The Reagan Era
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-) was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, leading the USSR from 1985 until its collapse in 1991. As General Secretary, he sought to reform Soviet Communism through his new policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (economic restructuring), which granted citizens more political and economic freedoms than previously allowed. In 1989 Gorbachev allowed the Soviet satellite nations of Eastern Europe to peacefully overthrow their Communist governments, effectively ending the Cold War. The reforms Gorbachev unleashed eventually led—against Gorbachev's wishes—to the collapse of the Soviet Union and Gorbachev's own ouster from power. Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
During the 1980s, Gorbachev met several times in summit meetings with American President Ronald Reagan. The two leaders quickly forged a strong bond and even friendship, staking out a series of agreements on nuclear arms control. In 1992, former President Reagan personally bestowed the first annual Ronald Reagan Freedom Award upon Gorbachev in California.