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Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born 2 March 1931) is a Russian and formerly Soviet politician.
The eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, he was the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991.
He was also the country's head of state from 1985 until 1991, serving as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet from 1988 to 1989, Chairman of the Supreme Soviet from 1989 to 1990, and President of the Soviet Union from 1990 to 1991.
Ideologically, he initially adhered to Marxism-Leninism although by the early 1990s had moved toward social democracy. Of mixed Russian and Ukrainian heritage, Gorbachev was born in Privolnoye, Stavropol Krai to a poor peasant family.
Growing up under the rule of Joseph Stalin, in his youth he operated combine harvesters on a collective farm before joining the Communist Party, which then governed the Soviet Union as a one-party state according to Marxist-Leninist doctrine.
While studying at Moscow State University, he married fellow student Raisa Titarenko in 1953 prior to receiving his law degree in 1955.
Early life and education
Gorbachev was born on 2 March 1931 in the village of Privolnoye, then in the North Caucasus Krai of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, Soviet Union. At the time, Privolnoye was divided almost evenly between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians. Gorbachev's paternal family were ethnic Russians and had moved to the region from Voronezh several generations before; his maternal family were of ethnic Ukrainian heritage and had migrated from Chernihiv. His parents named him Viktor at birth, but at the insistence of his mother—a devout Orthodox Christian—he had a secret baptism, where his grandfather christened him Mikhail. His relationship with his father, Sergey Andreyevich Gorbachev, was close; his mother, Maria Panteleyevna Gorbacheva (née Gopkalo), was colder and punitive. His parents were poor, and lived as peasants. They had married as teenagers in 1928, and in keeping with local tradition had initially resided in Sergey's father's house, an adobe-walled hut, before a hut of their own could be built.
The Soviet Union was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party, and during Gorbachev's childhood was under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Stalin had initiated a project of mass rural collectivization which, in keeping with his Marxist–Leninist ideas, he believed would help convert the country into a socialist society. Gorbachev's maternal grandfather joined the Communist Party and helped form the village's first kolkhoz (collective farm) in 1929, becoming its chair. This farm was 19 kilometres (12 mi) outside Privolnoye village and when he was three years old, Gorbachev left his parental home and moved into the kolkhoz with his maternal grandparents.
The country was then experiencing the famine of 1930–1933, in which two of Gorbachev's paternal uncles and an aunt died. This was followed by the Great Purge, in which individuals accused of being "enemies of the people", including those sympathetic to rival interpretations of Marxism like Trotskyism, were arrested and interned in labor camps, if not executed. Both of Gorbachev's grandfathers were arrested (his maternal in 1934 and his paternal in 1937) and spent time in Gulag labor camps before being released. After his December 1938 release, Gorbachev's maternal grandfather discussed having been tortured by the secret police, an account that influenced the young boy.
Following on from the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, in June 1941 the German Army invaded the Soviet Union. German forces occupied Privolnoye for four and a half months in 1942. Gorbachev's father had joined the Red Army and fought on the frontlines; he was wrongly declared dead during the conflict and fought in the Battle of Kursk before returning to his family, injured. After Germany was defeated, Gorbachev's parents had their second son, Aleksandr, in 1947; he and Mikhail would be their only children.
The village school was closed during much of the war but re-opened in autumn 1944. Gorbachev did not want to return but when he did he excelled academically. He read voraciously, moving from the Western novels of Thomas Mayne Reid to the works of Vissarion Belinsky, Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, and Mikhail Lermontov. In 1946, he joined the Komsomol, the Soviet political youth organization, becoming leader of his local group and then being elected to the Komsomol committee for the district. From primary school he moved to the high school in Molotovskoye; he stayed there during the week while walking the 19 km (12 mi) home during weekends. As well as being a member of the school's drama society, he organized sporting and social activities and led the school's morning exercise class. Over the course of five consecutive summers from 1946 onward he returned home to assist his father in operating a combine harvester, during which they sometimes worked 20-hour days. In 1948, they harvested over 8,000 centners of grain, a feat for which Sergey was awarded the Order of Lenin and his son the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.
