By autumn of 1988, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev had been in power for three riveting years as general secretary of the Communist Party. He had taken his country and the world by storm since his elevation to the Soviet Union's leadership ranks. Open, ebullient, reform-minded, and charismatic, Gorbachev had brought a new and refreshing style, as well as hope, to a people whose economy and self-confidence had deteriorated. Across the rest of the globe, particularly in a still divided Europe, “Gorby," as the press called him, was a rock star. Here was a Soviet leader who, more than anyone else on either side of the Cold War, had contributed to its thaw. Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan had signed a landmark arms treaty and even dared to discuss at the Reykjavik Summit their mutual dream of a world without nuclear weapons. Gorbachev had also relaxed his nation's longstanding iron control of its East European satellite states, resolving to let them find their own way to reform free of the threat of Soviet invasion. Gorbachev was one of the world's most captivating figures as George H.W. Bush prepared to succeed Reagan as president.


Burns, Nicholas. "Gorbachev: a Tragic Hero." Review of Gorbachev: His Life and Times, ed. William Taubman. Boston Globe, September 21, 2017.