|Mikhail Gorbachev was born in a small village in southwestern Russia. He became a devoted follower of the Soviet system and attended Moscow State University in 1950. While in school he met Raisa Titarenko who he married in 1953. Gorbachev moved up rapidly through the Communist heirarchy until he became the leader of the Soviet Union in March of 1985.
Gorbachev recognized that the country faced many problems. He sought to retain the socialist economic structure of the country, while introducing reforms which he believed would revitalize the stagnating economy. Gorbachev's policies of glasnost(openness) and perestroika(economic reform) led eventually to the demise of the Soviet Union. Although it was not his intent, his new policies encouraged the 15 republics of the union to become more autonomous. They eventually sought independence and on December 25, 1991 Gorbachev resigned as President and the Soviet Union officially dissolved.
Although Gorbachev failed to improve the social and economic problems within the Soviet Union, he will be remembered as the man who ended the cold war.