In June 1950, Gorbachev became a candidate member of the Communist Party. He also applied to study at the law school of Moscow State University (MSU), then the most prestigious university in the country. They accepted him without asking for an exam, likely because of his worker-peasant origins and his possession of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour. His choice of law was unusual; it was not a well-regarded subject in Soviet society at that time. Aged 19, he traveled by train to Moscow, the first time he had left his home region.
In Moscow, Gorbachev resided with fellow MSU students at a dormitory in the Sokolniki District. He and other rural students felt at odds with their Muscovite counterparts but he soon came to fit in. Fellow students recall him working especially hard, often late into the night. He gained a reputation as a mediator during disputes, and was also known for being outspoken in class, although he would reveal some of his views only privately; for instance, he confided in some students his opposition to the Soviet jurisprudential norm that a confession proved guilt, noting that confessions could have been forced. During his studies, an anti-semitic campaign spread through the Soviet Union, culminating in the Doctors' plot; Gorbachev publicly defended Volodya Liberman, a Jewish student who was accused of disloyalty to the country by one of his fellows.
At MSU, Gorbachev became the Komsomol head of his entering class, and then Komsomol's deputy secretary for agitation and propaganda at the law school. One of his first Komsomol assignments in Moscow was to monitor the election polling in Presnensky District to ensure the government's desire for near-total turnout; Gorbachev found that most of those who voted did so "out of fear". In 1952, he was appointed a full member of the Communist Party. As a party and Komsomol member, he was tasked with monitoring fellow students for potential subversion; some of his fellow students said that he did so only minimally and that they trusted him to keep confidential information secret from the authorities. Gorbachev became close friends with Zdeněk Mlynář, a Czechoslovak student who later became a primary ideologist of the 1968 Prague Spring. Mlynář recalled that the duo remained committed Marxist–Leninists despite their growing concerns about the Stalinist system. After Stalin died in March 1953, Gorbachev and Mlynář joined the crowds massing to see Stalin's body lying in state.
At MSU, Gorbachev met Raisa Titarenko, who was studying in the university's philosophy department. She was engaged to another man but after that engagement fell apart, she began a relationship with Gorbachev; together they went to bookstores, museums, and art exhibits. In early 1953, he took an internship at the procurator's office in Molotovskoye district, but was angered by the incompetence and arrogance of those working there. That summer, he returned to Privolnoye to work with his father on the harvest; the money earned allowed him to pay for a wedding. On 25 September 1953 he and Raisa registered their marriage at Sokolniki Registry Office; and in October moved in together at the Lenin Hills dormitory. Raisa discovered that she was pregnant and although the couple wanted to keep the child she fell ill and required a life-saving abortion.
In June 1955, Gorbachev graduated with a distinction; his final paper had been on the advantages of "socialist democracy" (the Soviet political system) over "bourgeois democracy" (liberal democracy). He was subsequently assigned to the Soviet Procurator's office, which was then focusing on the rehabilitation of the innocent victims of Stalin's purges, but found that they had no work for him. He was then offered a place on an MSU graduate course specializing in kolkhoz law, but declined. He had wanted to remain in Moscow, where Raisa was enrolled in a PhD program, but instead gained employment in Stavropol; Raisa abandoned her studies to join him there.
Early CPSU career
In August 1955, Gorbachev started work at the Stavropol regional procurator's office, but disliked the job and used his contacts to get a transfer to work for Komsomol, becoming deputy director of Komsomol's agitation and propaganda department for that region. In this position, he visited villages in the area and tried to improve the lives of their inhabitants; he established a discussion circle in Gorkaya Balka village to help its peasant residents gain social contacts.
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa initially rented a small room in Stavropol, taking daily evening walks around the city and on weekends hiking in the countryside. In January 1957, Raisa gave birth to a daughter, Irina, and in 1958 they moved into two rooms in a communal apartment. In 1961, Gorbachev pursued a second degree, in agricultural production; he took a correspondence course from the local Stavropol Agricultural Institute, receiving his diploma in 1967. His wife had also pursued a second degree, attaining a PhD in sociology in 1967 from the Moscow State Pedagogical University; while in Stavropol she too joined the Communist Party.
