President of the International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies (Gorbachev Foundation)
Born on March 2, 1931, in the village of Privolnoye, Krasnogvardeisky district, Stavropolsky krai, into a collective farmer family. Russian. His father - Sergei Andreevich, died and his mother - Maria Panteleevna is a pensioner. His father worked as a farm mechanic for 40 years and his grandfather was a collective farm chairman.
Mikhail worked at the collective farm from the age of 13 (from 1944) and in 1946 was assistant to a harvester operator in a machine-and-tractor station. In 1950 Gorbachev finished school and entered the law department of Moscow's Lomonosov State University (MGU). In his student days, one of his friends was Anatoly Lukyanov, and another Zdenek Mlynarc, a future leader of the Czechoslovak communist reformation of 1968, who shared the same room with Gorbachev in a student dormitory.
He was a member of the Young Communist League committee of the law department and joined the Communist party in 1952. Soon after that he became secretary of the department's YCL organization and a member of the MGU party committee.
Upon graduation from the university in 1955, he worked for a brief time in Stavropol territory in his specialty, following which he took up work with the Young Communist League. In 1955-1956 he was deputy chief of the propaganda and agitation division of the Stavropol territorial YCL committee. In 1956-1958 he was first secretary of the Stavropol city YCL committee; in 1958-1960 second secretary of the territorial YCL organization; and in 1960-1962 first secretary of the Stavropol territorial YCL committee.
In November 1961 he was a delegate to the 22nd CPSU congress, at which Nikita Khrushchev for the first time made public Stalin's crimes (not at the closed session as in 1956), and all the congress delegates, together with draft party document received the newly printed issue of Novy Mir with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's novel "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich."
In March 1962 Gorbachev became secretary of the Stavropol CPSU territorial committee of Stavropol's territorial-production collective and state farms department; from December 1962 to December 1964 was in charge of the division of party bodies of the Stavropol rural territorial CPSU committee, and from December 1964 to September 1966 was in charge of the division of party bodies of the Stavropol territorial CPSU committee.
In September 1966 Gorbachev became first secretary of the Stavropol city CPSU committee, in August 1968 - second secretary of territorial committee and in April 1970 - first secretary of the Stavropol territorial CPSU committee.
In 1967 he graduated by correspondence from the economics department of Stavropol's Agricultural Institute as agronomist and economist.
In 1970 he was elected to the USSR Supreme Soviet. Till 1974 he was a member of the Commission on conservation of one of the Supreme Soviet chambers. In 1974-1979 Gorbachev chaired the commission on youth affairs of the Council of the Union of the Supreme Soviet. In 1979-1984 he chaired the Commission on legislative proposals of the Council of the Union. In 1984-1985 he held the post of chairman of the Commission on foreign affairs of the Council of the Union (held by Mikhail Suslov under Brezhnev and by Konstantin Chernenko under Andropov).
In 1971 the 24th CPSU congress elected Gorbachev member of the Central Committee.
Fyodor Kulakov, Gorbachev's predecessor in the job of first secretary of the Stavropol territorial committee, who from 1964 was CPSU CC secretary responsible for agriculture, died in the summer of 1978. At a Central Committee plenary meeting in October 1978 Mikhail Gorbachev was elected into the post and subsequently moved to Moscow. In 1979 Gorbachev became alternate member and in 1980 full member of the Communist party's Politburo.
Gorbachev was a comrade-in-arms of Andropov, who became General Secretary of the party after Brezhnev's death in 1982. At that time in the Politburo there began to gradually emerge a group of reform-minded politicians, which included Gorbachev. According to some officials in the Central Committee apparatus, Andropov proposed that in his absence the Politburo meetings be chaired by Gorbachev.
After Andropov's death Gorbachev was a supposed rival to Konstantin Chernenko in the struggle to get the post of the Communist party's General Secretary. During the short leadership of Chernenko, Gorbachev was Communist party secretary in charge of ideology and unofficially the second most powerful man in the party. In December 1984 at a meeting in the Central Committee Gorbachev made a report on the "Living Creativity of the People," in which he spoke of the need to overcome dogmatic notions of production relations under socialism, to develop economic self-government, support innovative initiatives, and increase openness and "socialist democracy." The report, published only half a year later, contained the principal provisions that were later to provide the basis for the program of perestroika.
