.”

Gorbachev again lamented the hardline coup in August 1991 staged by the Communist Party’s old guard that briefly ousted him and precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“It was possible to preserve the Soviet Union, naturally in a revived and reformed shape that would have given broad rights to the republic,” Gorbachev told Tass.

Asked if it’s still possible now to restore the Soviet Union, he answered that it’s necessary to focus on normalizing ties with its ex-Soviet neighbors and developing regional alliances.

Putin, who famously lamented the Soviet demise as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” has avoided personal criticism of Gorbachev but has often been critical about his policies and held the Soviet leader responsible for putting too much trust in the West.

During Putin’s 21-year rule, Russia’s relations with the West have plunged to post-Cold War lows over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, hacking attacks, and, most recently, the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

While Gorbachev has received international accolades for helping end the Cold War and launching liberal reforms that ended the Communist monopoly on power, many Russians have held him responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union that led to a devastating economic meltdown and political turmoil.

A poll conducted by the All-Russia Opinion Research Center (WCIOM), had 51% of respondents saying that he brought the nation more harm than good, while 32% said it was about equal, 7% viewed his action as mostly positive and the rest were undecided. The nationwide poll of 1,600 was conducted Sunday and had a margin of error of no more than 2.5 percentage points.

Mikhail Gorbachev (Greater Cold War)

Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev, (Russian: Михаи́л Серге́евич Горбачёв born March 2, 1931) is a Soviet politician who previously served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union before becoming the first President of the Soviet Union from March 15, 1990 to May 7, 1998 and was the de-facto head of state of the Soviet Union from 1988 until 1998.

Gorbachev was born in 1931 in Stavropol Krai to a Ukrainian-Russian peasant family where he operated combine harvests on collective farms in his teens. He graduated from Moscow State University in 1955 with a degree in law. While in university, Gorbachev had joined the Communist Party in 1950 and became an active member in the party. In 1970, he was appointed the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee, First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet in 1974, and appointed a candidate member of the Politburo in 1979. Gorbachev was later elected General Secretary in 1985 following the death of Leonid Brezhnev and the brief "interregna" of Andropov and Chernenko.

Under Gorbachev, the Soviet Union had gone under a series of radical reforms that greatly transformed and reorganized the entire political structure of the USSR. These reforms, glasnost ("openness") and perestroika ("restructuring"), the Soviet Union was reorganized into an open political entity with more sovereignty given to its republics and the political monopoly of the communist party was ended by the end of 1980s. Following the referendum in 1991, Gorbachev had ratified the New Union Treaty which reorganized the USSR and helped keep the union together as well as officially end the Cold War by 1991, though tensions did persist.

Thought out the 1990s, Gorbachev focused on growing the Soviet economy through new reforms of decentralization and allowing limited forms of capitalism leading to a mixed-market economy by 1993. Living standards rose and unemployment had fallen leading to the "Roaring Nineties" in the USSR. Outside the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was forced to deal with a series of conflicts that halted decreasing tensions with the western powers from the Transnistria War in 1992 to the Georgia Separatist Crisis in August of the same year.

Gorbachev resigned in 1998 after serving eight years in office and was succeeded by Boris Yeltsin that same year. Post-presidency, Gorbachev had worked towards helping increase the standard of living and social conditions of the Soviet Union and work hard towards solving global issues and ending remaining tensions from the Cold War.

END OF THE SOVIET UNION Text of Bush's Address to Nation on Gorbachev's Resignation

Following is the text of a televised speech President Bush made tonight after President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's resignation:

Good evening, and Merry Christmas to all Americans across our great country.

During these last few months, you and I have witnessed one of the greatest dramas of the twentieth century -- the historic and revolutionary transformation of a totalitarian dictatorship, the Soviet Union, and the liberation of its peoples. As we celebrate Christmas -- this day of peace and hope -- I thought we should take just a few minutes to reflect on what these events mean for us, as Americans.

For over 40 years, the United States led the West in the struggle against Communism and the threat it posed to our most precious values. This struggle shaped the lives of all Americans. It forced all nations to live under the specter of nuclear destruction. From Union, a Commonwealth

That confrontation is now over. The nuclear threat -- while far from gone -- is receding. Eastern Europe is free. The Soviet Union itself is no more. This is a victory for democracy and freedom. It's a victory for the moral force of our values. Every American can take pride in this victory, from the millions of men and women who have served our country in uniform, to millions of Americans who supported their country and a strong defense under nine presidents.