Stalin was ultimately succeeded as Soviet leader by Nikita Khrushchev, who denounced Stalin and his cult of personality in a speech given in February 1956, after which he launched a de-Stalinization process throughout Soviet society. Later biographer William Taubman suggested that Gorbachev "embodied" the "reformist spirit" of the Khrushchev era. Gorbachev was among those who saw themselves as "genuine Marxists" or "genuine Leninists" in contrast to what they regarded as the perversions of Stalin. He helped spread Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist message in Stavropol, but encountered many who continued to regard Stalin as a hero or who praised the Stalinist purges as just.
Gorbachev rose steadily through the ranks of the local administration. The authorities regarded him as politically reliable, and he would flatter his superiors, for instance gaining favor with prominent local politician Fyodor Kulakov. With an ability to outmanoeuvre rivals, some colleagues resented his success. In September 1956, he was promoted First Secretary of the Stavropol city's Komsomol, placing him in charge of it; in April 1958 he was made deputy head of the Komsomol for the entire region. At this point he was given better accommodation: a two-room flat with its own private kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. In Stavropol, he formed a discussion club for youths, and helped mobilize local young people to take part in Khrushchev's agricultural and development campaigns.
In March 1961, Gorbachev became First Secretary of the regional Komsomol, in which position he went out of his way to appoint women as city and district leaders. In 1961, Gorbachev played host to the Italian delegation for the World Youth Festival in Moscow; that October, he also attended the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In January 1963, Gorbachev was promoted to personnel chief for the regional party's agricultural committee, and in September 1966 became First Secretary of the Stavropol City Party Organization ("Gorkom"). By 1968 he was increasingly frustrated with his job—in large part because Khrushchev's reforms were stalling or being reversed—and he contemplated leaving politics to work in academia. However, in August 1968, he was named Second Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, making him the deputy of First Secretary Leonid Yefremov and the second most senior figure in the Stavrapol region. In 1969, he was elected as a deputy to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and made a member of its Standing Commission for the Protection of the Environment.
Cleared for travel to Eastern Bloc countries, in 1966 he was part of a delegation which visited East Germany, and in 1969 and 1974 visited Bulgaria. In August 1968 the Soviet Union led an invasion of Czechoslovakia to put an end to the Prague Spring, a period of political liberalization in the Marxist–Leninist country. Although Gorbachev later stated that he had had private concerns about the invasion, he publicly supported it. In September 1969 he was part of a Soviet delegation sent to Czechoslovakia, where he found the Czechoslovak people largely unwelcoming to them. That year, the Soviet authorities ordered him to punish Fagim B. Sadykov, a philosophy professor of the Stavropol agricultural institute whose ideas were regarded as critical of Soviet agricultural policy; Gorbachev ensured that Sadykov was fired from teaching but ignored calls for him to face tougher punishment. Gorbachev later related that he was "deeply affected" by the incident; "my conscience tormented me" for overseeing Sadykov's persecution.
In April 1970, Yefremov was promoted to a higher position in Moscow and Gorbachev succeeded him as the First Secretary of the Stavropol kraikom. This granted Gorbachev significant power over the Stavropol region. He had been personally vetted for the position by senior Kremlin leaders and was informed of their decision by the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Aged 39, he was considerably younger than his predecessors in the position. As head of the Stavropol region, he automatically became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1971. According to biographer Zhores Medvedev, Gorbachev "had now joined the Party's super-elite". As regional leader, Gorbachev initially attributed economic and other failures to "the inefficiency and incompetence of cadres, flaws in management structure or gaps in legislation", but eventually concluded that they were caused by an excessive centralization of decision making in Moscow. He began reading translations of restricted texts by Western Marxist authors such as Antonio Gramsci, Louis Aragon, Roger Garaudy, and Giuseppe Boffa, and came under their influence.
Gorbachev's main task as regional leader was to raise agricultural production levels, a task hampered by severe droughts in 1975 and 1976. He oversaw the expansion of irrigation systems through construction of the Great Stavropol Canal. For overseeing a record grain harvest in Ipatovsky district, in March 1972 he was awarded the Order of the October Revolution by Brezhnev in a Moscow ceremony. Gorbachev always sought to maintain Brezhnev's trust; as regional leader, he repeatedly praised Brezhnev in his speeches, for instance referring to him as "the outstanding statesman of our time". Gorbachev and his wife holidayed in Moscow, Leningrad, Uzbekistan, and resorts in the North Caucasus; he holidayed with the head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, who was favorable towards him and who became an important patron. Gorbachev also developed good relationships with senior figures including the Soviet Prime Minister, Alexei Kosygin, and the longstanding senior party member Mikhail Suslov.
