1990 – Mikhail Gorbachev, helped end the Cold War

Mikhail Gorbachev worked his way up in the Communist Party to become President of the Soviet Union in 1990. His programs of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring of the economic and political systems) helped to dismantle the Soviet Union, and changed the face of the world.

As President, in addition to instituting his policies of reform, Gorbachev began to argue in favor of an end to the arms race with the West, negotiating with President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher toward a mutual “stepping down” of nuclear weapons.

In August 1991 hardliners in the Communist government staged a coup and kidnapped Gorbachev and his wife Raisa. The coup failed when it gained no support from the military, and was opposed by hundreds of thousands of Russians in internationally broadcast protests from Red Square.

After his release, Gorbachev dissolved the Central Comittee of the Communist Party, of which he was President, and resigned as president of the Soviet Union he had helped to topple.

Today, he serves as President of the Gorbachev Foundation and of Green Cross International, where he works to create a sustainable future.

photo by Peter Badge