Following the death of Chernenko on March 11, 1985, an extraordinary CC plenum elected Gorbachev General Secretary of the Communist Party. By a decision of the Politburo, he was nominated by Andrei Gromyko.
During the very first months on the job he started personnel changes in the party leadership, sending off on a pension the most conservative of Brezhnev's co-workers. New appointments went to energetic functionaries: Nikolai Ryzhkov became chairman of the Council of Ministers, Yegor Ligachev - CC secretary for ideology, Boris Yeltsin - secretary for construction and then first secretary of the Moscow City Committee of the Communist Party, while Eduard Shevardnadze became foreign minister.
Speaking in Leningrad in May 1985 Gorbachev openly mentioned for the first time the slowdown in the pace of economic growth, backwardness of domestic mechanical engineering, and on the need to raise the living standards of people. This speech by Gorbachev was published by newspapers in a form abridged beyond recognition and was shown on television only four days after it was delivered. In June of the same year, addressing an economics meeting in the Central Committee, Gorbachev presented his slogan for speeding up scientific and technological progress. The word "acceleration" in 1985-1986 became the term par excellence to describe the changes that had gotten under way in the economy and politics.
Despite the appearance of certain signs of change, that fanned the hopes of the proponents of "liberalization," some innovations in politics were more intended to gain the sympathy of the adherents of "discipline." In May 1985 the Central Committee issued its Decision and the government and the presidium of the Supreme Soviet also passed decisions that started the anti-alcohol campaign, which, among other things, led to a flourishing business of home-brewed beverages and contributed to destabilize the nation's financial system.
In May 1985, during the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the victory over fascism, Gorbachev, for the first time in twenty years, mentioned Joseph Stalin in a positive context, which brought him a stormy ovation from the audience. At the first (closed) meeting with creative intelligentsia Gorbachev said that this was no time for resuming the Stalin-smear campaign: "Otherwise we shall cause people to knock each with their foreheads."
At the 27th party congress (February-March 1986) Gorbachev delivered a report in which he favored economic renewal of the country, greater independence for enterprises, reduction of the state order, a democratic change in society, and increasing the people's political activity. From June 1986 the policy was named perestroika. Immediately after the congress, Aleksandr Yakovlev was elected secretary of the CPSU CC. The Central Committee's press department of which Yakovlev was in charge during 1986 replaced many heads of magazines and newspapers, and in the process clear adherents of de-Stalinization became editors-in-chief. The relaxation of censorship in the press came to be known as the policy of "glasnost" which by 1990 was crowned by passage of the Law on the Press, which abolished state censorship.
In December 1986 Gorbachev ordered Academician Andrei Sakharov to be released from his political exile and allowed him to take part in international anti-war meetings in Moscow.
At the CPSU CC plenum in January 1987 Gorbachev said for the first time that the Soviet system was in need of democracy and announced the development of new electoral legislation.
At the jubilee plenum of the Communist Party in October 1987 Gorbachev delivered a report in which for the first time he openly spoke about the criminal essence of Stalinism. A campaign was started to rehabilitate many members of the Communist Party subjected to repressions who failed to be rehabilitated under Khrushchev. During the same plenum Gorbachev for the first time came to face open criticism of the Central Committee from Boris Yeltsin who demanded a more vigorous pursuit of perestroika. On a proposal of the general secretary, the plenum passed a resolution calling Yeltsin's statement "politically erroneous."
Gorbachev's policies were also criticized by the conservatives. In March 1988 the newspaper Sovetskaya Rossiya an article of Nina Andreyeva, a chemistry teacher from Leningrad, entitled "I Cannot Sacrifice My Principles," which said that the recent Stalin-smear campaign and departure from the administrative model of the economy were unacceptable and that this would inevitably lead to a restoration of capitalism. Yegor Ligachev, CC secretary for ideology, suggested that editors-in-chief of newspapers be guided by ideas spelled out in the article. Back from his trip abroad, Gorbachev heard from several Politburo members some approving references to Andreyeva's article, following which he convened a Politburo meeting and got it to pass a unanimous decision condemning the publication as a "manifesto of anti-perestroika forces." The period between the publication of Andreyeva's article and the appearance of an unsigned editorial article in the Pravda denouncing Andreyeva's ideas (Aleksandr Yakovlev was the author) was later described by journalists as "the three weeks of stagnation."