The government considered Gorbachev sufficiently reliable that he was sent as part of Soviet delegations to Western Europe; he made five trips there between 1970 and 1977. In September 1971 he was part of a delegation that traveled to Italy, where they met with representatives of the Italian Communist Party; Gorbachev loved Italian culture but was struck by the poverty and inequality he saw in the country. In 1972, he visited Belgium and the Netherlands, and in 1973 West Germany. Gorbachev and his wife visited France in 1976 and 1977, on the latter occasion touring the country with a guide from the French Communist Party. He was surprised by how openly West Europeans offered their opinions and criticized their political leaders, something absent from the Soviet Union, where most people did not feel safe speaking so openly. He later related that for him and his wife, these visits "shook our a priori belief in the superiority of socialist over bourgeois democracy".
Gorbachev had remained close to his parents; after his father became terminally ill in 1974, Gorbachev traveled to be with him in Privolnoe shortly before his death. His daughter, Irina, married fellow student Anatoly Virgansky in April 1978. In 1977, the Supreme Soviet appointed Gorbachev to chair the Standing Commission on Youth Affairs due to his experience with mobilizing young people in Komsomol.
Out of office, Gorbachev had more time to spend with his wife and family. He and Raisa initially lived in their dilapidated dacha on Rublevskoe Shosse, and were also allowed to privatize their smaller apartment on Kosygin Street. He focused on establishing his International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies, or "Gorbachev Foundation", launched in March 1992; Yakovlev and Revenko were its first vice presidents. Its initial tasks were in analyzing and publishing material on the history of perestroika, as well as defending the policy from what it called "slander and falsifications". The foundation also tasked itself with monitoring and critiquing life in post-Soviet Russia, presenting alternative development forms to those pursued by Yeltsin.
To finance his foundation, Gorbachev began lecturing internationally, charging large fees to do so. On a visit to Japan, he was well received and given multiple honorary degrees. In 1992, he toured the U.S. in a Forbes private jet to raise money for his foundation. During the trip he met up with the Reagans for a social visit. From there he went to Spain, where he attended the Expo '92 world fair in Seville and met with Prime Minister Felipe González, who had become a friend of his. He further visited Israel and Germany, where he was received warmly by many politicians who praised his role in facilitating German reunification. To supplement his lecture fees and book sales, Gorbachev appeared in commercials such as a television advertisement for Pizza Hut, another for the ÖBB and photograph advertisements for Apple Computer and Louis Vuitton, enabling him to keep the foundation afloat. With his wife's assistance, Gorbachev worked on his memoirs, which were published in Russian in 1995 and in English the following year. He also began writing a monthly syndicated column for The New York Times.
In 1993, Gorbachev launched Green Cross International, which focused on encouraging sustainable futures, and then the World Political Forum. In 1995, he initiated the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
Gorbachev had promised to refrain from criticizing Yeltsin while the latter pursued democratic reforms, but soon the two men were publicly criticizing each other again. After Yeltsin's decision to lift price caps generated massive inflation and plunged many Russians into poverty, Gorbachev openly criticized him, comparing the reform to Stalin's policy of forced collectivization. After pro-Yeltsin parties did poorly in the 1993 legislative election, Gorbachev called on him to resign. In 1995, his foundation held a conference on "The Intelligentsia and Perestroika". It was there that Gorbachev proposed to the Duma a law that would reduce many of the presidential powers established by Yeltsin's 1993 constitution. Gorbachev continued to defend perestroika but acknowledged that he had made tactical errors as Soviet leader. While he still believed that Russia was undergoing a process of democratization, he concluded that it would take decades rather than years, as he had previously thought.
