Mikhail Gorbachez is a well known former and last President of former USSR. He was the Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (1985-1991) and the last President of USSR since 1988 to his resignation and the dissolution of USSR in 1991. He is a holder of a Nobel Peace Prize (1990) for his work in the peace process. Together with Bill Clinton, he received a Grammy Award for the Best Spoken Word Album for Children in the recording of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. In 1995, he released his autobiography in Germany and in the United States of America in 1997.
In March 2, 1931 Mikhail Gorbachev, the Former Soviet Stateman, was born to a poor Russian-Ukrainian family in Privolnoye, Krasnogvardeisky District, Stavropol Region in the North Caucasus. His parents were peasants farmers since all the farms belonged to the government. His father, Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev was the farm’s agricultural mechanic and a World War II veteran. While his mother, Maria Panteleyevna was a Kolkhoz worker. While still a child, Mikhail was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church but in his later years he stated that he was an atheist. Pantelei Yefimovich Gopkalo-Mikhail's grandfather was the chairman of the Kolkhoz village and a dedicated member of the Communist Party (CPSU). He introduced Mikhail to philosophers such as Karl Marx, Frederick Engles and Lenin. In 1937, Pantelei was charged with being a leader of an underground organization supporting Leon Trotsky and was arrested by the NKVD Secret Police. Mikhail remembers witnessing his grandfather being arrested. He was released in December 1983 after two years in detention. While in detention they were tortured and used as forced labour. Gorbachev noted that this incident influenced his political career. (Gorbachev, 1996) In 1941, when Gorbachev was 10, the Germany army evaded and occupied the Privolnoye region.
In 1945, at the age of 14, Mikhail Gorbachev starts working as assistant to a combine harvest operator. This job exposed him to the food production and distribution problems in the rural areas under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Life was not easy for the peasant family with the imposed taxes on private land and state quota. His father later joined the army and sometimes served on the fronts where he was wounded twice. While his father was serving in the army, he did manual work with his mother. This forced him to be out of school for two years. He was awarded Order of Red Banner of Labour for his hard work and for bringing in a record harvest in 1948. Joseph Stalin's death in 1953 led to a period of uncertainty in the Soviet Union. His successor Nikita Kruschev promoted the open criticism of the Stalinist era. In 1950, at the age of 19 he enrolled into the Moscow University, Faculty of Law and graduated in 1955 with distinction. His honorary award, excellent grades and Komsomol recommendation letter ensured his enrolment. At University he started questioning and reflecting on life (Butson, 1985)
In 1952 he joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union after moving from being a member of Komsomol (Communist Youth Organisation). In September 1955, at the age of 24, he married Raisa Maximovna Titorenko who was a Philosophy student at Moscow University. In January 1957, their only child and daughter, Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya was born. In September 1999, his wife Raisa died of Leukemia (Gorbachev, 1996).
The death of Joseph Stalin's paved way for young activists like Gorbachev to contribute to the restructuring of Soviet's Union political and administrative system. He moved back to his home Stavropol after graduating and began his political career. Between the years 1955 to 1966, he held the position of First Secretary, Lomsomol Territorial Committee and moved up the ranks to become top Komosomol official in Stavropol under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev, the Party Leader. Leonid Brezhnev replaced Kruschev. In Gorbachev's opinion, Brezhnev demolished the economic, social and political progress that Krushchev had made. In 1961 he was chosen to be the Stavropol delegate to the 22nd Communist Party Congress in Moscow where Nikita Khrushchev presented a twenty year plan to surpass United States of America in per capita production. He was appointed to key position in Stavropol Communist Party in 1962. He was responsible for personnel in administration, farms and industry. He gained the reputation of pushing for development and transparency. Being a leader in Stavropol was a key factor in his political success: Stavropol was a spa territory that influential political people visited during the holidays. The local party secretary in this case, Gorbachev, had to meet them and this gave him the opportunity to make a lasting impression on them. His associates such as Yuri Andropov, who also a native of Stravropol and Mikhail Suslov, the party's principal ideologist, aided his climb up the political ranks.
He returned to school for a second degree at Stavropol Agricultural Institute. He was appointed First Secretary for Stavropol territory and was responsible for governing an area of 2.4 million people.
In 1971, he became a member of CPSU Central Committee. At the request of Brezhnez, Gorbachev made his big move to Moscow after being appointed as the Secretary of Agriculture in Central Committee at the age of 47. He held this position after the death of his mentor and Secretary of Stavropol, Fyodor Kulakov died in 1978 due to a heart attack. While in power, Gorbachev gained a reputation as an informed and energetic person. In 1972, he led a Soviet delegation to Belgium; in 1975 he headed a delegation to West Germany; 1983 he led another delegation to Canada and met with Prime Minister Pieerre Trudeau. After the death of Levnoid Brezhnev and the rise of Yuri Andropov saw Gorbachev become the youngest full member of Politburo in 1980 at the age of 54. The Politburo was the most authoritative political body in Soviet Union. The two men, Yuri Andropov and Mikhail Gorbachev were close associate since they had the same ideologies about USSR: scrapping of obsolete practices and the growth of its economy by adopting the economic policies of Western Countries. In March 1983, Andropov in his ailing bed wrote an addendum to a speech that he was supposed to read in a meeting of the Central Committee. In the addendum, he proposed that Gorbachev lead the meeting. However, Andropov's speech additions were omitted from the text given to the Committee. It seems Andropov's wanted to elevate Gorbachev above the elderly Konstantin Chernenko (Brown, 1996). The sudden death of Andropov saw Konstantin Chernenko rise to power as the President. Chernenko took ill and Gorbachev would step in and chair meetings of the Politburo. A year hadn't passed before Chernenko died. He had been highlighted by western newspapers as a rising leader representing the younger generation in Russia. So in March 11th1985, one day after the death of Chernenko, Gorbachev was elected as the General Secretary of CPSU by the Central Committee with his Prime ministers being Nikolai Ryzhkov, Valentin Pavlov and Ivan Silayev and the Vice President, Gennady Yanayev.
After his resignation from the position of General Secretary of CPSU and the dissolution of USSR he has made three political attempts but in vain. In 2001, he formed the Social Democratic Party of Russia, in 2007 he started the Social Democratic Party of Russia and in 2009 he started the Independent Democratic Party of Russia.
With his hairline receding, the port wine birthmark on his scalp has become a prominent physical feature (Archie, 1996)
Gorbachev, Mikhail S (1996) Memoirs. Doubleday: New York.
Brown, Archie (1996) The Gorbachev Factor. Oxford University Press: Oxford..
Butson, Thomas G. (1985) Gorbachev: A biography. Stein and Day: New York.