Who got control after Gorbachev left

Mikhail Gorbachev born in 1931

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  • Photo of Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet politician (General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR), during a speech around 1990.

    Photo credits: akg-images; Imagno AKG468585

  • Portrait poster of Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the CPSU (1985-1991) and Head of State of the Soviet Union (1988-1991), 1980s.

    Photo credits: House of History Foundation; EB no. SIG 2009/02/0033

Mikhail Gorbachev is a Russian politician. As General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1985 to 1991) he made German unity and the end of the Cold War possible with his policy of transparency (glasnost) and restructuring (perestroika). During his time as President of the USSR (March 1990 to December 1991), the reforms lead to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Outside Russia, Gorbachev's achievements are highly valued: in 1990 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

  • March 2: Mikhail Sergejewitsch Gorbachev is born in Privolnoje in the Stavropol region in the North Caucasus to a peasant family.

  • Attended elementary and middle school, which he graduated with honors.

    1946: Joins the Soviet youth association Komsomol.

  • Work in the machine-tractor station of a collective farm.

    In 1948 he was awarded the Order of the Red Labor Banner for his achievements.

  • Studied law in Moscow.

  • Joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

  • Marriage to the sociology student Raissa Maximowna Titorenko. A daughter results from the marriage.

  • First Secretary of the Komsomol City Committee in Stavropol.

    From 1958 he was first Second Secretary and later First Secretary of the Komsomol Committee of the Stavropol Region.

  • Member of the Stavropol Regional Committee of the CPSU.

  • Head of the party organs department of the Stavropol regional committee of the CPSU.

  • First Secretary of the CPSU in the Stavropol City Committee.

  • Gorbachev is completing his second degree at the Agricultural Institute in Stavropol / North Caucasus as a graduate agricultural engineer.

    With various agricultural experiments, which lead to considerable increases in yield, he acquired the reputation of an agricultural expert.

  • Second Secretary of the CPSU of the Stavropol Regional Committee.

  • First Secretary of the CPSU of the Stavropol Regional Committee.

  • Member of the Supreme Soviet. In this function he has been head of the Youth Commission from 1974 and of the Legislative Commission from 1979.

  • Member of the Central Committee (ZK) of the CPSU. Gorbachev is particularly supported by Yuri Andropov (1914-1984), the former head of the Soviet secret service (KGB) and general secretary of the CPSU.

  • Gorbachev is traveling to the Federal Republic of Germany for the first time.

  • Secretary for Agriculture in the Central Committee of the CPSU.

  • Candidate of the Politburo of the CPSU. He is one of the 14 most important men in the Soviet Union.

  • Full member of the Politburo of the CPSU. Gorbachev is the first post-war generation politician on this body. As a member of the Foreign Affairs Commission, he made various trips abroad, including to Great Britain and Canada, where he met Margaret Thatcher and Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000).

  • During the illness of the state and party leader Andropov, Gorbachev took over his representation in many areas.

  • After Andropov's death, Gorbachev is responsible for overseeing the secretarial work in the Central Committee of the CPSU. He advocates regulatory policy and describes "securing world peace and strengthening the Soviet defense power" as the cornerstone of Soviet foreign policy.

    March: Appointment as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Supreme Soviet.

    The party organ "Pravda" calls Gorbachev the "Second General Secretary".

    December: As a supporter of Andropov's economic reform program, Gorbachev speaks out in favor of "profound changes" in the Soviet economy, with "revolutionary" solutions in science and technology taking precedence.

  • March 11: After the death of Konstantin Chernenko (1911-1985), 54-year-old Gorbachev becomes the youngest member of the Politburo, General Secretary of the CPSU.

    Its first declarations and measures are aimed at improving the quality of work in agriculture, industry and administration as well as strengthening the fight against corruption and alcoholism.

    April: When signing the extension of the "Warsaw Treaty", Gorbachev emphasized the "unity of Marxism-Leninism and socialist internationalism".

    May: At the celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, he calls for a "real return of détente", criticizes signs of "American imperialism" and "West German revanchism" and declares himself ready to negotiate arms control in all areas.

