Gorbachev and his wife were also known for a stylish charm at odds with the images of their predecessors. The Daily Mail dubbed them “the Gucci couple.”
When pro-democracy rallies began in Poland and swept across the Soviet bloc in 1989, Gorbachev did not send in Soviet tanks to crush the uprisings. The following year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the Cold War.
The Soviet Union quickly began to disintegrate as the captive Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia peeled away and other nations that had long been under Moscow’s yoke, including Ukraine, sought independence.
Months after an attempted coup, Gorbachev resigned on Dec. 25, 1991. The Soviet Union was dissolved a day later.
“I see myself as a man who started the reforms that were necessary for the country and for Europe and the world,” Gorbachev told The Associated Press in 1992 shortly after he left office.
“I am often asked, would I have started it all again if I had to repeat it? Yes, indeed. And with more persistence and determination,” he told the AP.