Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachov, first and last President of the USSR, was born March 2, 1931, Privolnoye, Krasnogvardeisk region, Stavropol territory, USSR.
The son of Russian peasants, Mikhail Gorbachev joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) in 1946. As a student of the Moscow State University he became a member of the Communist Party in 1952. After the graduation he went on to hold a number of posts in the Komsomol and regular party organizations in Stavropol. In 1962-1966 he worked in the Stavropol territorial party committee, in Sep. 1966 - Aug. 1968 as first secretary of the Stavropol municipal party organization and finally became first secretary (Aug. 1968 - April 1970, second) of the territorial party committee in April 1970. Gorbachev was named a full member (1971-1991) of the Central Committee by the 24th party congress in 1971, and he was appointed a secretary (Nov. 27, 1978 - March 11, 1985) of the Central Committee in 1978. The patronage of long-time party ideologue Mikhail Suslov provided Gorbachev with the top leadership support and he was elected a candidate member (Nov. 27, 1979 - Oct. 21, 1980) of the Politburo and attained full membership (Oct. 21, 1980 - Aug. 24, 1991) in less than one year.
Gorbachev was very active in the Politburo and the Secretariat during the tenure of Yury Andropov and became a probable successor to Konstantin Chernenko. On March 11, 1985, the Central Committee elected Mikhail Gorbachev General Secretary (March 11, 1985 - Aug. 24, 1991) on place of the late Chernenko. At first, Gorbachev faced the challenge to change the stagnant Soviet economy, but very soon he realized that it would be impossible without changing the political and social structure of the Soviet Union. He proceeded with new policies of glasnost and perestroika to democratize the Soviet society and made steps to improve relationship with capitalist countries by signing disarmament treaties with the United States and withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. In 1988 Gorbachev reshuffled the Politburo and insisted on resignation of many old party functionaries. He was elected chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on Oct. 1, 1988, and became titular head of the Soviet state. Under changes made to the constitution, the 1st Congress of People's Deputies elected Gorbachev chairman of the Supreme Soviet (May 25, 1989). However, this political change was not sufficient to continue the reforms. The Communist Party was losing the power and the government in Moscow faced civil unrest in constituent republics. The political situation required serious changes and the new post of president of the USSR was created by the Congress of People's Deputies on March 14, 1990.
The Congress elected Gorbachev first President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on March 15, 1990. At the same time, the Congress abolished the Communist Party's constitutionally guaranteed monopoly of political power, but Gorbachev's attempts to expand his powers as head of state returned no results and led to decline of his government's authority. While the Soviet economy was in a state of total collapse, the public outrage turned against the president. One by one, the constituent republics proclaimed their sovereignty and the Union was falling apart. In attempt to save the nation and party authority, the Communist hard-liners staged an ill-conceived coup and placed Gorbachev under house arrest (Aug. 18-21, 1991) at his dacha in Foros, Crimea. The coup failure allowed Gorbachev to resume his presidential duties on Aug. 21, 1991, but his position was significantly weakened. Gorbachev resigned the post of General Secretary and quit the Communist Party on Aug. 24, 1991, but the government of the Russian SFSR under Boris Yeltsin assumed the functions of the collapsing Soviet Union.
The representatives of Russia, Ukraine, and Belorussia on Dec. 8, 1991, declared that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist and founded an association of sovereign states, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). On Dec. 21, 1991, 11 states signed a protocol formally establishing the CIS. Becoming a president without a country, Gorbachev formally announced his resignation in his televised address to the nation on Dec. 25, 1991.