In contrast to her husband's political activities, Raisa had focused on campaigning for children's charities. In 1997, she founded a sub-division of the Gorbachev Foundation known as Raisa Maksimovna's Club to focus on improving women's welfare in Russia. The Foundation had initially been housed in the former Social Science Institute building, but Yeltsin introduced limits to the number of rooms it could use there; the American philanthropist Ted Turner then donated over $1 million to enable the foundation to build new premises on the Leningradsky Prospekt. In 1999, Gorbachev made his first visit to Australia, where he gave a speech to the country's parliament. Shortly after, in July, Raisa was diagnosed with leukemia. With the assistance of German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, she was transferred to a cancer center in Münster, Germany, and there underwent chemotherapy. In September she fell into a coma and died. After Raisa's passing, Gorbachev's daughter Irina and his two granddaughters moved into his Moscow home to live with him. When questioned by journalists, he said that he would never remarry.
The Russian presidential elections were scheduled for June 1996, and although his wife and most of his friends urged him not to run, Gorbachev decided to do so. He hated the idea that the election would result in a run-off between Yeltsin and Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation candidate whom Yeltsin saw as a Stalinist hardliner. He never expected to win outright but thought a centrist bloc could be formed around either himself or one of the other candidates with similar views, such as Grigory Yavlinsky, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, or Alexander Lebed. After securing the necessary one million signatures of nomination, he announced his candidacy in March. Launching his campaign, he traveled across Russia giving rallies in twenty cities. He repeatedly faced anti-Gorbachev protesters, while some pro-Yeltsin local officials tried to hamper his campaign by banning local media from covering it or by refusing him access to venues. In the election, Gorbachev came seventh with approximately 386,000 votes, or around 0.5% of the total. Yeltsin and Zyuganov went through to the second round, where the former was victorious.
In December 1999, Yeltsin resigned and was succeeded by his deputy, Vladimir Putin, who then won the March 2000 presidential election. Gorbachev attended Putin's inauguration ceremony in May, the first time he had entered the Kremlin since 1991. Gorbachev initially welcomed Putin's rise, seeing him as an anti-Yeltsin figure. Although he spoke out against some of the Putin government's actions, Gorbachev also had praise for the new government; in 2002, he said: "I've been in the same skin. That's what allows me to say that what [Putin] has done is in the interest of the majority." At the time, he believed Putin to be a committed democrat who nevertheless had to use "a certain dose of authoritarianism" to stabilize the economy and rebuild the state after the Yeltsin era. At Putin's request, Gorbachev became co-chair of the "Petersburg Dialogue" project between high-ranking Russians and Germans.
In 2000, Gorbachev helped form the Russian United Social Democratic Party. In June 2002, he participated in a meeting with Putin, who praised the venture, suggesting that a center-left party could be good for Russia and that he would be open to working with it. In 2003, Gorbachev's party merged with the Social Democratic Party to form the Social Democratic Party of Russia – which, however, faced much internal division and failed to gain traction with voters. Gorbachev resigned as party leader in May 2004 following a disagreement with the party's chairman over the direction taken in the 2003 election campaign. The party was later banned in 2007 by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation due to its failure to establish local offices with at least 500 members in the majority of Russian regions, which is required by Russian law for a political organization to be listed as a party. Later that year, Gorbachev founded a new movement, the Union of Social Democrats. Stating that it would not contest the forthcoming elections, Gorbachev declared: "We are fighting for power, but only for power over people's minds".
Gorbachev was critical of U.S. hostility to Putin, arguing that the U.S. government "doesn't want Russia to rise" again as a global power and wants "to continue as the sole superpower in charge of the world". More broadly, Gorbachev was critical of U.S. policy following the Cold War, arguing that the West had attempted to "turn [Russia] into some kind of backwater". He rejected the idea—expressed by Bush—that the U.S. had "won" the Cold War, arguing that both sides had cooperated to end the conflict. He declared that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S., rather than cooperating with Russia, had conspired to build a "new empire headed by themselves". He was critical of how the U.S. had expanded NATO right up to Russia's borders despite their initial assurances that they would not do so, citing this as evidence that the U.S. government could not be trusted. He spoke out against the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia because it lacked UN backing, as well as the 2003 invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. In June 2004, Gorbachev nevertheless attended Reagan's state funeral, and in 2007 visited New Orleans to see the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Barred by the constitution from serving more than two consecutive terms as president, Putin stood down in 2008 and was succeeded by his chosen successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who reached out to Gorbachev in ways that Putin had not. In September 2008, Gorbachev and business oligarch Alexander Lebedev announced they would form the Independent Democratic Party of Russia, and in May 2009 Gorbachev announced that the launch was imminent. After the outbreak of the Russo-Georgian War between Russia and South Ossetian separatists on one side and Georgia on the other, Gorbachev spoke out against U.S. support for Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and for moving to bring the Caucasus into the sphere of its national interest. Gorbachev nevertheless remained critical of Russia's government and criticized the 2011 parliamentary elections as being rigged in favor of the governing party, United Russia, and called for them to be re-held. After protests broke out in Moscow over the election, Gorbachev praised the protesters.
