Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the former Soviet Union, died at the age of 91. Gorbachev died after a severe and long illness and has been in failing health for some time.
The former leader was credited with introducing key political and economic reforms to the USSR and helping to end the Cold War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences. Leaders around the world also paid tribute as well. US President Joe Biden called him “a man of remarkable vision.”
“As the leader of the USSR, he worked with President Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race,” Biden said.
Biden also gave tribute to Gorbachev that his reforms led to “a safer world and greater freedom for millions of people.”
European Commission President Ursula con der Leyden also paid tribute to Gorbachev, saying on Twitter that his role in ending the Cold War “opened the way for a free Europe.”
“This legacy is one we will not forget,” Von der Leyen said.
Gorbachev was known for having an outgoing, charismatic nature, and for breaking the mold of Soviet leaders who before then had been remote and icy figures.
Since Gorbachev stepped into power, he strove for significant reforms in the USSR, trying to ensure the system would work more efficiently and democratically. The two key phrases of the Gorbachev era were “glasnost” (openness), and “perestroika” (restructuring.)
“I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens,” Gorbachev said.
In 2019, Gorbachev said that the US and Russia must strive to avoid a “New Cold War,” which he saw as developing amidst worsening tensions. “This might turn out to be a hot war that could mean the destruction of our entire civilization. This must not be allowed.”