Russian news agency Tass announced the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, aged 91. The last president of the Soviet Union, which ended the Cold War, died in hospital, according to the same source. So far, no further details have been given.
Mikahil Gorbachev received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War between West and East following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The legacy of Gorbachev, who became general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party in 1985, was cemented in the implementation of some economic freedoms — “Perestroika” — and political freedoms — “Glasnost”.
By granting some forms of freedom of expression, the leader sought to update Soviet policy, but the measure also allowed for hitherto unthinkable criticism of the regime and enabled the growth of nationalist movements in republics such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, among others.
When pro-democracy protest movements began to rage across the Soviet Union, Gorbachev chose not to repress them violently — as had happened in the uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.
The contestation brought about the disintegration of the Soviet Union, despite Gorbachev’s attempts to contain it. An attempt at a coup d’état in August 1991 removed room for political maneuver and, unable to contain the successive declarations of independence that were being proclaimed by the territory, he ended up resigning on December 25, 1991.
Gorbachev would later admit that he did not use armed force against independence movements for fear of wreaking havoc on a nuclear power. “The country was full of weapons. And it could have immediately driven us into civil war,” he told the Associated Press, 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Many changes, including the Soviet dissolution, bore no resemblance to the transformation Gorbachev had envisioned when he became Soviet leader in March 1985.
However, the former Soviet leader may have had a greater impact in the second half of the 20th century than any other political figure.
“I see myself as a man who initiated the necessary reforms for the country, for Europe and for the world,” he told the AP in a 1992 interview shortly after leaving office.
“I am often asked if I would have started all over again if I had to do it again. Yes indeed. And with more persistence and determination,” she explained.
Despite being recognized in the West as an important figure for freedom, receiving multiple decorations and honors in the years that followed, Gorbachev was regarded as a “non-grata persona” in Russia. His allies abandoned him and he was seen as the scapegoat for the economic and political problems that would mark the country in the 1990s.
Tass reported that the former head of state will be buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow, next to his wife.
Portuguese react to Gorbachev’s death
The President of the Assembly of the Republic, Augusto Santos Silva, remembered Mikhail Gorbachev, who died today at the age of 91, as an essential figure for the end of the Cold War and for the democratic transition in Eastern Europe.
“At the time of his death, I pay tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev. He was essential for the end of the Cold War and for the democratic transition in Eastern Europe”, underlined Augusto Santos Silva, through the social network Twitter.
PSD MEP Paulo Rangel also identified Mikhail Gorbachev as a “controversial political protagonist, but who was able to ‘put an end’ to one of the most disastrous regimes in history”.
Former PSD president Rui Rio, on the other hand, stressed that Gorbachev will go down in history, stressing that “the western world must be eternally grateful” to the former leader of the Soviet Union for “the work for dialogue and peace”.
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