Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the USSR, is dead

Mikhail Gorbachev, last leader of the USSR, is dead

The last leader of the Soviet Union (USSR), Mikhail Gorbachev, died on Tuesday (August 30) at the age of 91 in Russia, a Russian hospital said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

“In the evening, after a long serious illness, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev died”said the Central Clinical Hospital (TSKB) dependent on the Russian presidency.

Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his role in the end of the Cold War, Mikhail Gorbachev has spent the last twenty years of his life in withdrawal from politics, while regularly making his voice heard, worried about new tensions with Washington.

He regularly called on the Kremlin and the White House to dialogue to ensure global security and reduce their arsenals, as he had done in the 1980s with then American President Ronald Reagan.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last living leader of the Cold War era, a period whose echoes have been particularly felt since the massive offensive of the current Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine launched on February 24 last.

Before his death, Mikhail Gorbachev had not spoken publicly about this conflict of unprecedented violence in Europe since the Second World War, decried in the West as a resurgence of Russian imperialism.

But as early as February 26, in a statement, Mikhail Gorbachev’s foundation had called for a “cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine and “immediate peace negotiations”.

In recent weeks, the Russian media had mentioned the former leader’s recurring health problems.

An anonymous source, quoted by the TASS agency, indicated that Mikhail Gorbachev would be buried with his wife Raisa Gorbacheva, who died in 1999, at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.

Highly respected abroad, Gorbachev regularly received praise from personalities around the world, as in March 2021, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, when American President Joe Biden or German Chancellor Angela Merkel thought of congratulating him. .

In Russia, on the other hand, since the disappearance of the USSR in 1991, he remained an ambivalent figure. If he was the one who gave freedom of expression a chance to emerge, he was largely responsible for the breakup of a superpower and the terrible years of economic shock that followed – a humiliation.

“All Orphans”

His death sparked an avalanche of reactions.

For UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Mikhail Gorbachev was “a unique statesman who changed the course of history”.

US President Joe Biden hailed « un leader rare » which allowed “a safer world” with “more freedom for millions of people”.

French head of state Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to a “a man of peace whose choices opened a path to freedom for Russians”.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed “a trusted and respected leader” which, she pointed out, “opened the way to a free Europe”.

For his part, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed “the courage and integrity he showed to end the Cold War”. “At a time of (Vladimir) Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to the opening up of Soviet society remains an example for all of us”Mr. Johnson tweeted.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoted by the Kremlin spokesman, soberly expressed his “deep condolences” et “will send a telegram in the morning (…) to the family and relatives”.

“We are all orphans. But not everyone understood it”tweeted for his part Alexei Venediktov, a journalist friend of Mikhail Gorbachev and former head of Russian radio Ekho Moskvy, closed for criticizing the offensive in Ukraine.

During his time in power between 1985 and 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev carried out important democratic reforms, known as “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (transparency), which earned him immense popularity in the West. .

In 1990, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for “having peacefully ended the Cold War”. He is also the one who ordered the end of the disastrous Soviet military campaign in Afghanistan and let the Berlin Wall fall.

Controversial inheritance in Russia

The years that followed the dissolution of the USSR remain a trauma for many Russians, plunged into dazzling poverty, confronted with political chaos and a bloody war in Chechnya.

With the coming to power in 2000 of Vladimir Putin, who said he considered the disappearance of the USSR as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, the state brought society into line while ensuring the return of Russian power on the international scene.

For Mikhail Gorbachev, relations have always been complex with the new masters of the Kremlin, whether it was the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999), his sworn enemy, or Vladimir Putin, whom he criticized while seeing in him a chance for stable development of Russia.

After a brief failed attempt to return to politics in the 1990s, Gorbachev devoted himself entirely to educational and humanitarian projects. He was also an early supporter of the main Russian opposition newspaper, Novaya Gazeta.

Born in southwestern Russia in 1931, Mikhail Gorbachev had spent part of the COVID-19 pandemic in a Russian hospital, saying to himself, like many of his compatriots, “tired of it all”.

Reference: www.euractiv.fr

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