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Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev dies at 91

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Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the Soviet Union before it dissolved, died in Moscow at the age of 92, officials said Tuesday. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/259d03eb3ddeb10627e7319c64770d10/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Mikhail Gorbachev, the final president of the Soviet Union before it dissolved, died in Moscow at the age of 92, officials said Tuesday. File Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Mikhail Gorbachev, the president of the former Soviet Union, has died. He was 91 years old.

Gorbachev, who was the final president of the Soviet Union before it dissolved, died in Moscow, the Central Clinical Hospital said, according to state-owned Russian news agency TASS and CNN.

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"Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev died this evening after a severe and prolonged illness," the hospital said.

Gorbachev became the secretary general of the Communist Party's Central Committee in 1985 and was elected as president of the Soviet Union in March 1990 and resigned on December 25, 1991, before it dissolved.

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His rule was marked by the concepts of perestroika and glasnost, meaning reform and openness.

"I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens," he said.

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Gorbachev was born into a peasant family near Stavropol on March 2, 1931.

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During his youth, he worked on a farm alongside his father who was a combine harvester operator while also carrying out his studies.

He graduated from the Department of Law of the Moscow State University in 1955 and received a second education from Stavropol Agricultural Institute in 1967.

In 1952, Gorbachev became a member of the Communist Party and served as head of the agriculture department for the Stavropol region in the early 1960s.

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By the end of the decade, he drew the attention of Mikhail Suslov and Yuri Andropov, members of the Politburo, the policy-setting body of the Soviet Union's Communist Party, who helped him get elected to the Central Committee in 1971.

He returned to Moscow in 1978 and was chosen as a candidate member of the Politburo in 1979 before rising to secretary general by the mid-1980s.

In 1986, Gorbachev proposed that both the United States and Soviet Union eliminate all of their long-range missiles during a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

The talks ultimately resulted in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which was signed in 1987 and helped usher in an end to the Cold War.

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He was awarded the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community."

However, a year later, hard-line members of the Soviet Union sought to stage a revolt as Gorbachev vacationed in Crimea.

Despite support from Russian President Boris Yelstin, multiple republics within the USSR began declaring independence and Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president on Christmas day.

"The country received freedom, was liberated politically and spiritually and that was the most important achievement," he said.

After stepping down as president, Gorbachev served as head of the Social Democratic Party of Russia from 2001 to 2004 and in 2007 headed the Union of Social Democrats, which formed to oppose the Independent Democratic Party of Russia.

In the decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev remained an outspoken champion for nuclear disarmament and environmental issues.

In 2019, he told CNN that the United States and Russia must work to avoid a "New Cold War."

"This might turn out to be a hot war that could mean the destruction of our entire civilization. This must not be allowed," he said.

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NFL player turned actor Brad William Henke at the SAG Awards in 2018. Henke, who was best known for portraying corrections officer Desi Piscatella on "Orange is the New Black," died at the age of 56 on November 29. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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