    October: Gorbachev presents his program of economic "acceleration" through a fundamental restructuring (perestroika) of Soviet conditions. To this end, initiative and personal responsibility are to be promoted, market-economy elements introduced and production to be more closely aligned with demand.

    November: Gorbachev and the American President Ronald Reagan meet in Geneva for summit talks that raise hopes for a new policy of détente.

  • Member of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.

  • Chairman of the National Defense Council of the USSR.

  • January 1: US President Reagan addresses the Soviet people and Gorbachev addresses the American people in a televised address. Both politicians underline their will to disarmament in their speeches.

    January 15: In Moscow, Gorbachev proposes a three-stage plan for the dismantling of all nuclear weapons by the year 2000. The West has mostly responded positively to its proposals.

    February 25th: In Moscow the XXVII. CPSU party congress opened. Gorbachev announces "radical reforms" in the economy.

    May 14th: In the first public statement on the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on April 26th of that year, Gorbachev called for international cooperation on nuclear energy issues.

    July 28: In a keynote address on domestic and foreign policy in Vladivostok, Gorbachev announces a partial withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. Six regiments are said to have left the country by the end of 1986. The Soviet Union intervened militarily in Afghanistan in 1979.

    11./12. October: Talks between US President Reagan and Gorbachev in Reykjavik / Iceland end without an agreement. Both sides cannot agree on the US SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) program.

  • February: Gorbachev puts a separate agreement on the dismantling of medium-range missiles up for discussion and renounces a link with the dismantling of other weapon systems, in particular with the abandonment of the American space defense system SDI. With this, Gorbachev gives the disarmament negotiations a decisive impetus.

    December: In Washington, Gorbachev and Reagan sign the "zero solution", hailed as a historic breakthrough worldwide: the elimination of all medium-range missiles.

    Publication of the text "Perestroika. The Second Russian Revolution". The book was named "Political Book of the Year" by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in 1988.

    Awarded the International Indira Gandhi Peace Prize in Delhi / India.

    The US magazine "Time" chooses Gorbachev as "Man of the Year".

  • February 8: Gorbachev announces the withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan.

    March 23: Gorbachev advocates more private initiative in agriculture at a congress of collective farmers in Moscow. Among other things, he suggests a limited profit sharing for farmers.

    May 29th-2nd June: The fourth Reagan-Gorbachev summit takes place in Moscow. The highlight of the meeting is the exchange of the ratification documents for the INF Treaty (Intermediate Nuclear Forces). It obliges the contracting parties to completely dismantle all medium-range nuclear missiles.

    July 7: The three-day 44th annual meeting of the Council for Mutual Economic Aid (Comecon) ends in Prague. The heads of government of the ten Eastern European countries discuss the reforms of the socialist economic community called for by Gorbachev. With the exception of the GDR and Romania, the participants welcomed Gorbachev's proposal to strive for greater cooperation with the European Community (EC).

    October 1: After President Andrei Gromyko (1909-1989) resigns, Gorbachev is elected chairman of the Supreme Soviet and thus head of state of the Soviet Union. Its policy is aimed at reforming the political, social and economic system (perestroika) and making governance more transparent (glasnost). This creates completely new conditions both domestically and externally. His efforts to implement the reforms quickly, but avoiding a sudden collapse of the previous political and economic structures, is heavily criticized: on the one hand by those who want to maintain the old order and on the other hand by the reformers, for whom the changes are proceeding too slowly.

    24.-27. October: Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl travels to the Soviet Union with leading representatives from German business, the trade union movement, science and culture. The focus of the trip is on several conversations with Gorbachev about German-Soviet relations, disarmament and arms controls, environmental protection, cultural relations and the resettlement of Germans from Russia.

    December 7th: In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York, Gorbachev announced unilateral disarmament steps in his country. He wants to cut around 500,000 soldiers and withdraw six tank divisions from the GDR, the CSSR and Hungary.

  • March 26: After the first Soviet elections with candidate competition, 110 top officials leave the Central Committee. This means that the old communists who opposed Gorbachev's reform efforts are largely disempowered.

    May 15: The first summit meeting between the Soviet Union and China takes place in thirty years. Gorbachev's visit to Beijing is accompanied by student demonstrations calling for the adoption of perestroika.

