• Born 1931 into a peasant family
• Studied law at Moscow University in the 1950s
• Worked as a local Communist Party official in his home area
• By 1978 he was a member of the Central Committee of the party and was in charge of agriculture
• In 1980 he joined the Politburo
• He was a close friend of Andropov, who was the Soviet leader in 1983, and shared many ideas about reforming the USSR. It was during this time Gorbachev was effectively second in command and the second most powerful man in USSR with a brief covering the whole economy
• Gorbachev soon became President of the USSR in 1988.
• Gorbachev's reforms revolved around the restructuring (perestroika) of the economy and increased freedom of expression (glasnost) in political and cultural affairs. He did not follow a precise blueprint in either area and it is debatable how far his policies were forced upon him by the economic crisis and growth of national unrest within the Soviet Union, which worsened with each year of his rule. He was unwilling to remove the clause of the constitution guaranteeing the "leading role" of the Communist Party, but after 1988 undermined its power by allowing partially free elections to the legislatures in the union republics and to the Congress of People's Deputies and by augmenting the power of the presidency. This did nothing to prevent the growing self-assertiveness of the Russian (as distinct from) the Soviet Communist Party. By 1990 Gorbachev's hold on power was shaky and he was unable to satisfy the demands of conservative Communists demanding the maintenance of the Soviet Union and the party-state and of the nationalists in the republics at a time when the economy was breaking down. In August 1991, Gorbachev's opponents within the leadership staged a coup to save the union, placing him under house arrest. However, they surrendered three days later, having failed to win the support of either the people or the army.
• On his...