Twenty-five years ago Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev delivered the coup de grace to the ailing Communist empire, which covered some one-sixth of the Earth's landmass. His reforms hastened the decline as surely as his dissolution of the venerable body on Dec 25, 1991.
A Russian poll reported by Newsweek Magazine in Apr 2016 revealed that over half of Russians regret the collapse of the Soviet Union and believe it was avoidable. The number has been as high in the past as 75 per cent. Russian President Vladimir Putin's views of the breakup 25 years after the event - if he mentions it at all on the anniversary - will be weighed to see if his views have changed. Russia Today reports that in Apr 2005, he called the collapse of the USSR "the major geopolitical disaster of the [last] century" in a public address to the Russian parliament. In Sep 2016 he complained that it should have been reformed, not destroyed.
As his last act in office, Gorbachev resigned as president. His actions won him popularity in the West, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for introducing the reforms - perestroika (economic restructuring) and glasnost (openness). The fall of the Berlin Wall and Czechoslovakia's "velvet revolution," which overthrew that country's Communist government, also contributed to the decline of the Soviet Union.
Now 85, Gorbachev speaks and writes on history, politics and international affairs. He survived a coup attempt in Aug 1991. His latest book, Gorbachev in Life, is a collection of memoirs, letters and articles.
The Soviet state was born in 1917, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica's history of the vast empire. That year, the revolutionary Bolsheviks overthrew the Russian tsar and established a socialist state in the territory that had once belonged to the Russian empire.
Date written/update: 2016-06-16