the son of an agricultural mechanic on a collective farm, was born in
Privolnoye in the
on 2nd March, 1931. When he was a child Privolnoye was occupied by the
as a combine harvest operator before studying law at Moscow University.
While a student Gorbachev joined
(CPSU) and married Raisa Titorenko.
university Gorbachev became a full-time official with Komsomol (Communist
Youth Organization). In 1955 Gorbachev he was appointed first secretary of
the Komsomol Territorial Committee. Gorbachev made rapid progress and by
1960 he was the top Komsomol official in Stavropol. The following year he
was a delegate from Stavropol to the 22nd Communist Party Congress in Moscow.
for a second degree at the Stavropol Agricultural Institute (1964-67) and in
1970 was appointed First Secretary for Stavropol Territory. His work in this
Andropov, who was at that time the head of the
State Security (KGB). Andropov now used his considerable influence to
promote Gorbachev's career.
In 1971 Gorbachev
became a member of
Communist Party Central Committee. He later moved to Moscow where he
became the Secretary of Agriculture. In 1980 Gorbachev became the youngest
member of the
and within four years had become deputy to
On the death of
Chernenko in 1985 Gorbachev was elected by the Central Committee as General
Secretary of the
Communist Party. As party leader he immediately began forcing more
conservative members of the Central Committee to resign. He replaced them
with younger men who shared his vision of reform.
In 1985 Gorbachev
introduced a major campaign against corruption and alcoholism. He also spoke
about the need for
and this heralded a series of liberalizing economic, political and cultural
reforms which had the aim of making the Soviet economy more efficient.
introduced policies with the intention of establishing a market economy by
encouraging the private ownership of Soviet industry and agriculture.
However, the Soviet authoritarian structures ensured these reforms were
ineffective and there were shortages of goods available in shops.
announced changes to Soviet foreign policy. In 1987 he met with
and signed the Immediate Nuclear Forces (INF) abolition treaty. He also made
it clear he would no longer interfere in the domestic policies of other
countries in Eastern Europe and in 1989 announced the withdrawal of Soviet
forces from Afghanistan. The following year he was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize.
would not send in Soviet tanks
there were demonstrations against communist governments throughout Eastern
Europe. Over the next few months the communists were ousted from power in
attempts to make the Soviet Union a more democratic country made him
unpopular with conservatives still in positions of power. In August 1991 he
survived a coup staged by hard-liners in the
Gorbachev responds by dissolving the Central Committee. However, with the
Soviet Union disintegrating into separate states, Gorbachev resigned from
office on 25th December, 1995.
(1) Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika (1987)
Europe is indeed a
common home where geography and history have closely interwoven the
destinies of dozens of countries and nations. Of course, each of them has
its own problem, and each wants to live its own life, to follow its own
traditions. Therefore, developing the metaphor, one may say: the home is
common, that is true, but each family has its own apartment, and there are
different entrances too.
The concept of a 'common
European home' suggests above all a degree of integrity, even if its states
belong to different social systems and opposing military-political alliances.
One can mention a
number of objective circumstances which create the need for a pan-European
populated and highly urbanized, Europe bristles with weapons, both nuclear
and conventional. It would not be enough to call it a 'powder keg' today.
(2) Even a
conventional war, to say nothing of a nuclear one, would be disastrous for
(3) Europe is one
of the most industrialised regions of the world. Its industry and transport
have developed to the point where their danger to the environment is close
to being critical. This problem has crossed far beyond national borders, and
is now being shared by all of Europe.
processes are developing intensively in both parts of Europe. The
requirements of economic development in both parts of Europe, as well as
scientific and technological progress, prompt the search for some kind of
mutually advantageous cooperation. What I mean is not some kind of 'European
autarky', but better use of the aggregate potential of Europe for the
benefit of its peoples, and in relations with the rest of the world.
(5) The two parts
of Europe have a lot of their own problems of an East-West dimension, but
they also have a common interest in solving the extremely acute North-South
Our idea of a 'common
European home' certainly does not involve shutting its doors to anybody.
True, we would not like to see anyone kick in the doors of the European home
and take the head of the table at somebody else's apartment. But then, that
is the concern of the owner of the apartment. In the past, the Socialist
countries responded positively to the participation of the United States and
Canada in the Helsinki Process.
(2) Mikhail Gorbachev, Nobel Lecture (5th June,
Today, peace means
the ascent from simple coexistence to cooperation and common creativity
among countries and nations.
Peace is movement
towards globality and universality of civilization. Never before has the
idea that peace is indivisible been so true as it is now.
