UK

In pictures: Mikhail Gorbachev – man who helped end Cold War was feted in the west

T

he death of Mikhail Gorbachev marks the end of an era and comes at a time of renewed tensions between East and West.

When he acceded to power in the then Soviet Union, the superpower was at loggerheads with the West and branded by then US president Ronald Reagan as the Evil Empire.

However, the media-friendly Mr Gorbachev surprised many with his smile and his desire to reform communism, with his buzzwords “glasnost” (openness) and “perestroika” (restructuring).

Then prime minister Margaret Thatcher chats to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa (Martin Keene/PA) / PA Archive
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev speaking outside 10 Downing Street (Martin Keene/PA) / PA Archive

Mr Gorbachev had raised eyebrows before taking the top job in Moscow when he visited the West and met fierce anti-communist Margaret Thatcher.

The British prime minister surprised many by striking up a strong rapport with the man from the East and famously declaring after meeting him that, despite their political differences, he was a man she could do business with.

He also built a strong relationship with Mr Reagan who toned down his rhetoric as the relationship blossomed.

Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife met Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis at Chequers (PA) / PA Archive
Margaret Thatcher giving enthusiastic applause for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at RAF Brize Norton (PA) / PA Archive
Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa wave goodbye at Heathrow Airport (Tim Ockenden/PA) / PA Archive

Feted in the West, not everyone in the USSR supported the reformist agenda and measures like a crackdown on vodka did not endear him while his wife Raisa’s penchant for wearing stylish clothes irked some in the less ostentatious communist era.

The Chernobyl disaster occurred on his watch but his willingness to reform, including agreeing to Mr Reagan’s demand to “tear down the wall” in Berlin endeared him to many.

Mikhail Gorbachev with then Irish premier Charles Haughey at Shannon Airport (PA) / PA Archive
Mikhail Gorbachev is welcomed by John Major (Jim James/PA) / PA Archive
John Major stands on the terrace of Lancaster House with members of the G7, including Mikhail Gorbachev and US President George Bush (David Giles/PA) / PA Archive

A failed coup revealed his vulnerability but by the time he returned to Moscow he had already been replaced in the popularity stakes by Boris Yeltsin who had rallied opposition to the plotters while Mr Gorbachev was isolated in the Crimea.

The USSR splintered into 15 nations as Mr Gorbachev’s time in charged ended, and the red flag with the hammer and sickle was lowered for the the final time at the Kremlin to be replaced by the banner of the Russian Federation.

G7 leaders pose for a photograph at 10 Downing Street (Rebecca Naden/AP) / PA Archive
Mikhail Gorbachev presents Lady Thatcher with glass bowl at a meeting in October 2005 (Michael Stephens/PA) / PA Archive

Related Articles

Back to top button