The passing of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union and for many the man who restored democracy to then-communist-ruled European nations, was mourned on Wednesday as the loss of a rare leader who changed the world and for a time gave hope for peace among the superpowers.
Gorbachev, who died on Tuesday at the age of 91 after a long illness, had won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the Cold War.
But he was also reviled by many countrymen who blamed him for the 1991 implosion of the Soviet Union and its diminution as a superpower. The Russian nation that emerged from its Soviet past shrank in size as 15 new nations were created.
World leaders paid tribute to a man some described as a great and brave leader.
Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that “in a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all”.
French President Emmanuel Macron described Gorbachev as “a man of peace whose choices opened up a path of liberty for Russians. His commitment to peace in Europe changed our shared history.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called him “a one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history” and “did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War”.
Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a tweet that “his life was consequential because, without him and his courage, it would not have been possible to end the Cold War peacefully”.
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida noted Gorbachev’s important role in the reduction of nuclear weapons held by the Soviet Union and the US, saying he had made “great achievements”.