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Mikhail Gorbachev, last Soviet leader, turns 90 in quarantine

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. Copyright AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
Copyright AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko
By Euronews
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Gorbachev, who is widely credited with ending the Cold War, was very popular in the West, but a much more polarising figure within Russia.

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Mikhail Gorbachev, who tried to reform the Soviet Union in its final years, marked his 90th birthday in quarantine on Tuesday.

The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner has been self-isolating to protect himself throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and like the rest of us he is "tired" of coronavirus restrictions, Vladimir Polyakov, spokesman for the Gorbachev Foundation, told AFP.

Gorbachev presided over the Soviet Union during its collapse in 1991. He is best known for his efforts to modernise the Soviet economy and make its political system more transparent.

He championed arms control in the late 1980s and has been widely credited with helping end the Cold War alongside former US president Ronald Reagan.

Gorbachev’s democratic reforms brought a wind of change and a taste of freedom to the Soviet Bloc, from Berlin to Vladivostok.

"The fact that we are here and talking freely: that’s the biggest legacy," says János Zolcer, a friend of the ex-leader who wrote a book about him.

"Thirty years back, he practically gave freedom to the Soviet Union and the peoples of Eastern Europe."

But while Gorbachev was very popular in the West, his economic reforms failed to improve the lives of many people in the Soviet Union.

"Each family has its own record of what happened with their wellbeing due to these radical reforms within the country," says Mikhail Lipkin, director of the Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Watch Angela Barnes’ report on Gorbachev’s legacy in the video player above.

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