Born in 1931, Mikhail Gorbachev studied law at the University of Moscow, first joined the Communist Youth and then the Communist Party in 1950. He rose through the ranks as a party official before being elected secretary of the central committee ( 1978) and elected to the Politburo. Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985.
Aware of the economic difficulties of the Union, of the necessary disarmament, he began two series of reforms:the restructuring of the party (perestroika ) and relative liberalization (glasnost ). Externally, he ended up accepting German reunification, offered to open a dialogue with Ronald Reagan and to accelerate the normalization of relations with Deng Xiaoping's China. In 1990, he received the Nobel Peace Prize and signed the Start I agreements with George H. Bush. His reforms created a headlong rush that he could not control:his collaborators attempted a putsch between August 19 and 21, 1991 and he resigned from the CPSU on August 24. The fall of the USSR on December 25 marks the birth of the Russian Federation with Boris Yeltsin at its head.
Criticized mainly in Russia, Gorbachev today enjoys great notoriety in the Western world.