    May 25: Gorbachev is elected President with special powers by the newly created Congress of People's Deputies.

    12-15 June: Gorbachev is received with great jubilation by the population on his state visit to Bonn. At the end of his visit he declares "The wall can disappear again if the conditions that created it no longer apply".

    July 7th: Gorbachev admits to each socialist state its own development at the first Eastern Bloc summit conference in Bucharest. With this the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine loses its validity.

    September: Gorbachev agrees with the US to dismantle chemical weapons.

    October 7th: In East Berlin, Gorbachev takes part in the festive events for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. In front of the press he stressed the need for reforms and uttered the famous words: "Those who come too late are punished by life".

  • February 10: At a meeting between Chancellor Kohl and Gorbachev in Moscow, the assurance is given that the USSR will not stand in the way of the reunification of Germany.

    February: Gorbachev presents a reform package for the renewal of the party, which provides for the renunciation of the previous monopoly of power of the CPSU. He advocates the introduction of a presidential system.

    March 14: After the Supreme Soviet and Congress approve the reform proposals of February, Gorbachev becomes the first elected President of the Soviet Union.

    March 27: Gorbachev announces the "controlled transition" to a market economy in the Soviet Union.

    May 31-May 3 June: US President George Bush (1924-2018) and Gorbachev declare at their summit meeting that the question of whether a united Germany belongs to an alliance must be decided by the Germans themselves.

    June: Awarding of the Peace Prize of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation, Washington / USA, the Martin Luther King Medal of the Peace World College, Washington / USA and an honorary doctorate from the Providence University of Rhode Island / USA.

    2nd-13th July: On the XXVIII. At the CPSU party congress in Moscow, Gorbachev can maintain his position of power. The Politburo will be completely redesigned and the division between party and government offices will be implemented.

    14.-16. July: Chancellor Kohl meets with Gorbachev for talks in the Soviet Union. This grants a united Germany full sovereignty and the free choice of membership in the alliance.

    September 24: In the USSR, Gorbachev was granted special powers until March 31, 1992. He alone can decide on questions of property, economic and financial policy, wage and price regulation and public order.

    October: Awarded the Spanish Prize for Peace and International Cooperation "Prince of Asturias" in Madrid / Spain.

    November 9: In Bonn, Chancellor Kohl and Gorbatschow sign the "Treaty on Good Neighborhood, Partnership and Cooperation".

    November 17: The Supreme Soviet accepts the emergency program sought by Gorbachev, which considerably strengthens the position of the president.

    November: Gorbachev is awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal of the Federal Republic of Germany for peace and friendship among peoples.

    December 10th: Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for having played a key role in overcoming the Cold War peacefully.

    December 25th: The Soviet People's Congress of People's Deputies accepts the extension of Gorbachev's powers by a large majority. This means that the cabinet is also directly subordinate to the President.

  • February: Gorbachev announces the end of the Warsaw Pact due to the new European policy.

    March 17: Gorbachev makes it clear in a Union-wide referendum that all republics are free to leave the Union, provided that this takes place in accordance with the constitution.

    July 15: The three-day world economic summit opens in London, with Gorbachev attending as a guest.

    July 31: US President Bush and Gorbachev sign the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) treaty for the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons in Moscow.

    August 19: In the Soviet Union, forces hostile to reform try to overthrow Gorbachev, with the decisive assistance of the KGB. The Russian President Boris Yeltsin calls on the population to resist the putschists. The attempted coup collapses on August 21st.

    August 24: Gorbachev resigns as General Secretary of the CPSU.

    August 29: The Supreme Soviet revokes the special powers granted to President Gorbachev.

    September 5: Appointment as Chairman of the State Council of the USSR.

    October 18: Representatives of eight of the twelve Soviet republics as well as Gorbachev sign a treaty in Moscow to create a unified economic area.

    December 17: Russian President Yeltsin and Gorbachev as Soviet President agree to dissolve the USSR on December 21, 1991.

    December 25: After the dissolution of the USSR and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Gorbachev resigns and hands over the command of strategic nuclear weapons to Russian President Yeltsin. The EC and the US recognize Russia as the legal successor to the USSR.