June 1988 saw the convening of the 19th party conference to beef up Gorbachev's political course. For the first time in recent 60 years an acrimonious debate unfolded at an official forum on political questions. The principal result of the conference was the start of political reform of the Soviets and preparation of election of people's deputies on an alternative basis, as well as Resolution "On Glasnost," which contributed to progress towards freedom of speech. The conference passed a decision on chairmen of Soviets combining their posts with the appropriate posts in the party, which came in for the most scathing criticism from the radical reformist wing of the party as undemocratic and at variance with the principle of "division" of authority into party and state. Actually, however, the decision was well within the spirit of the new line of a smooth transfer of power from party to state entities. At that time Gorbachev would repeatedly stress his commitment to socialist ideals and "Lenin's behests."
In October 1988 Gorbachev ordered major personnel changes in the party and state leadership. The Central Committee Secretariat had all but ceased to exist as a collective body. Yegor Ligachev and Aleksandr Yakovlev were removed from ideology: Ligachev was put in charge of agriculture, and Yakovlev became party secretary for international affairs. Gorbachev himself was elected chairman of the presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet to replace Gromyko.
Already during the visit of the Gorbachevs to Britain in 1984 Western public was pleasantly surprised by the openness, good humor and friendliness of the future Soviet leader. Unlike Brezhnev, he spoke "without a crutch," and willingly made contacts with ordinary people.
In 1985-1988 Gorbachev carried out drastic changes in the USSR's foreign policy. Already at the 27th CPSU congress (February-March 1986) he unveiled the Soviet program to build a world without nuclear weapons by the year 2000. In the same year, during his visit to India, he signed the New Delhi Declaration on the principles of a non-violent world free from nuclear weapons.
From November 1985 to December 1988 Gorbachev had five meetings with US President Ronald Reagan, at which they produced agreements to cut down on certain types of nuclear and conventional weapons. The year 1988 saw publication of Gorbachev's book "Perestroika and New Thinking for Our Country and the Whole World," in which he presented the concept of "new political thinking," which, in his opinion, must become the norm of international relations.
In late 1989, meeting the new US President George Bush in Malta Gorbachev said for the first time that the USSR was prepared not to regard the USA as its military adversary. Some time later a similar statement was issued by the US Administration.
The German problem became central to the European problems in 1989-1990. An important role in reuniting Germany belongs to Gorbachev who decided against obstructing "a change in the political map of Europe."
The USSR's first parliamentary elections with alternative candidates took place in the spring of 1989. The Communist Party ceased to be the only agent of politics, but it could still, through entities under its control, sift away many candidates not to its liking. Gorbachev was elected people's deputy of the USSR at the party plenum within the party quota.
On May 25, 1989 the first Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR opened in Moscow. On that same day Gorbachev was elected Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. During three weeks the congress deliberations were broadcast live on radio and television. Frank speeches by delegates made an important contribution to changing the political climate in the country. The Interregional deputies group (MDG) came into being at the congress, demanding a legislative abolition of the Communist Party's monopoly on power, and a liberalization of the economy. Deputies from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia worked to get the sovereignty of their countries recognized. For its part, the congress's conservative majority demanded "a curb on the anti-socialist forces." Gradually, a conservative wing came into being, which by early 1990 was formalized into a deputy group called Soyuz.
As the newly elected parliament got down to work, the political initiative passed to the democratic opposition. On the eve of the opening of the congress, Luzhniki stadium became the venue for the first large rally of supporters of democratic change. Rallies continued in Luzhniki during the entire deliberations of the first congress. Gorbachev's reforms took the form of "slow motion" concessions to the demands of the democrats.
