Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, died at the age of 91.

 Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, died at the age of 91.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, died at the age of 91.

Matlock points out that, despite Reagan's speech being given in 1987, the Berlin Wall fell in 1990.


"A lot happened in between those two events," he says, "and there was no direct cause and effect."


In fact, a lot happened after 1987 that had nothing to do with Gorbachev's plans. One common misconception about him is that he advocated for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. This is not correct. Gorbachev believed that he could reform the Communist Party and create a more open society while maintaining Soviet power. Instead, the Soviet Union's republics saw an opportunity to break free.


Inside Russia, Gorbachev's perestroika system, push for a more market-oriented economy, and call for democratic elections were causing chaos. Despite receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his actions on the international stage, Gorbachev was losing support at home.


In Crimea, Soviet hardliners held him hostage.

Moscow's hardliners were aware of his vulnerability. They sent the head of the KGB to Gorbachev's vacation home in Crimea, on the Black Sea, in the summer of 1991, to hold the Soviet leader hostage. Gorbachev told his visitors that they were destroying the country.


"'You will resign,' was the demand." "I said to myself, 'You'll never live that long,'" Gorbachev recalled. "And I told them, 'Convey that to the people who sent you.'" "I don't have anything else to say to you."


It was the ultimate act of defiance. After receiving the message, Gorbachev returned to Moscow. Four months later, he resigned.

Reagan's Soviet affairs adviser, Jack Matlock, recalls preparing for one of the president's most famous speeches, delivered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate in 1987.


The White House gave the Kremlin almost no advance notice that Reagan would make his historic demand of Gorbachev. However, Matlock stated that there was little need.


"They both realized that they could rely on their direct conversations with each other rather than getting too excited about what each said in speeches," Matlock says.


"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, prosperity, and liberalization for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, come here to this gate, Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate," Reagan said to applause. "Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev."

'I have my shirt wet, like working in the field,' he explained. It was really hot to me,' recalls Grachev, "because he had to answer a lot of questions at the time."


Gorbachev had arrived on the world stage as the son of a poor farming family.


"That was sort of the pride of a peasant who had accomplished something and was proud of it," Grachev says.


The goal of nuclear nonproliferation brought Gorbachev and Reagan together in an unexpected way.

Gorbachev then targeted President Ronald Reagan. The Soviet leader was the world's biggest supporter of communism, which Reagan despised. However, the two men agreed that they didn't need to point nuclear weapons at each other. They formed an unexpected bond while working toward a common goal.


"Though my pronunciation may be difficult for you, the maxim is 'Doveryai, no proveryai' — trust but verify," Reagan famously said during their meeting.

Gorbachev never wanted to see another global conflict, so he worked hard to make the world less suspicious of communism.


He was a rising star in the Communist Party, and by the time he was named Soviet leader in 1985, he was already courting Western leaders such as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had given him a historic endorsement in 1984.


"I like Gorbachev," she stated. "We can work together on business."


One of Gorbachev's closest advisers, Andrei Grachev, compared the endorsement to a Frank Sinatra song.


"To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, 'If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.'" So, if he can tell himself that he can do it with Thatcher, he will be ready and capable of doing it with anyone else," Grachev says.


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In 1985, Grachev accompanied his boss to Paris for a press conference with French President François Mitterrand. The Gorbachev administration was accustomed to distributing scripted questions to Soviet journalists. But Gorbachev did the unthinkable: he answered whatever questions reporters had.

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was instrumental in bringing the Cold War to an end, died on Tuesday at the age of 91.


His death was reported in Russian media, citing the hospital that was treating him as saying he died of a "serious and protracted disease," without providing further details.


In the late 1980s, Gorbachev's signature policies of glasnost and perestroika helped open up the Soviet economy and liberalize society, confront its past, and engage with Western leaders on arms control. He also oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from a decade-long military campaign in Afghanistan, as well as the Soviet response to the Chernobyl disaster.


He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and was regarded as a visionary by many people around the world, including President Ronald Reagan. However, his legacy is complicated at home, where many saw him as the man who engineered the Soviet Union's demise.


He felt he belonged to a generation of World War II children.

He was born in Privolnoye, a village in southern Russia, in 1931. He was a peasant's son who knew how to operate farm machinery. He had also witnessed the horrors of war.


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Years later, in an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Gorbachev stated that witnessing the Nazi occupation of his village as a child shaped his life.


"This was all happening right in front of our eyes, the children's eyes," he said. "As you can see, I am a member of the so-called children of the war generation." The war left a heavy, painful mark on us. This is permanent, and it has determined many aspects of my life."

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