New, independent nations have emerged out of the wreckage of the Soviet empire. Last weekend, these former republics formed a Commonwealth of Independent States. This act marks the end of the old Soviet Union, signified today by Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to resign as President.

Iɽ like to express, on behalf of the American people, my gratitude to Mikhail Gorbachev for years of sustained commitment to world peace, and for his intellect, vision and courage. I spoke with Mikhail Gorbachev this morning. We reviewed the many accomplishments of the past few years and spoke of hope for the future.

Mikhail Gorbachev's revolutionary policies transformed the Soviet Union. His policies permitted the peoples of Russia and the other republics to cast aside decades of oppression and establish the foundations of freedom.

His legacy guarantees him an honored place in history and provides a solid basis for the United States to work in equally constructive ways with his successors.

The United States applauds and supports the historic choice for freedom by the new states of the Commonwealth. We congratulate them on the peaceful and democratic path they have chosen, and for their careful attention to nuclear control and safety during this transition. Despite a potential for instability and chaos, these events clearly serve our national interest.

We stand tonight before a new world of hope and possibilities and hope for our children, a world we could not have contemplated a few years ago. The challenge for us now is to engage these new states in sustaining the peace and building a more prosperous future. Announcement of Recognition

As so today, based on commitments and assurances given to us by some of these states, concerning nuclear safety, democracy, and free markets, I am announcing some important steps designed to begin this process.

First, the United States recognizes and welcomes the emergence of a free, independent and democratic Russia, led by its courageous President Boris Yeltsin. Our Embassy in Moscow will remain there as our Embassy to Russia. We will support Russia's assumption of the U.S.S.R.'s seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. I look forward to working closely with President Yeltsin in support of his efforts to bring democratic and market reform in Russia.

Second, the United States also recognizes the independence of Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan -- all states that have made specific commitments to us. We will move quickly to establish diplomatic relations with these States, and build new ties to them. We will sponsor membership in the United Nations for those not already members. Diplomatic Relations Deferred

Third, the United States also recognizes today as independent states the remaining six former Soviet republics -- Moldova, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Tadzhikistan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. We will establish diplomatic relations with them when we are satisfied that they have made commitments to responsible security policies and democratic principles, as have the other states we recognize today.

These dramatic events come at a time when Americans are also facing challenges here at home. I know that for many of you these are difficult times. And I want all Americans to know that I am committed to attacking our economic problems at home with the same determination we brought winning the cold war.

I am confident we will meet this challenge as we have so many times before. But we cannot if we retreat into isolationism. We will only succeed in this interconnected world by continuing to lead the fight for free people and free and fair trade. A free and prosperous global economy is essential for America's prosperity -- that means jobs and economic growth right here at home.

This is a day of great hope for all Americans. Our enemies have become our partners, committed to building democratic and civil societies. They ask for our support, and we will give it to them. We will do it because as Americans we can do no less.

For our children, we must offer them the guarantee of a peaceful and prosperous future -- a future grounded in a world built on strong democratic principles, free from the specter of global conflict.

May God bless the people of the new nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States. And on this special day of peace on earth, good will toward men, may God continue to bless the United States of America.

END OF THE SOVIET UNION Text of Gorbachev's Farewell Address

Following is a transcript of Mikhail S. Gorbachev's resignation speech in Moscow yesterday, as recorded through the facilities of CNN and translated by CNN from the Russian:

Dear fellow countrymen, compatriots. Due to the situation which has evolved as a result of the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, I hereby discontinue my activities at the post of President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

I am making this decision on considerations of principle. I firmly came out in favor of the independence of nations and sovereignty for the republics. At the same time, I support the preservation of the union state and the integrity of this country.

The developments took a different course. The policy prevailed of dismembering this country and disuniting the state, which is something I cannot subscribe to.

After the Alma-Ata meeting and its decisions, my position did not change as far as this issue is concerned. Besides, it is my conviction that decisions of this caliber should have been made on the basis of popular will.

However, I will do all I can to insure that the agreements that were signed there lead toward real concord in society and facilitate the exit out of this crisis and the process of reform.

This being my last opportunity to address you as President of the U.S.S.R., I find it necessary to inform you of what I think of the road that has been trodden by us since 1985. Squandered Resources

I find it important because there have been a lot of controversial, superficial, and unbiased judgments made on this score. Destiny so ruled that when I found myself at the helm of this state it already was clear that something was wrong in this country.