On February 5, 1990 Gorbachev, addressing a party plenum, raised the need to institute the post of USSR President with the simultaneous abolition of the constitutional provision on the leading role of the Communist Party in the state. Such decisions were adopted by the 3rd congress of people's deputies of the USSR in March 1990. Under the USSR Constitution the head of state must be elected by the vote of the whole people. An exception was made for the first president - Mr.Gorbachev was elected president for the 5-year term at the congress on March, 11, 1990.
In July 1990, at the 28th Communist Party Congress, Gorbachev, overcoming the resistance from the conservative wing, basically mastered support for his line. By a congress decision he was re-elected to the post of General Secretary, which reduced his dependence on the Central Committee of the Party. Personifying the conservative wing, Yegor Ligachev lost the race for the post of deputy Secretary General.
By that time, Gorbachev's popularity in the country had largely waned. From November 1988 the constituent republics of the USSR started taking decisions proclaiming the priority of their legislation over that of the USSR. In May 1990, such a decision was taken by Russia which set in train a process that came to be known as the "war of laws." At the 1990 elections to the republican authorities, national democratic forces scored a success; some republics declared their independence or said they were working for it. Gorbachev responded by passing documents describing separatist decisions as illegal, which did not stop the process of power decentralization. The only attempt to deal with the problem of Lithuania's proclaimed independence in March 1990 through imposition of a partial economic blockade brought nothing except a further erosion of the authority of the president. The complex situation in the country was exacerbated by the emergence of inter-ethnic conflicts which degenerated into local wars.
In late July 1990, Gorbachev signed an agreement with Chairman of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Yeltsin on joint development of the program of economic reform of the country, based on Grigory Yavlinsky's "500 Days" project. The resulting program gained the support of all 15 republics, but was roundly rejected by the USSR Council of Ministers. In the USSR Supreme Soviet Gorbachev advocated a merger of the Yavlinsky-Shatalin and the Abalkin-Ryzhkov programs, which, in the opinion of the two sides, was impossible.
In October 1990, the USSR President was given extra powers to implement the program "Guidelines for Stabilizing the National Economy and Transition to a Market Economy," which provided for devising "regulated market relations." Both oppositions - the Interregional Deputy Group and the deputy group Soyuz - faced the President with an ultimatum-like demands.
The 4th Congress of USSR People's Deputies was held in December 1990. The Congress instituted the post of Vice President, to which Gennady Yanayev was elected. The Council of Ministers was re-organized into the Cabinet of Ministers under the President. Shortly before that, Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin (at the demand of the group Soyuz) was fired from his post and replaced by Boris Pugo. The referendum on preserving the USSR was scheduled for March 17, 1991. On that same Congress the President's nearest associate, USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze warned against the threat of a coming dictatorship and resigned. Aleksandr Yakovlev issued a criticism of the President's entourage.
An abortive, but casualties-causing, the attempt by Red Army troops to depose lawful authorities in Lithuania "at the request" of a self-appointed Committee of National Salvation dealt a body blow to Gorbachev's authority. Despite the demands from both sides, Gorbachev did not provide a clear evaluation of those events.
In March 1991, on the eve of the opening of the extraordinary 3rd Congress of RSFSR People's Deputies, convened at the initiative of opponents of Supreme Soviet Chairman Yeltsin, Gorbachev banned a manifestation by Yeltsin supporters and, at the request of his opponents "to safeguard security," introduced additional army units into the city. The banned meeting, however, did take place.
In the spring of 1991, Gorbachev came to face a powerful miners movement, who demanded his resignation and a change in the economic policy pursued by the government of Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov.
In April 1991, Gorbachev signed an agreement with Yeltsin and leaders of nine more republics on joint development of a draft new Union Treaty. Negotiations between plenipotentiary delegations from republics (known as the Novo-Ogaryovo process after the place where the agreement was signed) were the President's last attempt to salvage the moribund Union.
In June 1991, at the Communist Party plenary meeting, in response to criticism levelled at him, Gorbachev said he was submitting his resignation from the post of General Secretary. The overwhelming majority of participants voted to remove the resignation request from the agenda as posing a threat to the party's very existence. The plenary meeting adopted Gorbachev's draft new policy statement of the Party, which was even more reformist than the documents of the 28th Congress. At the same time, the plenary meeting decided to call in the Fall an early congress of the party, which by that time had been abandoned by all reformist groups who left of themselves or were expelled from it.