Peace is not unity
in similarity but unity in diversity, in the comparison and conciliation of
I consider the
decision of your Committee as a recognition of the great international
importance of the changes now under way in the Soviet Union, and as an
expression of confidence in our policy of new thinking, which is based on
the conviction that at the end of the twentieth century force and arms will
have to give way as a major instrument in world politics.
I see the decision
to award me the Nobel Peace Prize also as an act of solidarity with the
monumental undertaking which has already placed enormous demands on the
Soviet people in terms of efforts, costs, hardships, willpower, and
character. And solidarity is a universal value which is becoming
indispensable for progress and for the survival of humankind.
But a modern state
has to be worthy of solidarity, in other words, it should pursue, in both
domestic and international affairs, policies that bring together the
interests of its people and those of the world community. This task, however
obvious, is not a simple one. Life is much richer and more complex than even
the most perfect plans to make it better. It ultimately takes vengeance for
attempts to impose abstract schemes, even with the best of intentions.
Perestroika has made us understand this about our past, and the actual
experience of recent years has taught us to reckon with the most general
laws of civilization.
came later. But back in March-April 1985 we found ourselves facing a
crucial, and I confess, agonizing choice. When I agreed to assume the office
of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Central
Committee, in effect the highest State office at that time, I realized that
we could no longer live as before and that I would not want to remain in
that office unless I got support in undertaking major reforms. It was clear
to me that we had a long way to go. But of course, I could not imagine how
immense were our problems and difficulties. I believe no one at that time
could foresee or predict them.
Those who were
then governing the country knew what was really happening to it and what we
later called "zastoi", roughly translated as "stagnation". They saw that our
society was marking time, that it was running the risk of falling hopelessly
behind the technologically advanced part of the world. Total domination of
centrally-managed state property, the pervasive authoritarian-bureaucratic
system, ideology's grip on politics, monopoly in social thought and sciences,
militarized industries that siphoned off our best, including the best
intellectual resources, the unbearable burden of military expenditures that
suffocated civilian industries and undermined the social achievements of the
period since the Revolution which were real and of which we used to be proud
- such was the actual situation in the country.
As a result, one
of the richest countries in the world, endowed with immense overall
potential, was already sliding downwards. Our society was declining, both
economically and intellectually.
And yet, to a
casual observer the country seemed to present a picture of relative
well-being, stability and order. The misinformed society under the spell of
propaganda was hardly aware of what was going on and what the immediate
future had in store for it. The slightest manifestations of protest were
suppressed. Most people considered them heretical, slanderous and
Such was the
situation in the spring of 1985, and there was a great temptation to leave
things as they were, to make only cosmetic changes. This, however, meant
continuing to deceive ourselves and the people.
This was the
domestic aspect of the dilemma then before us. As for the foreign policy
aspect, there was the East-West confrontation, a rigid division into friends
and foes, the two hostile camps with a corresponding set of Cold War
attributes. Both the East and the West were constrained by the logic of
military confrontation, wearing themselves down more and more by the arms
The mere thought
of dismantling the existing structures did not come easily. However, the
realization that we faced inevitable disaster, both domestically and
internationally, gave us the strength to make a historic choice, which I
have never since regretted.
once again is returning our people to commonsense, has enabled us to open up
to the world, and has restored a normal relationship between the country's
internal development and its foreign policy. But all this takes a lot of
hard work. To a people which believed that its government's policies had
always been true to the cause of peace, we proposed what was in many ways a
different policy, which would genuinely serve the cause of peace, while
differing from the prevailing view of what it meant and particularly from
the established stereotypes as to how one should protect it. We proposed new
thinking in foreign policy.
Thus, we embarked
on a path of major changes which may turn out to be the most significant in
the twentieth century, for our country and for its peoples. But we also did
this for the entire world.
We want to be an
integral part of modern civilization, to live in harmony with mankind's
universal values, abide by the norms of international law, follow the "rules
of the game" in our economic relations with the outside world. We want to
share with all other peoples the burden of responsibility for the future of
our common house.
A period of
transition to a new quality in all spheres of society's life is accompanied
by painful phenomena. When we were initiating perestroika we failed to
properly assess and foresee everything. Our society turned out to be hard to
move off the ground, not ready for major changes which affect people's vital
interests and make them leave behind everything to which they bad become
accustomed over many years. In the beginning we imprudently generated great
expectations, without taking into account the fact that it takes time for
people to realize that all have to live and work differently, to stop
expecting that new life would be given from above.
now entered its most dramatic phase. Following the transformation of the
philosophy of perestroika into real policy, which began literally to explode
the old way of life, difficulties began to mount. Many took fright and
wanted to return to the past. It was not only those who used to hold the
levers of power in the administration, the army and various government
agencies and who bad to make room, but also many people whose interests and
way of life was put to a severe test and who, during the preceding decades,
had forgotten how to take the initiative