In 2009, Gorbachev released Songs for Raisa, an album of Russian romantic ballads, sung by him and accompanied by musician Andrei Makarevich, to raise money for a charity devoted to his late wife. That year, he also met with U.S. President Barack Obama in efforts to "reset" strained U.S.-Russian relations, and attended an event in Berlin commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2011, an eightieth birthday gala for him was held at London's Royal Albert Hall, featuring tributes from Shimon Peres, Lech Wałęsa, Michel Rocard, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proceeds from the event went to the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation. That year, Medvedev awarded him the Order of St Andrew the Apostle the First-Called.
After Putin announced his intention to run for president in the 2012 election, Gorbachev was opposed to the idea. He complained that Putin's new measures had "tightened the screws" on Russia and that the president was trying to "completely subordinate society", adding that United Russia now "embodied the worst bureaucratic features of the Soviet Communist party".
In 2015, Gorbachev ceased his frequent international traveling. He continued to speak out on issues affecting Russia and the world. In 2014, he defended the Crimean status referendum and Russia's annexation of Crimea that began the Russo-Ukrainian war. In his judgment, while Crimea was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954, when both were part of the Soviet Union, the Crimean people had not been asked at the time, whereas in the 2014 referendum they had. After sanctions were placed on Russia as a result of the annexation, Gorbachev spoke out against them. His comments led to Ukraine banning him from entering the country for five years.
At a November 2014 event marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Gorbachev warned that the ongoing war in Donbas had brought the world to the brink of a new Cold War, and he accused Western powers, particularly the U.S., of adopting an attitude of "triumphalism" towards Russia. In December 2014, he said that both sides in the war in Donbas "have been violating the terms of the ceasefire; both sides are guilty of using dangerous types of weapons and violating human rights", adding that Minsk agreements "form the basis for the settlement" of the conflict. In 2016, he said that "Politicians who think that problems and disputes can be solved by using military force—even as a last resort—should be rejected by society, they should clear the political stage." In July 2016, Gorbachev criticized NATO for deploying more troops to Eastern Europe amid escalating tensions between the military alliance and Russia. In June 2018, he welcomed the Russia–United States summit in Helsinki between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, although in October criticized Trump's threat to withdraw from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying the move "is not the work of a great mind". He added: "all agreements aimed at nuclear disarmament and the limitation of nuclear weapons must be preserved, for the sake of life on Earth".
Following the death of former President George H.W. Bush in 2018, a critical partner and friend of his time in office, Gorbachev stated that the work they had both accomplished led directly to the end of the Cold War and the nuclear arms race, and that he "deeply appreciated the attention, kindness and simplicity typical of George, Barbara and their large, friendly family".
After the January 6 United States Capitol attack, Gorbachev declared, "The storming of the capitol was clearly planned in advance, and it's obvious by whom." He did not clarify to whom he was referring. Gorbachev also stated that the attack "called into question the future fate of the United States as a nation".
In an interview with Russian news agency TASS on 20 January 2021, Gorbachev said that relations between the United States and Russia are of "great concern", and called on U.S. President Joe Biden to begin talks with the Kremlin to make the two countries' "intentions and actions clearer" and "in order to normalize relations". On 24 December 2021, Gorbachev said that the United States "grew arrogant and self-confident" after the collapse of the Soviet Union, resulting in "a new empire. Hence the idea of NATO expansion". He also endorsed the upcoming security talks between the United States and Russia, saying, "I hope there will be a result."