We had a lot of everything -- land, oil and gas, other natural resources -- and there was intellect and talent in abundance. However, we were living much worse than people in the industrialized countries were living and we were increasingly lagging behind them. The reason was obvious even then. This country was suffocating in the shackles of the bureaucratic command system. Doomed to cater to ideology, and suffer and carry the onerous burden of the arms race, it found itself at the breaking point.

All the half-hearted reforms -- and there have been a lot of them -- fell through, one after another. This country was going nowhere and we couldn't possibly live the way we did. We had to change everything radically.

It is for this reason that I have never had any regrets -- never had any regrets -- that I did not use the capacity of General Secretary just to reign in this country for several years. I would have considered it an irresponsible and immoral decision. I was also aware that to embark on reform of this caliber and in a society like ours was an extremely difficult and even risky undertaking. But even now, I am convinced that the democratic reform that we launched in the spring of 1985 was historically correct.

The process of renovating this country and bringing about drastic change in the international community has proven to be much more complicated than anyone could imagine. However, let us give its due to what has been done so far.

This society has acquired freedom. It has been freed politically and spiritually, and this is the most important achievement that we have yet fully come to grips with. And we haven't, because we haven't learned to use freedom yet.

However, an effort of historical importance has been carried out. The totalitarian system has been eliminated, which prevented this country from becoming a prosperous and well-to-do country a long time ago. A breakthrough has been effected on the road of democratic change. Market Format Nears

Free elections have become a reality. Free press, freedom of worship, representative legislatures and a multi-party system have all become reality. Human rights are being treated as the supreme principle and top priority. Movement has been started toward a multi-tier economy and the equality of all forms of ownership is being established.

Within the framework of the land reform, peasantry began to re-emerge as a class. And there arrived farmers, and billions of hectares of land are being given to urbanites and rural residents alike. The economic freedom of the producer has been made a law, and free enterprise, the emergence of joint stock companies and privatization are gaining momentum.

As the economy is being steered toward the market format, it is important to remember that the intention behind this reform is the well-being of man, and during this difficult period everything should be done to provide for social security, which particularly concerns old people and children.

We're now living in a new world. And end has been put to the cold war and to the arms race, as well as to the mad militarization of the country, which has crippled our economy, public attitudes and morals. The threat of nuclear war has been removed.

Once again, I would like to stress that during this transitional period, I did everything that needed to be done to insure that there was reliable control of nuclear weapons. We opened up ourselves to the rest of the world, abandoned the practices of interfering in others' internal affairs and using troops outside this country, and we were reciprocated with trust, solidarity, and respect.

We have become one of the key strongholds in terms of restructuring modern civilization on a peaceful democratic basis. The nations and peoples of this country have acquired the right to freely choose their format for self-determination. Their search for democratic reform of this multi-national state had led us to the point where we were about to sign a new union treaty. Popular Resentment

All this change had taken a lot of strain, and took place in the context of fierce struggle against the background of increasing resistance by the reactionary forces, both the party and state structures, and the economic elite, as well as our habits, ideological bias, the sponging attitudes.

The change ran up against our intolerance, a low level of political culture and fear of change. That is why we have wasted so much time. The old system fell apart even before the new system began to work. Crisis of society as a result aggravated even further.

I'm aware that there is popular resentment as a result of today's grave situation. I note that authority at all levels, and myself are being subject to harsh criticisms. I would like to stress once again, though, that the cardinal change in so vast a country, given its heritage, could not have been carried out without difficulties, shock and pain.

The August coup brought the overall crisis to the limit. The most dangerous thing about this crisis is the collapse of statehood. I am concerned about the fact that the people in this country are ceasing to become citizens of a great power and the consequences may be very difficult for all of us to deal with.

I consider it vitally important to preserve the democratic achievements which have been attained in the last few years. We have paid with all our history and tragic experience for these democratic achievements, and they are not to be abandoned, whatever the circumstances, and whatever the pretexts. Otherwise, all our hopes for the best will be buried. I am telling you all this honestly and straightforwardly because this is my moral duty.

