The Russian news agency TASS has announced that Mikhail Gorbachev has died at the age of 91. The last president of the Soviet Union, who ended the Cold War, died in hospital, according to the same source. So far, no further details have been released.
Mikhail Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Cold War between West and East following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Gorbachev’s legacy, becoming general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, was cemented in the implementation of certain economic freedoms – “perestroika” – and political freedoms – “glasnost”.
By granting some form of freedom of expression, the leader attempted to revive Soviet policy, but this move allowed previously unthinkable criticism of the regime and enabled the growth of nationalist movements in republics such as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
When pro-democracy movements began to rage across the Soviet Union, as happened in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, Gorbachev decided not to suppress them violently.
Despite Gorbachev’s efforts to contain it, the rivalry brought about the disintegration of the Soviet Union. A coup attempt in August 1991 removed room for political maneuvering, and he resigned on December 25, 1991, unable to control a series of declarations of independence issued by the territory.
Gorbachev later admitted that he did not use armed force against independence movements for fear of nuclear destruction. “The country was loaded with weapons. It could have immediately plunged us into civil war,” he told The Associated Press, 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Many of the changes, including the Soviet dissolution, bore no resemblance to the change Gorbachev envisioned when he became Soviet leader in March 1985.
However, the former Soviet leader probably had more impact on the second half of the 20th century than any other political figure.
“I see myself as the man who initiated the necessary reforms for the country, Europe and the world,” he told the AP in a 1992 interview shortly after leaving office.
“If I had to do it all over again, I’m often asked if I would start over. Yes indeed. With more persistence and determination”, she explained.
Despite being recognized in the West as a key figure for independence and receiving numerous decorations and honors in subsequent years, Gorbachev was considered a “non-person” in Russia. His allies abandoned him and he was seen as a scapegoat for the economic and political problems that characterized the country in the 1990s.
The former head of state will be buried next to his wife at Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery, Doss said.
The Portuguese reacted to Gorbachev’s death
The President of the Assembly of the Republic, Augusto Santos Silva, recalled that Mikhail Gorbachev, who died today at the age of 91, was an essential figure for the end of the Cold War and the democratic transition in Eastern Europe.
“I pay tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev at the time of his death. He was essential to the end of the Cold War and the democratic transition in Eastern Europe,” Augusto Santos Silva outlined via the social networking site Twitter.
PSD MEP Paulo Rangel also identified Mikhail Gorbachev as a “controversial political hero, but one who managed to ‘put an end’ to one of the most destructive regimes in history”.
On the other hand, former PSD leader Rui Rio insisted that Gorbachev would go down in history, adding that “the Western world should be eternally grateful” to the former leader of the Soviet Union for his “work for negotiation and peace”.