Who is he: Besides introducing other reform, former President of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev made efforts toward greater openness, restructuring for greater government efficiency, a drive toward a democratic state and acceleration of economic growth. Gorbachev looked toward quicker progress in the area of technology and greater advancement in both industry and agriculture. Gorbachev realised that it would require reformation in both the political and social structure of Russia.
An anti-alcohol campaign was introduced. Alcohol prices rose and sales were curbed. This brought in less government revenue and drove the market underground but Gorbachev felt it was symbolic of a true sociological change.
Real change could be seen in 1988 when greater freedom of speech was given to the people and to the press. Political prisoners and dissidents were released. Gorbachev sought approval but this also opened the door for greater public criticism. The first free election of a People's Congress occurred in March and April of 1989 and Gorbachev became the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet on May 25, 1989. On the 15th of March, 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev became the first elected President of the Soviet Union. He was pushing forward a lot of change in a very short period of time.
Several difficulties arose. First, some party candidates were being defeated, and secondly, with the new policy of openness, the sessions of Congress were being televised. This caused the people to generally expect great outcomes and faster change as time passed.
Gorbachev was dedicated to what he considered a restoration and renewal of the "true" Leninist policies. Specifically, he hoped that the type of economic reforms he tried to introduce would mimic Lenin's "New Economic Policies" of the 1920s following the disaster of War Communism during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921.
Basically, Gorbachev wanted small and medium-size, and limited private enterprises, with the government retaining total control of the "commanding heights," i.e., heavy industry, banking and international trade. And Gorbachev sought ultimate control of ideology and monopoly political power.
Gorbachev never wanted real competing political parties – unless they shared the Soviet socialist agenda. When the Congress of Deputies began to have televised debates he became angry and agitated with any criticism of his reforms and limits to further freedom. Most notoriously, he shut off the microphone one time, when Andrei Sakharov (the Nobel Laureate and Soviet dissident) challenged Gorbachev's restrictions on freedom of speech and more vocal political criticism. Gorbachev's action caused a huge scandal at the time.
Mikhail Gorbachev was accomplishing the desired results in the West. He was having meetings with many leaders, and they were beginning to hail him as a new thinker in foreign affairs. Gorbachev wanted all of the tension left by the Cold War to dissolve and to establish new and more democratic relationships with other world leaders. Gorbachev's suggestion to cut military arsenals in half was an amazingly endearing suggestion. In 1990 Mikhail Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Whether in matters of the homeland or in international affairs, Gorbachev looked continuously at change. His new policy on openness brought much criticism and resentment toward Russia to the forefront. The effort toward democracy and greater freedom served to hurt agricultural production and a degree of rationing became necessary. Many of today's smaller Eastern bloc nations ceded from Russia and an atmosphere of utter chaos prevailed. Gorbachev admitted defeat when he saw the nation deteriorating before his eyes. Support was moving to Boris Yeltsin and a total coup was inevitable.
On December 1, 1991 the Ukrainian people voted for independence and that was the proverbial "straw." Mikhail Gorbachev resigned on December 15, 1991 and Boris Yeltsin stepped into Gorbachev's Office two days later. Gorbachev remains active in world affairs, gives television interviews and is becoming quite the movie actor, while hopeful of re-entrance into Soviet political life. He is proof that life does goes on.
Background: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born to a peasant family in Stavropol, Russia on the 2nd of March, 1931. He was the son of Sergey and Maria Gorbachev. His father labored as a farmer and his mother worked on a cooperative where there was a shared division of labor. Essentially, they were both collective farm workers. In most instances the farms in a collective numbered between 200 and 400 individual farms.
During his teen years, Mikhail worked as a combine harvester on a collective farm. Later he went to Moscow State University where he graduated in 1955 with a law degree. Through correspondence, he obtained a Master's degree in agricultural economics in 1967 from the Stavropol Institute of Agriculture. While at Moscow State University, Gorbachev joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
By 1970 Gorbachev was promoted to First Party Secretary there in Stavropol. He continued his rise and eventually was appointed to the Central Committee's Secretariat for Agriculture in 1978. In 1980, Gorbachev received full membership in the Politburo, the highest authority in the country, where he became very active and quite visible. Gorbachev also became well travelled, meeting many world leaders. Upon Andropov's death in 1984 and the death of Chernenko in 1985, the party hierarchy became convinced that they were in need of younger leadership, and so Gorbachev was elected the party leader a mere three hours after Chernenko's death.