I would like to express my gratitude to all people who have given their support to the policy of renovating this country and became involved in the democratic reform in this country. I am also thankful to the statements, politicians and public figures, as well as millions of ordinary people abroad who understood our intentions, gave their support and met us halfway. I thank them for their sincere cooperation with us. Avoidable Mistakes

I am very much concerned as I am leaving this post. However, I also have feelings of hope and faith in you, your wisdom and force of spirit. We are heirs of a great civilization and it now depends on all and everyone whether or not this civilization will make a comeback to a new and decent living today. I would like, from the bottom of my heart, to thank everyone who has stood by me throughout these years, working for the righteous and good cause.

Of course, there were mistakes made that could have been avoided, and many of the things that we did could have been done better. But I am positive that sooner or later, some day our common efforts will bear fruit and our nations will live in a prosperous, democratic society.

Last Soviet leader Gorbachev marks 90th birthday in quarantine

Mikhail Gorbachev, the historic reformer who presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union, marked his 90th birthday in quarantine Tuesday and like everyone else is "tired" of virus restrictions, his spokesman said.

Congratulations poured in from around the world, with President Vladimir Putin, US leader Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel all sending their best wishes, he added.

"He is in quarantine in hospital for the duration of the pandemic," Vladimir Polyakov, spokesman for the Gorbachev Foundation, told AFP.

"He is tired of this, like the rest of us."

In power between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev pushed for reforms to achieve "glasnost" (openness) and "perestroika" (restructuring) but his policies eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union.

After the Berlin Wall fell, he won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for "the radical changes in East-West relations."

Gorbachev, the first Russian leader to reach the age of 90, will mark his birthday with family and friends and has already received a "heap" of messages from around the world, his spokesman said.

Gorbachev would talk to his family and friends in a socially-distanced setting, possibly by video link. "We've set everything up," Polyakov added.

He said that Gorbachev had passed the time in isolation "editing books and articles".

In his message earlier Tuesday, Putin described Gorbachev as an "outstanding" politician.

"You rightly belong to a series of bright and outstanding people, distinguished statesmen of the modern age who have significantly influenced the course of domestic and world history."

He praised Gorbachev's "energy and creative potential", noting he remained involved in social and humanitarian projects.

The two Russian leaders past and present have had a complicated relationship.

Gorbachev has alternated between subtle criticism of the former KGB officer and praising him for bringing a level of stability to Russia.

Putin for his part has dismantled much of what the Soviet leader worked to achieve in guaranteeing liberties like free speech.

He also famously referred to the Soviet collapse as "the greatest geo-political catastrophe of the century".

Merkel said the people of Germany would not forget Gorbachev's contribution to the country's reunification.

"Today you can look back on your life's work with pride," she said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he and the British people "remain in admiration of the courage and integrity you showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion."

While Gorby -- as he is affectionately known outside Russia -- is feted in the West, his reputation at home remains controversial.

But even the Kremlin-friendly newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets said Tuesday that Gorbachev had plenty to celebrate.

"He's the first leader in the country's thousand-year history who voluntarily resigned his post and remained alive and free," it said.

Government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta suggested that the Soviet Union's demise was ultimately not his fault.

"Gorbachev came too late. It was very difficult to halt the destruction," it said.

"Gorbachev came too early. We were not ready then to appreciate and implement what was conceived," the newspaper added.


MOSCOW, DEC. 25 -- Mikhail Gorbachev resigned today as president of the Soviet Union, transferring control of the country's huge nuclear arsenal to Russian President Boris Yeltsin as the red Soviet flag atop the Kremlin was lowered for the last time.

Immediately after announcing his resignation in a live television broadcast, the last leader of the world's first communist state signed a decree formally relinquishing command of the 3.7 million-member Soviet armed forces. Within a half-hour, the white, red and blue Russian flag was flying above Gorbachev's former Kremlin office, symbolizing the end of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Soviet communism 74 years after the Bolshevik Revolution.

In his farewell address, Gorbachev proudly defended his achievements as Soviet leader, including the dismantling of the totalitarian system and the inauguration of a new era in East-West relations. But he also struck a note of warning about the dangers that lie ahead for the 15 independent countries that have been carved out of the former Soviet Union, making clear that he had been deeply opposed to the "dismembering" of the unitary state.

Speaking from his Kremlin office at 7 p.m. (noon EDT), Gorbachev said: "This society acquired freedom, liberated itself politically and spiritually, and this is the foremost achievement -- which we have not yet understood completely, because we have not learned to use freedom."

