Mikhail Gorbachev, whose drive to transform the Soviet Union ended the Cold War but inadvertently helped bring about his own country’s collapse, has died, according to Russian news agencies. He was 91. The Tass, RIA Novosti, and Interfax agencies cited the Central Clinical Hospital, according to the Associated Press.
Gorbachev’s reign as the last Soviet premier from 1985 until 1991 was marked indelibly by two bywords: perestroika — literally “restructuring,” but implying reform — and glasnost, or “openness,” symbols of his intent to shake off the torpor caused by seven decades of authoritarian rule and staid central planning. Hoping to return the Communist Party to its roots in Vladimir Lenin’s October Revolution of 1917, Gorbachev opened up the Soviet political system to broader political participation, public scrutiny, and a re-examination of Josef Stalin’s legacy of mass imprisonment and murder, prompting years of national soul-searching.