He is the man so often credited with changing the course of history in the Soviet Union and on Wednesday Mikhail Gorbachev celebrated his 80th birthday. Russian President Dimitry Medvedev awarded him the country’s highest honour - the Order of St Andrew.
It is nearly 20 years since the Soviet Union collapsed under Gorbachev’s leadership and during that time he has kept a low profile. On his birthday he spoke out about politics, advising Vladimir Putin not to return to the presidency next year.
“He probably won’t stand again. He served two terms and this is enough, and it’s true that he left after completing the two terms, he did the right thing,“ Gorbachev said.
He also commented on the wave of uprisings in the Middle East: “People must be given the chance to be allowed to influence and be given some control over politics and governance. I would like very much for Arabs and Muslims to get involved in the global process of creating a better world,in cooperation and to become a part of the fight against terrorism.”
Mikhail Gorbachev’s rise through the party started at an early age. He received a state award from Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev at the age of just 23.
It was 31 years later that he took the helm of the Communist Party laying the course for democracy and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Yet many Russians blame him for the economic meltdown and a recent opinion poll suggested that 52 percent believe he did the country more harm than good.