Gorbachev's resignation as the Soviet Union's first and last executive president came after nearly seven tumultuous years in power that changed the face of his country and the world. Named general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party on March 11, 1985 -- one day after the death of Konstantin Chernenko -- Gorbachev promised to revitalize the world's second superpower and the system of state socialism. He ended up presiding over the destruction of both.

About 90 minutes before the speech, a Kremlin spokesman said, Gorbachev appealed by phone to President Bush for Western support of the new Commonwealth of Independent States and stressed the need for humanitarian assistance to help Russia and the other former Soviet republics through a difficult winter.

Yeltsin, widely recognized as the dominant political figure in the new 11-nation Commonwealth, promised today to rescue Russia from its economic and political malaise through a program of radical, market-oriented reforms, beginning with the removal of most price controls on Jan. 2. He also assured the West that Russia, as the principal successor state to the Soviet Union, would respect all disarmament and other international treaty obligations of the former Communist state.

"We will do all we can to prevent the nuclear button from being used -- ever," said Yeltsin, in an interview with Cable News Network several hours before he formally received the "nuclear suitcase" that holds the secret codes for launching thousands of strategic nuclear weapons, many of them aimed at the United States.

Yeltsin, who last June became Russia's first popularly elected president in its 1,000-year history, won a mass following by denouncing the Communist system from which he sprang and campaigning against the privileges of the ruling party elite. He remains a figure of great hope and charisma for millions of Russians, but his rough and sometimes unpredictable ways have also provoked concern in some quarters, including Western politicians who credit Gorbachev with ending the Cold War.

While the Russian leader inherits Gorbachev's role as the man with ultimate authority for unleashing Armageddon, the leaders of three other former Soviet republics with nuclear weapons -- Ukraine, Byelorussia and Kazakhstan -- also will be involved in the decision-making process. Yeltsin told the Russian parliament that all four presidents will be linked by a special communications system, allowing them to consult with each other on the use of nuclear weapons at any time of the day or night.

The independent Interfax news agency said Gorbachev was to have handed the three-pound suitcase, or chemodanchik, directly to his former political protege after the speech but that Yeltsin canceled the planned Kremlin meeting. Instead, the 60-year-old Soviet leader entrusted the nuclear-trigger transfer to Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, the outgoing Soviet defense minister, who has been appointed temporary commander of the Commonwealth's armed forces.

The swift-moving events at the Kremlin were the closest the Soviet Union, or Russia for that matter, has ever come to the peaceful transfer of power from one living leader to another. In the past, czars and general secretaries alike have been forced from power either by death or palace coup. But the orderly nature of today's transition belied the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Gorbachev's departure from office: A geopolitical colossus straddling one-sixth of the Earth's surface has ceased to exist.

Gorbachev pointedly avoided using the word "resignation" in his 12-minute farewell speech, which began with the words "Dear compatriots, fellow citizens," rather than with the ritual "Comrades." Instead, he announced that he had decided to "cease activities" as president of the Soviet Union in connection with the "creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States."

Insisting that he favors both sovereignty for the former Soviet republics and "preservation of the union state," Gorbachev said he could not agree with the policy of "dismembering this country and disuniting the state" adopted by Yeltsin and other republic leaders. He said that decisions of such magnitude should have been made on the basis of a clear expression of the "popular will."

Gorbachev softened his criticism by saying he would do everything in his power to support the new Commonwealth, but he has clearly distanced himself from the course now being pursued by Yeltsin. In both his farewell statement and a later interview with Cable News Network, he reserved the right to chide and criticize the new leaders should they stray from the democratic path he embarked upon in 1985.

Gorbachev told CNN he would resume some form of public life after taking what he described as his first real vacation in seven years. "I will not hide in the woods," he said. One of his spokesmen said he would head an international political research organization to be known as the Gorbachev Fund, or, more formally, The International Fund for Social, Economic and Political Research.

The speed with which the 20-by-10-foot Soviet flag was hauled down from the Kremlin following Gorbachev's resignation surprised many officials, who said they had been told earlier that the ceremony marking the liquidation of the Soviet Union would take place on New Year's Eve. Only a handful of tourists were present in Red Square beneath the floodlit Kremlin walls to watch the flag -- which had been kept in constant flutter by a continuous flow of warm air -- come down at 7:35 p.m. to scattered applause and a few whistles.

"It was strange how little reaction there was," said Uli Klese, a Berlin photographer vacationing here. "When the Berlin Wall came down, everybody was out on the streets. This was an event of the same kind of magnitude, but no one seemed to care."

