Mikhail Gorbachev, Who Helped End Cold War, Dies at Age 91

Lauded in the West as the man who helped bring down the Berlin Wall and end the Cold War without bloodshed, Mikhail Gorbachev was widely despised at home as the gravedigger of the communist Soviet Union.

The former Soviet president, who died on Tuesday aged 91, set out to revitalize the sclerotic Communist system through democratic and economic reform; it was never his intention to abolish it.

But he unleashed forces beyond his control, and found himself occupying a shrinking middle ground between diehards intent on preserving centralized power and separatists set on dismantling it.

In August 1991 he survived a shambolic coup by hardliners that fell apart after three days – but his authority had been fatally undermined. Four months later his great rival, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, engineered the break-up of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev found himself out of a job.

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