Here are key dates in the life of ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

– March 2, 1931: He is born into a peasant family in the village of Privolnoye in the southern Stavropol region.

– 1946: Starts working as an operator of a combine harvester on a collective farm.

– 1952: Joins the ruling Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made up of several socialist republics.

– 1953: Marries Raisa Titarenko whom he met at university while studying law. They will have a daughter, Irina, in 1957. Raisa dies in 1999 from leukaemia.

– 1985-1991: He leads the Soviet Union as general secretary of the Communist Party and as president when the post is introduced in 1990.

– October 1985: Presents a modernising economic reform plan known as perestroika.

– 1987: He and the US president, Ronald Reagan, sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty on slashing their nuclear arsenals, ending a superpower build-up of warheads.

– 1988-1989: Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan, defeated after a 10-year campaign.

– 1990: Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for reforms leading to the end of the Cold War between Eastern and Western blocs.

– August 1991: Hardline communists carry out a failed coup while Gorbachev is on holiday in Crimea. A series of Soviet republics begin declaring independence.

– December 1991: After the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine conclude that the Soviet Union no longer exists and sign accords for its dissolution, Gorbachev resigns.

– 1996: He stands as an independent in presidential polls but takes only 0.5 percent, Boris Yeltsin winning the election.


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