Born out of the turmoil of the 1917 revolution and the civil war between Communists and monarchists, the Soviet Union formally came into existence on Dec. 30, 1922, incorporating Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia and much of Central Asia. During World War II, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin added the three Baltic states, the Romanian province of Bessarabia and a large slice of Poland, in addition to bringing much of Eastern and Central Europe under the Soviet sphere of influence.

In his speech tonight, Gorbachev cited the peaceful liberation of Eastern Europe from Soviet domination in 1989 as one of his main achievements. "We live in a new world," Gorbachev declared, reading from a prepared text of 4 1/2 pages of Cyrillic script held in a pale green binder. "We opened ourselves to the world, gave up interference into other people's affairs, the use of troops beyond the borders of the country, and trust, solidarity and respect came in response."

Reflecting on his years in power, Gorbachev said he remains absolutely convinced that he was correct to launch the reform movement known as perestroika, or restructuring. But he conceded that the task of reforming the Soviet Union had "turned out to be far more complicated than could be expected," and he acknowledged that he made many tactical mistakes along the way.

Gorbachev, who is blamed by many Soviets for their falling living standards, said he understood the widespread "popular resentment" at a time of grave economic crisis. But he expressed the hope that future generations would look more kindly on his efforts, saying that the attempt to change "so vast a country" with such a diverse cultural heritage could not have been carried out "painlessly without difficulties."

"I am leaving my post with apprehension, but also with hope, with faith in you, your wisdom and force of spirit," he told the 280 million people he had once led. "We are the heirs of a great civilization, and its rebirth into a new, modern and dignified life now depends on one and all."

As Gorbachev prepared for this climactic moment over recent days, fighting raged in several parts of the former Soviet Union, reflecting the nationalist passions that rose to the surface as soon as he relaxed centralized control. At least 34 people have been killed in the last four days in the southern republic of Georgia, as political opposition forces press their drive to oust President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Yeltsin told the Russian parliament today that Soviet army and Interior Ministry troops stationed in Georgia would be withdrawn, and he also announced plans for withdrawal of security forces from the Armenian-inhabited enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan -- focal point of a virtual civil war between those two peoples.

In other business, the Russian parliament passed a resolution formally changing the name of the massive republic to the Russian Federation, or, simply, Russia. The old title, Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, was abolished, and plans were made to revive the czarist double-headed eagle as the national emblem.

Why former Soviet president Gorbachev starred in Pizza Hut and Louis Vuitton commercials

The Soviet Union&rsquos first and last president Mikhail Gorbachev raised a few eyebrows when he appeared in a Pizza Hut television commercial in 1997.

Apparently, it was a good deal for both parties. Gorbachev needed to raise money for his international humanitarian and environmental projects, while Pizza Hut needed advertising to target consumers. Nothing personal, as they say, just business.

The U.S. restaurant chain wanted to build bridges between people of different ages, culture and race, making ads with well-known public figures, celebs and influencers like Muhammad Ali.

&ldquoSometimes nothing brings people together like a nice hot pizza from Pizza Hut,&rdquo teases the 60-second commercial.

It opens with a series of clips of key Moscow landmarks &ndash the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and St. Basil&rsquos Cathedral. The camera then zooms out to reveal two lonely figures sheltering under an umbrella as they stroll through the Red Square. Those appear to be Mikhail Gorbachev and his charming granddaughter, looking very much like her stylish grandmother, Raisa Gorbacheva. The pair enter a Pizza Hut restaurant just a few steps away from the Red Square. A Russian family sitting at a table spots Gorbachev, who is now sharing pizza with his granddaughter, and begins to argue about whether his legacy was benign or malicious for the country.

&ldquo&hellip Because of him we have economic confusion and political instability!&rdquo one middle-aged man complains, striking the first blow in the war of words.

&ldquo&hellip Because of him we have opportunity and freedom,&rdquo the younger one fires back.

&ldquo&hellip Because of him we have many things&hellip like Pizza Hut,&rdquo an old lady notes.

The debate ends there, with everyone chanting &ldquoHail to Gorbachev!&rdquo The ad became a hit.

In fact, the Pizza Hut commercial mirrored the everyday reality of millions of those who blamed Gorbachev for all their woes and those who said that he was their hero.