    Publication of the book "The Coup".

  • January 1: Gorbachev becomes President of the Foundation for Politics, Economics and Social Research.

    Gorbachev becomes a columnist for various newspapers and magazines, including the "Komsomolskaya Pravda", the "New York Times", the Turin-based "La Stampa" and the German magazine "Bunte".

    Gorbachev is awarded the honorary citizenship of the city of Berlin for his commitment to German unity.

    Publication of the text "The Decay of the Soviet Union", which contains a collection of speeches, interviews and reminiscences.

    Since Gorbachev refuses to testify as a witness in a trial for the legality of the CPSU ban, his diplomatic passport is blocked and the Foundation for Politics, Economics and Social Research is closed by the police.

    Awarded the United Nations Albert Schweitzer Prize.

  • Publication of his "Memoirs", which give insights into the circumstances of Gorbachev's rise to power and the failure of his attempts at democratization and liberalization.

  • June 16: incumbent Yeltsin wins the presidential elections. Gorbachev received just under 0.5% of the vote.

  • June: The "Club of Rome" awards Gorbachev the "Prize for Planetary Consciousness".

    August: In an interview, Gorbachev calls for a long-term, global peace policy and recommends the United Nations to set up an ecological security council.

    September: Gorbachev is appointed commander of the "Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" in Paris.

    December: Gorbachev announces that he will be promoting a US pizza. The fee should go to the Foundation for Politics, Economics and Social Research.

  • During a visit to Brandenburg, Gorbachev calls for a worldwide move away from the pursuit of hegemony.

  • March: Gorbachev criticizes the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO. The enlargement of NATO is humiliating for Russia.

    May: Gorbachev condemns NATO attacks on Yugoslavia.

    September 20: Gorbachev's wife Raissa Gorbacheva dies of blood cancer in Münster. Former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Bundestag President Wolfgang Thierse and the Chancellor's wife Doris Schröder-Köpf also take part in the funeral ceremonies. In the Russian press, Raissa Gorbacheva's death sparked a wave of sympathy and compassion for her family.

    November: Gorbachev is elected President of the new International Academy for Sustainable Developments and Technologies at the University of Karlsruhe.

    German publication of the book "How it was. The German reunification", in which Gorbachev defends himself against the accusation that he had "let himself be taken advantage of".

  • March 11th: Gorbachev founds the United Russian Social-Democratic Party in Moscow and is elected chairman by the delegates.

    Publication of the book "Über mein Land", a history of the Soviet Union from the October Revolution to its collapse.

  • July 17th: Gorbachev receives the Euronatur Foundation's environmental award. In his book "Manifesto for Earth" he formulates principles for an environmentally friendly, sustainable lifestyle and calls for a fair distribution of resources as a prerequisite for global peace.

  • Gorbachev sets up the Raissa Gorbachev Foundation in London, which is committed to helping children with cancer.

    June: Gorbachev and a business partner take over 49 percent of the newspaper "Novaya Gazeta", which became known for its investigative journalism in the Chechnya conflict.

  • October: Gorbachev takes part in the founding of the citizens' movement “Union of Social Democrats” (SSD) and becomes a member of its presidium. In previous years he had tried several times to return to active politics. His previously founded "Russian Social Democratic Party" (SDPR) was dissolved in July 2007 by the Russian Supreme Court.

  • October 31: At a festive event of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Berlin on the occasion of the anniversary of the German reunification, Gorbachev is present next to the former Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl and ex-US President George Bush. Federal President Horst Köhler paid tribute to them in his celebratory speech.

    November 9th: Gorbachev is a guest in Berlin at the “Festival of Freedom”, which is celebrated on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In addition to him, numerous other politicians, heads of state and government such as Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown and Hillary Rodham Clinton are present.


(iz) © Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany
Status: 08/18/2016
Text: CC BY NC SA 4.0

Recommended citation:
Zündorf, Irmgard: Biography Michail Gorbatschow, in: LeMO-Biografien, Lebendiges Museum Online, Foundation House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany,
URL: http://www.hdg.de/lemo/biografie/michail-gorbatschow.html
Last visited on May 21, 2021