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Gorbachev, Mikhail (1931–)

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV is appreciated as one of the most distinguished and controversial leaders of the last quarter of the 20th century. He headed the Soviet Union (USSR) as the Communist Party general secretary beginning on March 11, 1985, and his policy brought an end to the 70-year experiment in constructing a social alternative to capitalism. The failure occurred at the time when “real socialism” seemed to achieve the greatest success and needed just more propulsion. In spite of lower living standards than in the West, the USSR was remarkable for impressive social guarantees and stability. The country that declared worldwide victory of communism as an official goal had a large zone of influence in East-Central Europe, Asia, and Africa and enjoyed military parity with the ...

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