In the meantime, the Novo-Ogaryovo process resulted in a draft of a qualitatively new Union Treaty, whose signing was scheduled for August 20.
On August 19, 1991, the closest associates of the USSR President attempted a coup d'etat. The day before they demanded that Gorbachev impose a state of emergency on the country or turn power temporarily over to Vice President Gennady Yanayev. Refusing to comply with the demand, Gorbachev spent three days in isolation on his presidential villa in the Crimea, with no telephone communication or possibility to leave the territory of the compound.
On August 21, following the debacle of the coup d'etat, mainly through the efforts of the authorities of Russian Federation and the people of the capital, Gorbachev returned to Moscow. His subsequent decisions, especially on personnel matters, as a rule, were agreed with Russian President Yeltsin. At the first press conference after his return, Gorbachev expressed the hope that a renewed CPSU would continue its existence.
On August 22, Gorbachev resigned his post of General Secretary of the Communist Party, citing as the reason his receiving new information about the degree of involvement by party bodies in the coup d'etat. But he also expressed his disagreement with the decision of the Russian President to ban the activity of the Communist Party and at the same time authorized the sealing of the premises of the Central Committee and the Moscow City Committee in order to avoid destruction of documents.
Without delay, he got down to revamping the union power structures. In September, a new supreme authority of the USSR was established, namely, the State Council consisting of the USSR President and the heads of the union republics. By its first decision, the State Council recognized independence of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (for this, the then deputy Prosecutor General of the USSR Viktor Ilyukhin instituted criminal proceedings against Gorbachev, alleging "high treason"). Then a new USSR Supreme Soviet was created, composed of delegations appointed by the republics' parliaments. The leaders of the republics and Gorbachev signed a Treaty on Economic Community. A collegium of republics' foreign ministers was established within the USSR Foreign Ministry to draft an agreed foreign policy stand.
In the Fall of 1991, Gorbachev continued working on the Union Treaty. Another meeting with the leaders of sovereign republics was scheduled for December 8. But, bypassing Gorbachev, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Byelorussia signed in Belovezhskaya Pushcha an agreement to liquidate the USSR and to establish a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gorbachev denounced the decision to disband the USSR. However, after another 8 republics (i.e. all USSR members except Georgia) joined on December 21 in Alma-Ata the Agreement establishing the CIS, Gorbachev went on national television on December 25 to announce the end to his activity as the USSR President "for reasons of principle" and signed a decree to turn strategic weapons control over to Russian President Yeltsin.
By his last decree, the former USSR President established an International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies (the Gorbachev Foundation), based on the former research institute under the CPSU Central Committee. This was a nongovernmental social and scientific organization designed to assist international exchanges, the conduct of collective and individual research, organization of seminars and conferences, and training of budding politicians. Gorbachev himself became the Foundation's president. The Gorbachev Foundation is conducting political and economic research, organizing conferences and seminars, publishing reports and collections of analytical material. In 1992-1993, the Foundation closely cooperated with different parties and movements: the People's Party of Free Russia (NPSR), the Republican Party of the Russian Federation (RPRF), the Democratic Party of Russia (DPR), the Foundation lent its premises for offices to the last two. Articles by Foundation researchers are published by Nezavisimaya Gazeta; the Foundation is providing financial assistance to Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta.
In 1992, Gorbachev read lectures in many countries. One of the principal objectives of his foreign trips was to collect funds for the Foundation.
In September 1992, Gorbachev declined to appear in the RF Constitutional Court to give evidence on the case of constitutionality of the Russian President's decrees to ban the CPSU and the Communist Party of the RSFSR, presenting a justification of his refusal in an open letter of September 28, 1992. In response, the Constitutional Court issued a decision, not provided for in any laws, temporarily banning Gorbachev from foreign travels. Exception was made in connection with the funeral of Willy Brandt in October 1992.
At that time, pro-government media started a propaganda campaign against the Foundation. An attempt was made to deprive it of its premises (the decision to transfer them into the ownership of the Foundation was repealed, the Foundation building on Leningradsky Prospekt was sealed, but since the action was greeted with outrage in the West, the measure was recsinded).
