Mikhail Gorbachev Bio

GorbachevClaim to Fame: General Secretary of the Soviet Union from 1985-1991; Nobel Peace Prize Winner
DOB: March 3, 1931
Diabetes Type: Type 2

Mikhail Gorbachev is one of the most influential political leaders in history. He was born on March 3, 1931 in Privolnoye, part of the agricultural region of Stavropol in the Soviet Union. Growing up, he operated the combine machines on collective farms. He was just a boy when German soldiers occupied his hometown during World War II, and the experience clearly left a lasting impression on him. Some years later, Gorbachev left his collective farm and went to study at Moscow University, where he graduated with a law degree in 1955.

During his time as a student, he became a very active member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and also married Raisa Titorenko. After he finished school, his work with communist youth led to his appointment as First Secretary of the Komsomol (Communist Youth Organization) Territorial Committee. His term there impressed Yuri Andropov, head of the KGB (Committee for State Security) and future Soviet Premier, who helped Gorbachev advance his career. In 1960, Gorbachev was the top Komsomol official in Stavropol and the following year he was sent as a delegate to the 22nd Communist Party Congress in Moscow. He spent the rest of the 1960s working his way up through the Communist Party and furthering his education in agronomy and economics.

By 1971, Mikhail Gorbachev became a member of the Communist Party Central Committee. In 1978, he became First Secretary of the Stavropol Territorial Committee, where he dealt with conservation, youth policy, and foreign affairs. His career went even further in 1980, when he became the youngest man in the Soviet Poltiburo, the highest authority in the country. After the death of Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, Gorbachev was elected to take his place as the General Secretary of the Communist Party.

Upon achieving the highest office in the nation, Gorbachev set out to reform society and adopt a more democratic approach. He introduced the policies of glasnost and perestroika, meaning "openness" and "restructuring," respectively. This was a far cry from the totalitarianism of Stalin in the 1930s and '40s and it frightened many of the more conservative elements in the government. He heralded liberalizing economic, political, and cultural reforms with the goal of making the Soviet economy more efficient. He permitted unprecedented expression of freedom, pressed for democratization in the Soviet Union, permitted free elections, and ended the disastrous military involvement in Afghanistan. He met with President Reagan in 1987 to sign an Intermediate Nuclear Forces arms limitation treaty. Gorbachev made it clear that he would no longer interfere in the domestic policies of other countries, and in 1990 he withdrew Soviet troops from all Eastern European countries.

Gorbachev's attempts at reform, his conferences with President Reagan, and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War, ended the political supremacy of the Communist Party, and led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. After surviving an attempted coup from conservative Communists who feared he was going too far, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary on Christmas Day 1991. He currently runs the Independent Democratic Party, which he founded with billionaire Alexandar Lebedev and continues to advocate for private ownership and non-violent resolutions of conflict. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which he manages with diet, exercise, and medications.

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Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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by Brenda Bell
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