The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev
- Born:2 March 1931, Privolnoye, USSR
- Residence at the time of the award:USSR
- Role:President of USSR
- Field:Negotiation, world organizing, arms control and disarmament
- Prize motivation: "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community".
  • 1931: March 2, born, Privolnoye, Krasnogvardeisky District, Stavropol territory in the North Caucasus, to a peasant family in a small village, his father an agricultural mechanic on a collective farm.
  • 1942: German army occupies the Privolnoye area.
  • 1945: Begins work as assistant to combine harvest operator.
  • 1949: Awarded Order of Red Banner of Labour.
  • 1950: Enrolled in Faculty of Law, Moscow University.
  • 1952: After having been a member of Komsomol (Communist Youth Organisation), now joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
  • 1955: Marries Raisa Maximovna Titorenko, philosophy student. Receives degree in law.
  • 1955-60: Appointed First Secretary, Komsomol Territorial Committee, then moves up to higher posts, finally becoming top Komsomol official in Stavropol.
  • 1956: His Daughter Irina born.
  • 1961: Delegate from Stavropol to 22nd Communist Party Congress in Moscow.
  • 1962: Appointed to key position in Stavropol Communist Party, responsible for personnel in administration, farms and industry.
  • 1964-67: Studies for second degree at Stavropol Agricultural Institute.
  • 1970: Appointed First Secretary for Stavropol territory, governing an area of 2.4 million people.
  • 1971: Member CPSU Central Committee.
  • 1978: Moves to Moscow as Secretary of Agriculture in Central Committee.
  • 1980: Becomes youngest full member of Politburo.
  • 1985: March, Elected by Central Committee as General Secretary of CPSU.
  • 1989: Elected by new parliament as Executive President of Soviet Union.
  • 1991: August, abortive coup of hardliners, resigns as General Secretary of CPSU, dissolves Central Committee.
  • 1991: December 25, resigns as President when Soviet Union disintegrates.
  • 1992: Head of Foundation for Social, Economic and Political Research, think-tank founded after August coup.
  • 4 May 1992: Gorbachev was awarded the first ever Ronald Reagan Freedom Award at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
  • 1993: Gorbachev was awarded a Legum Doctor, honoris causa from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. He was also given an honorary degree from The University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
  • 1994: Recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for improving world order, awarded by the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • 1995: Gorbachev received an Honorary Doctorate from Durham University, County Durham, England for his contribution to "the cause of political tolerance and an end to Cold War-style confrontation".
  • 20 October 1996: For his historic role in the evolution of glasnost, and for his leadership in the disarmament negotiations with the United States during the Reagan administration, Gorbachev was awarded the Courage of Conscience award. 
  • 2002: Gorbachev received an honorary degree of a Doctor in Laws (LL.D.) "in recognition of his political service and contribution to peace" from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
  • 2004: Gorbachev, together with Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren, were awarded the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for their recording of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf.
  • 2005: Gorbachev was awarded the Point Alpha Prize for his role in supporting German reunification. He also received an honorary doctorate from the University of Münster.
  • 2010: Gorbachev received the first ever Dresden award for nuclear disarmament.



Gorbachev initiated his new policy of perestroika  and its attendant radical reforms in 1986; they were sketched, but not fully spelled out, at the XXVIIth Party Congress in February–March 1986. The new policy of "reconstruction" was introduced in an attempt to overcome the economic stagnation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress.

According to Gorbachev, perestroika was the "conference of development of democracy, socialist self-government, encouragement of initiative and creative endeavor, improved order and disciple[verification needed], more glasnost, criticism and self-criticism in all spheres of our society. It is utmost respect for the individual and consideration for personal dignity."

Domestic changes continued apace. In a bombshell speech during Armenian SSR's Central Committee Plenum of the Communist Party the young First Secretary of Armenia's Hrazdan Regional Communist Party, Hayk Kotanjian, criticised rampant corruption in the Armenian Communist Party's highest echelons, implicating Armenian SSR Communist Party First Secretary Karen Demirchyan and calling for his resignation. Symbolically, intellectual Andrei Sakharov was invited to return to Moscow by Gorbachev in December 1986 after six years of internal exile in Gorky. During the same month, however, signs of the nationalities problem that would haunt the later years of the Soviet Union surfaced as riots, named Jeltoqsan, occurred in Kazakhstan after Dinmukhamed Kunayev was replaced as First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan.

The Central Committee Plenum in January 1987 would see the crystallisation of Gorbachev's political reforms, including proposals for multi-candidate elections and the appointment of non-Party members to government positions. He also first raised the idea of expanding co-operatives at the plenum. Economic reforms took up much of the rest of 1987, as a new law giving enterprises more independence was passed in June and Gorbachev released a book, Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, in November, elucidating his main ideas for reform. In 1987 he rehabilitated many opponents of Joseph Stalin, another part of the De-Stalinization, which began in 1956, when Lenin's Testament was published.


1988 would see Gorbachev's introduction of glasnost, which gave new freedoms to the Soviet people, including greater freedom of speech. This was a radical change, as control of speech and suppression of government criticism had previously been a central part of the Soviet system. The press became far less controlled, and thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released. Gorbachev's goal in undertaking glasnost was to pressure conservatives within the CPSU who opposed his policies of economic restructuring, and he also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people would support his reform initiatives. At the same time, he opened himself and his reforms up for more public criticism, evident in Nina Andreyeva's critical letter in a March edition of Sovetskaya Rossiya. Gorbachev acknowledged that his liberalising policies of glasnost  and perestroika owed a great deal to Alexander Dubček's "Socialism with a human face".

The Law on Cooperatives enacted in May 1988 was perhaps the most radical of the economic reforms during the early part of the Gorbachev era. For the first time since Vladimir Lenin's New Economic Policy, the law permitted private ownership of businesses in the service, manufacturing, and foreign-trade sectors. The law initially imposed high taxes and employment restrictions, although these were ignored by some SSRs. Later the restrictions were revised to avoid discouraging private-sector activity. Under the provision for private ownership, cooperative restaurants, shops, and manufacturers became part of the Soviet scene. Under the new law, the restructuring of large 'All-Union' industrial organisations also began. Aeroflot, was split up eventually becoming several independent airlines. These newly autonomous business organisations were encouraged to seek foreign investment.

In June 1988, at the CPSU's Party Conference, Gorbachev launched radical reforms meant to reduce party control of the government apparatus. He proposed a new executive in the form of a presidential system, as well as a new legislative element, to be called the Congress of People's Deputies. Elections to the Congress of People's Deputies were held throughout the Soviet Union in March and April 1989. This was the first free election in the Soviet Union since 1917. Gorbachev became Chairman of the Supreme Soviet (or head of state) on 25 May 1989.

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