The last leader of the Soviet Union who oversaw the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. His policy of perestroika ("restructuring") irrevocably changed the path of Russian history.
He worked with combine harvesters on huge farms as a teen.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for introducing the policy of Glasnost and the Harvey Prize in 1992, among several other honorary doctorates.
He married Raisa Titarenko in September 1953; the couple had only one daughter named Irina.
He formed close connections with various Western leaders, including U.S. President Ronald Reagan.