Gorbachev made no personal comment publicly on the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Although, on 26 February, his Gorbachev Foundation stated that "we affirm the need for an early cessation of hostilities and immediate start of peace negotiations. There is nothing more precious in the world than human lives." At the end of July 2022, Gorbachev's close friend, journalist Alexei Venediktov, said that Gorbachev was very upset when he found out that Putin had launched an invasion of Ukraine. According to Venediktov, Gorbachev believed that Putin "destroyed his life's work". Gorbachev's interpreter, Pavel Palazhchenko, also stated that Gorbachev was psychologically traumatized by the Russia-Ukraine conflict before his death.
By 1955, his hair was thinning, and by the late 1960s he was bald, revealing a distinctive port-wine stain on the top of his head. Gorbachev reached an adult height of 5 foot 9 inches (1.75 m). Throughout the 1960s, he struggled against obesity and dieted to control the problem; Doder and Branson characterized him as "stocky but not fat". He spoke in a southern Russian accent, and was known to sing both folk and pop songs.
Throughout his life, he tried to dress fashionably. Having an aversion to hard liquor, he drank sparingly and did not smoke. He was protective of his private life and avoided inviting people to his home. Gorbachev cherished his wife, who in turn was protective of him. He was an involved parent and grandparent. He sent his daughter, his only child, to a local school in Stavropol rather than to a school set aside for the children of party elites. Unlike many of his contemporaries in the Soviet administration, he was not a womanizer and was known for treating women respectfully.
Gorbachev was baptized Russian Orthodox and when he was growing up, his grandparents had been practicing Christians. In 2008, there was some press speculation that he was a practicing Christian after he visited the tomb of St Francis of Assisi, to which he publicly clarified that he was an atheist. Since studying at university, Gorbachev considered himself an intellectual; Doder and Branson thought that "his intellectualism was slightly self-conscious", noting that unlike most Russian intelligentsia, Gorbachev was not closely connected "to the world of science, culture, the arts, or education". When living in Stavropol, he and his wife collected hundreds of books. Among his favorite authors were Arthur Miller, Dostoevsky, and Chinghiz Aitmatov, while he also enjoyed reading detective fiction. He enjoyed going for walks, having a love of natural environments, and was also a fan of association football. He favored small gatherings where the assembled discussed topics like art and philosophy rather than the large, alcohol-fueled parties common among Soviet officials.
Gorbachev's university friend, Mlynář, described him as "loyal and personally honest". He was self-confident, polite, and tactful; he had a happy and optimistic temperament. He used self-deprecating humor, and sometimes profanities, and often referred to himself in the third person. He was a skilled manager, and had a good memory. A hard worker or workaholic, as general secretary, he would rise at 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning and not go to bed until 1:00 or 2:00. He commuted from the western suburbs between 9 and 10 in the morning and returned home around 8 in the evening. Taubman called him "a remarkably decent man"; he thought Gorbachev to have "high moral standards".
Zhores Medvedev thought him a talented orator, in 1986 stating that "Gorbachev is probably the best speaker there has been in the top Party echelons" since Leon Trotsky. Medvedev also considered Gorbachev "a charismatic leader", something Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko had not been. Doder and Branson called him "a charmer capable of intellectually seducing doubters, always trying to co-opt them, or at least blunt the edge of their criticism". McCauley thought Gorbachev displayed "great tactical skill" in maneuvering successfully between hardline Marxist–Leninists and liberalisers for most of his time as leader, adding, though, that he was "much more skilled at tactical, short-term policy than strategic, long-term thinking", in part because he was "given to making policy on the hoof".
Doder and Branson thought Gorbachev "a Russian to the core, intensely patriotic as only people living in the border regions can be". Taubman also noted that the former Soviet leader has a "sense of self-importance and self-righteousness" as well as a "need for attention and admiration" which grated on some of his colleagues. He was sensitive to personal criticism and easily took offense. Colleagues were often frustrated that he would leave tasks unfinished, and sometimes also felt underappreciated and discarded by him. Biographers Doder and Branson thought that Gorbachev was "a puritan" with "a proclivity for order in his personal life". Taubman noted that he was "capable of blowing up for calculated effect". He also thought that by 1990, when his domestic popularity was waning, Gorbachev had become "psychologically dependent on being lionized abroad", a trait for which he was criticized in the Soviet Union. McCauley was of the view that "one of his weaknesses was an inability to foresee the consequences of his actions".