Who Became the New Leader of Russia Cold War

Cold War hero and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev

One of the most consequential political figures of the 20th century was Mikhail Gorbachev.

He oversaw the end of the Soviet Union, a nation that had ruled most of Asia and Eastern Europe for nearly seven decades.

His only motivation in launching his reform agenda in 1985 was to jumpstart his country’s flagging economy and shake up its stale political system.

Who Became the New Leader of Russia Cold War

His actions set in motion a chain reaction that ultimately toppled communist government not only in the Soviet Union but also in its erstwhile satellite states.

Who Became the New Leader of Russia Cold War

A native of the southern Russian region of Stavropol, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev entered the world on March 2, 1931.

Gorbachev’s parents were both workers on collective farms, and he spent his teenage years operating combine harvesters.

The Communist Party had already recruited him by the time he graduated from Moscow State University in 1955.

As soon as he and his new bride Raisa got back to Stavropol, he started climbing the ranks of the local party.

Gorbachev was part of a younger generation of party members that grew frustrated with the elderly leaders of the Soviet Union.

By the time of the Party Congress in 1961, he was serving as regional secretary of the Young Communist League.

Because of his position as agricultural administrator, he was able to implement new ideas, which, along with his high standing within the party, gave him tremendous sway over the area.

A Breath of New Air

He first moved to Moscow in 1978 to serve in the Central Committee’s Secretariat for Agriculture, and by 1980 he had been elevated to full membership in the Politburo.

While Yuri Andropov was in charge of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev travelled extensively, notably to London in 1984, where he met with then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and left an impact.

She expressed hope for improved ties with the USSR in a recent interview with the BBC. Her assessment of Gorbachev was positive. You and I can work together well.

When Andropov died in 1984, Gorbachev was widely considered the next natural successor, but the sick Konstantin Chernenko was appointed instead.

He too passed away within a year, and Gorbachev, the Politburo’s youngest member, took his place.

After the stale years of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule, his arrival as the first general secretary born after the revolution of 1917 was met with great optimism.

In contrast to his predecessors, Gorbachev dressed like a fashion model and spoke in a forthright, unfiltered manner, while his wife, Raisa, resembled an American first lady rather than a general secretary’s wife.

Competitive Market

His primary objective was to save the ailing Soviet economy, which was on the verge of collapse.

He also had the foresight to know that the Communist Party as an institution had to be overhauled from the ground up if his economic reforms were to have any chance of being sustainable.

With Gorbachev’s solution, two Russian words entered the vernacular. He argued that “perestroika,” or restructuring, was necessary for the country, and that “glasnost,” or transparency, was the best way to implement this.

He advised the communist leaders of Leningrad, now called Saint Petersburg due to its renaming in 1991, that the city’s economy was falling behind the rest of the country. Your low-quality products are embarrassing.

A statement he gave to party delegates in 1985 makes plain, however, that he had no intention of replacing state rule with a free market economy.

To quote one commenter: “Some of you see the market as a saviour for your economies. However, it is not the lifesavers you should be considering, but the ship, and that ship is socialism.

Democracy was his other tool for breaking the system’s impasse. The Congress of People’s Deputies has been elected freely for the first time.

The Ultimate Test

An uprising occurred among the various ethnic groups that made up the vast Soviet Union as a result of this easing of the harsh system. In December of 1986, riots broke out in Kazakhstan, signalling a time of instability.

Aiming to bring an end to the Cold War, Gorbachev successfully negotiated with then-US President Ronald Reagan to ban an entire category of weapons through the Intermediate Nuclear Forces accord.

The humiliating and brutal occupation of Afghanistan was over, and he announced unilateral reduction in Soviet conventional forces.

However, he faced his greatest challenge from countries whose citizens opposed the Soviet Union’s annexation.

Here, freedom of speech and the rule of law sparked demands for independence, which Gorbachev originally met with force to quell.

It was in the northern Baltic republics that the USSR first began to fall apart. The independence of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia from Moscow set off a chain reaction that eventually reached Russia’s Warsaw Pact partners.

The residents of East Germany, the most resolute of the Soviet satellites, were finally allowed to travel freely into West Berlin on November 9th, 1989, after weeks of protests.

Instead of sending in tanks, as would have been the typical Soviet response to such open hostility, Gorbachev declared that German reunification was an internal German problem.

For his “leading role” in the “radical transformations in East-West relations,” Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

The old guard of communists in Moscow, however, had finally reached a breaking point by August 1991. While on vacation on the Black Sea, Gorbachev was the target of a military coup.

Boris Yeltsin, the leader of the Moscow party, grabbed his opportunity, put an end to the coup, arrested the demonstrators, and, in exchange for Gorbachev’s release, stripped him of nearly all of his political influence.

The Communist Party was outlawed and Gorbachev was gone by the time Russia embarked on its new, uncertain path six months later.

Ages later

Though Mikhail Gorbachev never lost his outspokenness in either Russian or international affairs, he was always more well-liked abroad than at home.

In 1996, when he ran for president of Russia, he got fewer than 5% of the vote.

Throughout the 1990s, he lectured across the world and maintained contacts with foreign leaders, continuing to be a hero to many people who were not Russian.

When Raisa passed away from leukaemia in 1999, it was a personal blow for him. Her unwavering support gave his political initiatives a more personable edge.

Gorbachev continued to be a vocal opponent of the Putin administration, accusing President Putin of instituting an ever more oppressive dictatorship.

For Gorbachev, “politics is progressively evolving into counterfeit democracy, with all authority in the hands of the executive branch.”

But in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, Gorbachev defended the referendum that started it all.

For Gorbachev, the people of Crimea had “chosen to repair that mistake” after Ukraine was illegally annexed to the peninsula by Soviet law (read: party law) without consulting them.

Putin called Gorbachev “one of the most brilliant statesmen of contemporary times who made a substantial impact on the history of our nation and the globe” on the occasion of Gorbachev’s 90th birthday in March 2021.

What does Gorbachev think of his own legacy? The totalitarian regime, the Cold War, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons were all wrong, he argued.

Still, people were saddened by the coup and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many Russians continue to blame him for the country’s downfall.


Despite being a practical and reasonable politician, Mikhail Gorbachev failed to see that he would have to eliminate the centrally controlled communist system that millions of people in the USSR and outside no longer wanted in order to implement his reforms. Thanks for read our Article Who Became the New Leader of Russia Cold War.