Gorbachev was put in charge of the USSR in 1985 and headed the country until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He made his reputation as a politician who initiated the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. He pushed breakthrough policies (perestroika and glasnost) that promised big changes and captured the hopes and aspirations of millions of Soviet people. In reality, according to many, Gorbachev opened Pandora&rsquos box with his reforms. Perestroika was designed to end several decades of economic stagnation and revamp the domestic and foreign economy, while the policy of glasnost allowed unprecedented freedom of opinion. But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and many plans proved impossible to fulfill. In the late 1980s, people worked several jobs to support their families and rebuild their lives, families fell apart, dreams were broken. The abrupt changes resulted in food shortages, gradually causing &ldquoeconomic confusion and political instability&rdquo, becoming a catalyst for the dissolution of the USSR.

Decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians still remain divided over his controversial legacy.

But Pizza Hut isn&rsquot the only time the former leader of the Soviet Union starred in a TV advertisement.

In 2007, French luxury label Louis Vuitton decided to pay homage to &lsquoBelle de Jour&rsquo star Catherine Deneuve, tennis legend Andre Agassi and his wife Steffi Graf, as well as Mikhail Gorbachev.

The advertisement features Gorbachev in the passenger seat of a car passing the iconic Berlin Wall with a signature Vuitton bag at his side.

The ads, shot by Annie Leibovitz, highlights the concept of travel in comfort.

Vuitton said it made donations to the Green Cross International founded by Gorbachev in 1993 to address challenges of security, poverty and environmental pollution. It didn&rsquot disclose the amount of the donations.

&ldquoBoth advertising campaigns in which Mikhail Gorbachev took part were associated with the need to finance the organizations that he headed - the Gorbachev Foundation and Green Cross International,&rdquo Pavel Palazhchenko, the interpreter of the last Soviet leader and head of the Gorbachev Foundation press service told RIA Novosti.

The Gorbachev Foundation was founded in 1991, after the Soviet Union&rsquos first president was ousted from power. It conducts &ldquoresearch into social, economic and political problems of critical importance in Russian and world history&rdquo. Gorbachev, who recently turned 90, remains the president of the foundation to this day.

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The Collapse of the Soviet Union

After his inauguration in January 1989, George H.W. Bush did not automatically follow the policy of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan , in dealing with Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union. Instead, he ordered a strategic policy re-evaluation in order to establish his own plan and methods for dealing with the Soviet Union and arms control.

Conditions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, however, changed rapidly. Gorbachev’s decision to loosen the Soviet yoke on the countries of Eastern Europe created an independent, democratic momentum that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and then the overthrow of Communist rule throughout Eastern Europe. While Bush supported these independence movements, U.S. policy was reactive. Bush chose to let events unfold organically, careful not to do anything to worsen Gorbachev’s position.

With the policy review complete, and taking into account unfolding events in Europe, Bush met with Gorbachev at Malta in early December 1989. They laid the groundwork for finalizing START negotiations, completing the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, and they discussed the rapid changes in Eastern Europe. Bush encouraged Gorbachev’s reform efforts, hoping that the Soviet leader would succeed in shifting the USSR toward a democratic system and a market oriented economy.

Gorbachev’s decision to allow elections with a multi-party system and create a presidency for the Soviet Union began a slow process of democratization that eventually destabilized Communist control and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Following the May 1990 elections, Gorbachev faced conflicting internal political pressures: Boris Yeltsin and the pluralist movement advocated democratization and rapid economic reforms while the hard-line Communist elite wanted to thwart Gorbachev’s reform agenda.

Facing a growing schism between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, the Bush administration opted to work primarily with Gorbachev because they viewed him as the more reliable partner and because he made numerous concessions that promoted U.S. interests. Plans proceeded to sign the START agreement. With the withdrawal of Red Army troops from East Germany, Gorbachev agreed to German reunification and acquiesced when a newly reunited Germany joined NATO. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the United States and the Soviet leadership worked together diplomatically to repel this attack.

Yet for all of those positive steps on the international stage, Gorbachev’s domestic problems continued to mount. Additional challenges to Moscow’s control placed pressure on Gorbachev and the Communist party to retain power in order to keep the Soviet Union intact. After the demise of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and the Caucasus demanded independence from Moscow. In January 1991, violence erupted in Lithuania and Latvia. Soviet tanks intervened to halt the democratic uprisings, a move that Bush resolutely condemned.