In September 1993, while in Italy, Gorbachev denounced Yeltsin's decree to change the Constitution and disband parliament, and then, in an interview with Novaya Yezhednevnaya Gazeta, said he favored the "zero option": "The President has to revert the situation to what it was on September 21 by repealing the unconstitutional decisions. Correspondingly, the other side must repeal everything it decided upon during these days."
During the troubles of October 3, 1993, Gorbachev urged Yeltsin to withdraw troops from Moscow and settle differences with parliament through negotiations.
In October 1994, he urged the creation "in the center and at the local level of public committees for free elections in Russia," which "will be able to oppose violations of the Constitution, contribute to establishing reliable guarantees of normal parliamentary and presidential elections, an honest election campaign and an open, democratically-controlled summing up of the results of the election."
On February 1, 1996, the Central Electoral Commission registered authorized representatives of the nomination group that proposed Gorbachev's candidacy to the Russian presidency. The nomination group was led by Viktor Mironenko, former First YCL Secretary, Aleksei Manannikov, former political prisoner, and Vasily Lipitsky, co-chairman of the Russian Social Democratic Union (RSDS).
Gorbachev does not maintain contacts with the new communist parties. In 1992 he described the Civil Union, then headed by Arkady Volsky, Aleksandr Rutskoi and Nikolai Travkin as a movement which was the closest to him by its views. Later he expressed his sympathy with the Yabloko and the party of self-government of working people (PST) of Svyatoslav Fyodorov.
Gorbachev recognizes the utopian nature of the communist idea and condemns the totalitarian regime which existed in the USSR. He advocates the development of private ownership, market economy, democratic change and non-resort to political violence.
About the CIS, he says that it is a fact that cannot be discounted but believes that the existence of a union of states on a confederation basis would have been more effective. He believes that the Union (in a changed and maybe a territorially truncated variant) could be preserved in 1991, had it not been for the stand taken by Yeltsin. Gorbachev favors the establishment of common consultative-deliberating bodies within the CIS framework.
He is convinced that to resolve the problems of the Crimea it is necessary to end unilateral actions and sit down at the negotiating table to take an objective approach to considering all aspects of the problem. He sticks to the same viewpoint on other disputed questions in the former USSR.
He criticizes Boris Yeltsin's economic policy which, in his opinion, leads to an impoverishment of the people, the rise in criminal business, inflation and unemployment. He believes that this approach to resolving the economic problems will lead to a social explosion that can result in power going to forces of undemocratic orientation.
In one of his newspaper interviews, Gorbachev said: "I am staggered by the scale of corruption of the current structures to which we have entrusted the fate of reform and our destiny."
In 1993 he considered that time and effort should not have been wasted on writing the new constitution; in his opinion it would have been better to pass a law on federal authorities and to conduct simultaneous early elections of the RF president and the Supreme Soviet in the fall of 1993.
The 1992-1993 confrontation between the representative and executive branches was viewed by him as prejudicial above all for the economy of the country. He is opposed to the war in Chechnya. He repeatedly offered his services as an intermediary in talks on a peaceful settlement.
He is author of books: "Perestroika and New Thinking for Our Country and the Whole World", "Selected Speeches and Articles", "Life and Reforms".
Was decorated with three Lenin Orders (he received his first while still a harvester operator), Orders of October Revolution and the Red Banner of Labor, "Sign of Honor," and medals. Nobel Prize winner (1990). He also has many foreign decorations and awards. He remains a colonel in reserve.
Gorbachev likes to read fiction, is fond of the theater, cinema and music, likes hiking and swimming. Drinks almost no alcohol, and prefers milk and tea with milk. Married from 1953. His wife Raisa Maximovna was born on January 5, 1932 in the town of Rubtsovsk, Altai territory. She taught in higher education establishments for over twenty years. During Gorbachev's stay in power was a member of the Presidium of the Board of the Soviet Culture Foundation. Their daughter Irina and her husband Anatoly Virgansky are medical doctors, working in Moscow. There are two granddaughters - Kseniya and Anastasiya.