Mikhail Gorbachev had ‘huge impact on course of world history’, says Putin in tribute

·2-min read
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, talks with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, talks with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)

Vladimir Putin belatedly issued a tribute to former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev hailing his predecessor as altering the course of world history by bringing an end to the Cold War.

Gorbachev died Tuesday at a Moscow hospital at 91 after a long illness, a statement from the Central Clinical Hospital said. No other details were given.

In six heady years between 1985 and 1991, he forged arms treaties with the United States, and partnerships with Western powers to remove the Iron Curtain that had divided Europe since World War Two and bring about the reunification of Germany.

But his internal reforms, combining economic and political liberalisation, helped weaken the Soviet Union (USSR) to the point where it fell apart - a moment that President Vladimir Putin once called the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

Mikhail Gorbachev - In pictures

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (AP)
Boris Johnson (Getty Images)
Boris Johnson (Getty Images)
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is greeted by the Queen at the entrance to Windsor Castle (PA Archive)
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is greeted by the Queen at the entrance to Windsor Castle (PA Archive)
Mikhail Gorbachev with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 (AP)
Mikhail Gorbachev with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 (AP)
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa (AP)
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa (AP)
Then US President Ronald Reagan talks with Mikhail Gorbachev before a summit at the White House (AP)
Then US President Ronald Reagan talks with Mikhail Gorbachev before a summit at the White House (AP)
Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged a young British boy to live a ‘life that makes a difference’ as he told him that ‘the success you take will ultimately be equal to what you put in’ (Chris Radburn/PA) (PA Wire)
Mikhail Gorbachev encouraged a young British boy to live a ‘life that makes a difference’ as he told him that ‘the success you take will ultimately be equal to what you put in’ (Chris Radburn/PA) (PA Wire)
Mikhail Gorbachev is welcomed by John Major (PA Archive)
Mikhail Gorbachev is welcomed by John Major (PA Archive)
erman Chancellor Merkel and former Soviet leader Gobachev visit photo exhibition marking Gorbachev’s 80th birthday at the Kennedy museum in Berlin (REUTERS)
erman Chancellor Merkel and former Soviet leader Gobachev visit photo exhibition marking Gorbachev’s 80th birthday at the Kennedy museum in Berlin (REUTERS)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the ‘courage and integrity’ of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Martin Keene/PA) (PA Archive)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to the ‘courage and integrity’ of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Martin Keene/PA) (PA Archive)
The G7 leaders pose for a photograph inside 10 Downing Street. Back row (l-r): Ruud Lubbers, Giulio Andreotti, Brian Mulroney, Helmut Kohl, Toshiki Kaifu and Jacques Delors. Front: Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Mitterrand, John Major and George Bush (Rebecca Naden/PA) (PA)
The G7 leaders pose for a photograph inside 10 Downing Street. Back row (l-r): Ruud Lubbers, Giulio Andreotti, Brian Mulroney, Helmut Kohl, Toshiki Kaifu and Jacques Delors. Front: Mikhail Gorbachev, Francois Mitterrand, John Major and George Bush (Rebecca Naden/PA) (PA)

It took Putin more than 15 hours to publish the text of a condolence telegram in which he said Gorbachev had had a “huge impact on the course of world history” and “deeply understood that reforms were necessary” to tackle the problems of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

“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 a 1992 interview 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 said.

Russians blamed him for the 1991 implosion of the Soviet Union — a once-fearsome superpower whose territory fractured into 15 separate nations.

His run for president in 1996 was a national joke, and he polled less than 1 percent of the vote. In 1997, he resorted to making a TV ad for Pizza Hut to earn money for his charitable foundation.

His former allies deserted him and made him a scapegoat for the country’s troubles.

“In the ad, he should take a pizza, divide it into 15 slices like he divided up our country, and then show how to put it back together again,” quipped Anatoly Lukyanov, a one-time Gorbachev supporter.