Russian news outlets announced on Tuesday that Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the Soviet Union, has passed away in Moscow at the age of 91.
Interfax, TASS, and RIA Novosti cited the Central Clinical Hospital in Moscow as saying, “Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev died this evening after a terrible and long illness.”
The final living leader of the Cold War, Gorbachev served as president from 1985 to 1991 and was instrumental in thawing icy relations between the US and the Soviet Union.
He has spent a large portion of the last 20 years on the political periphery, occasionally urging the White House and the Kremlin to patch things up as hostilities have reached Cold War heights ever since Russia took Crimea in 2014 and started an offensive in Ukraine early this year.
Gorbachev’s health became more precarious in his latter years, and he spent much of the epidemic in self-quarantine to protect himself from the coronavirus.
In the West, Gorbachev was well-liked and affectionately known by the nickname Gorby. He is best remembered for easing nuclear tensions between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980s and releasing Eastern Europe from the Iron Curtain.
When the Berlin Wall fell a year earlier, his decision to restrain the Soviet army was viewed as essential to maintaining Cold War calm. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for negotiating a historic nuclear armaments accord with US President Ronald Reagan.
He was also praised in the West for initiating changes that led to increased transparency and public discourse and accelerated the dissolution of the Soviet empire.