Looking Back to 1985: The Last Leader Of The Soviet Union Came To Power

Mikhail Gorbachev Boris Yurchenko/AP Images

2,000 editions ago, Mikhail Gorbachev, who many hailed as ‘the last revolutionary’ but was ultimately the ‘last leader’ of the Soviet Union, came into power. 

This ambitious Soviet reformer, whose political career ended up being defined by his ‘perestroika’, was revered here in the West, even gaining the nickname ‘Gorby’.  However, in Russia some still hold him responsible for one of the biggest economic downgrades in history. 

In March 1985 Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and presented himself as the consummate leader. He was a party man, a charismatic charmer, a deep thinker and a problem solver. He envisioned that under his wing, the Soviet Union would be reformed and reinvigorated. Instead, it disappeared. 

Mikhail Gorbachev died last year, in August 2022, at the ripe old age of 91. He left this world as one of the most significant and consequential political figures of the second half of the 20th century. He reversed the course laid down by Stalin and his successors with his acts of ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’, ‘reconstruction’ and ‘openness’. 

In a 2011 television interview, during a show that was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of ‘perestroika’, Gorbachev stated that “in a word, freedom came to the USSR, to Russia,” However, his perfect plan ended up resulting, in part, with the untimely end of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

Mikhail Gorbachev was born into a peasant household in the North Caucasus during a time in which the Soviet Union was filled with widespread famine and terror. However, his intelligence always shone bright and he went on to study at the prestigious Moscow State University (MGU). He told of a memory when he was a student that he ‘pressed through the throngs of weeping mourners to catch a glimpse of Stalin’s corpse’. What he did not know in that moment is that a mere 30 years later he would find himself occupying that same tyrant corpse’s former office.

In the end, this lustrous leader, who set his sights on big prizes, leaves a legacy of hope and dreams, even if they do not always turn out how one wishes. 

Following the fall of his beloved land, he was burdened by the repented revolution that history would forever bind to his name, and repeatedly expressed his regret regarding the collapse, until the day that he died. 

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Written by

Jennifer Popplewell

Jennifer is a proud northerner from Sheffield, England, who is currently living in Spain. She loves swimming in rivers, talking to the stars and eating luxurious chocolate.