By 1991, the Bush administration reconsidered policy options in light of the growing level of turmoil within the Soviet Union. Three basic options presented themselves. The administration could continue to support Gorbachev in hopes of preventing Soviet disintegration. Alternately, the United States could shift support to Yeltsin and the leaders of the Republics and provide support for a controlled restructuring or possible breakup of the Soviet Union. The final option consisted of lending conditional support to Gorbachev, leveraging aid and assistance in return for more rapid and radical political and economic reforms.

Unsure about how much political capital Gorbachev retained, Bush combined elements of the second and third options. The Soviet nuclear arsenal was vast, as were Soviet conventional forces, and further weakening of Gorbachev could derail further arms control negotiations. To balance U.S. interests in relation to events in the Soviet Union, and in order to demonstrate support for Gorbachev, Bush signed the START treaty at the Moscow Summit in July 1991. Bush administration officials also, however, increased contact with Yeltsin.

The unsuccessful August 1991 coup against Gorbachev sealed the fate of the Soviet Union. Planned by hard-line Communists, the coup diminished Gorbachev’s power and propelled Yeltsin and the democratic forces to the forefront of Soviet and Russian politics. Bush publicly condemned the coup as “extra-constitutional,” but Gorbachev’s weakened position became obvious to all. He resigned his leadership as head of the Communist party shortly thereafter—separating the power of the party from that of the presidency of the Soviet Union. The Central Committee was dissolved and Yeltsin banned party activities. A few days after the coup, Ukraine and Belarus declared their independence from the Soviet Union. The Baltic States, which had earlier declared their independence, sought international recognition.

Amidst quick, dramatic changes across the landscape of the Soviet Union, Bush administration officials prioritized the prevention of nuclear catastrophe, the curbing of ethnic violence, and the stable transition to new political orders. On September 4, 1991, Secretary of State James Baker articulated five basic principles that would guide U.S. policy toward the emerging republics: self-determination consistent with democratic principles, recognition of existing borders, support for democracy and rule of law, preservation of human rights and rights of national minorities, and respect for international law and obligations. The basic message was clear—if the new republics could follow these principles, they could expect cooperation and assistance from the United States. Baker met with Gorbachev and Yeltsin in an attempt to shore up the economic situation and develop some formula for economic cooperation between the republics and Russia, as well as to determine ways to allow political reforms to occur in a regulated and peaceful manner. In early December, Yeltsin and the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus met in Brest to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), effectively declaring the demise of the Soviet Union.

On December 25, 1991, the Soviet hammer and sickle flag lowered for the last time over the Kremlin, thereafter replaced by the Russian tricolor. Earlier in the day, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his post as president of the Soviet Union, leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of the newly independent Russian state. People all over the world watched in amazement at this relatively peaceful transition from former Communist monolith into multiple separate nations.

With the dissolution of Soviet Union, the main goal of the Bush administration was economic and political stability and security for Russia, the Baltics, and the states of the former Soviet Union. Bush recognized all 12 independent republics and established diplomatic relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. In February 1992, Baker visited the remaining republics and diplomatic relations were established with Uzbekistan, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan. Civil war in Georgia prevented its recognition and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States until May 1992. Yeltsin met with Bush at Camp David in February 1992, followed by a formal state visit to Washington in June. Leaders from Kazakhstan and Ukraine visited Washington in May 1992.

During his visits to Washington, politics, economic reforms, and security issues dominated the conversations between Yeltsin and Bush. Of paramount concern was securing the nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union and making certain nuclear weapons did not fall into the wrong hands. Baker made it clear that funding was available from the United States to secure nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in the former Soviet Union. The Nunn-Lugar Act established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program in November 1991 to fund the dismantling of weapons in the former Soviet Union, in accordance with the START and INF Treaties and other agreements. Bush and Baker also worked with Yeltsin and international organizations like the World Bank and IMF to provide financial assistance and hopefully prevent a humanitarian crisis in Russia.

2. Challenges

Gorbachev went through some challenges starting from the famine that struck his village. Growing up was not easy as he had to see his grandfathers being caught, imprisoned, and tortured. During his political career, Gorbachev went through some challenges as well. He faced several challenges with his efforts to bring domestic reform in the Soviet Union. Another major problem that Gorbachev faced was the growing ethnic unrest among Russian republics. Gorbachev's biggest blow came with the collapse of the Soviet Union which was evident by 1991. In December of the same year, he resigned as president and soon after that the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a nation.

Watch the video: Gorbachev: The Final Hours - ABC Prime Time Live 1991 (July 2022).


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