The passing of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has been mourned internationally as the loss of a rare leader who changed the world and, for a time, boosted hopes for peace between the superpowers.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who brought down the Iron Curtain by introducing Glasnost and Perestroika to the Soviet Union, has died aged 91.
He also appeared in a Pizza Hut advert and won an MTV award.
His death was announced by multiple Russian news agencies on Tuesday evening, citing officials at the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow.
For Mr Gorbachev is widely reckoned to have done more than anyone – even Yeltsin, a proclaimed free-marketeer – to have delivered the Russian people from the jack-boot of Communism.
He was born into famine in a hut on a narrow river, in a village in the state of Stavropol on March 2, 1931, the son of a farm worker, and was a law graduate at Moscow State University, before working as a machine operator and then, from 1955 onwards, devoting much of his time as a party activist.
He went through the party mill, slowly grinding his way to the top. It was in 1985, only four months after his historic first meeting with Margaret Thatcher, that he became general secretary of the Communist Party, a post which made him top dog in the Kremlin.
In August, 1991, Gorbachev was the victim of an old-style hard-line Communist coup in which he and his wife Raisa, their daughter Irina, son-in-law Anatoly, and grand-daughter Anastasia, were incarcerated at gunpoint in his holiday home in Crimea.
He described the ordeal as “a severe trauma”, adding: “It was 72 hours of total isolation and confrontation. They tried to break me. When they began to understand that their adventure was over, they were ready to do anything. I had to keep my nerves in check.”
But, although the coup failed, it marked the beginning of the end of his reign as leader and the start of Boris Yeltsin’s rise to power. The relationship between the two men had never been easy. He has described Yeltsin as vindictive, unpredictable and at times unstable.
After the coup episode, Gorbachev continued to visit Britain from time to time, sometimes as part of his Gorbachev Foundation work and on others to promote his memoirs.
He married in 1955. He used to call Raisa “my general” and often relied on her judgment.
Gorbachev was heartbroken and shattered when Raisa died, at the age of 67, in September, 1999, in a hospital in Muenster, after a long battle against leukaemia.
Here are some reactions from the great and good:
Arnie was a fan:
This is worth a watch:
But this video is worth remembering, he appeared in a Pizza Hut advert!
And if that wasn’t enough back in 2009 Gorbachev was awarded MTV’s Free Your Mind award for his role in the fall of the Berlin wall.