Hello I’m Milo for About.com and today we’re talking about Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was born on March 2nd 1931 in the Russian region of Stavropol to a family of peasant farmers. At 14, Gorbachev joined the youth wing of the Communist party, the Komsomol. He was a gifted student and gained a law degree at Moscow State University. While there, he met and later married fellow student Raisa Titorenko. The couple had one child, a daughter named Irina. During his time at university, Gorbachev enrolled in the Communist party. On finishing his studies, he returned with his wife to Stavropol where he took a job with the Komsomol.Within just a few years he had become the Komsomol's regional secretary and also climbed the hierarchy within the Communist party. In 1971 he was appointed to the party's Central Committee and then in 1980 he became the youngest full member of the Politburo and trusted colleague of the soon-to-be Soviet leader, Yuri Andropov. When Andropov died in February 1984, after just 15 months in office, many thought that Gorbachev's moment had arrived, but the party instead chose Konstantin Chernenko as leader. Again, his tenure was short, as he too died early into his mandate. Encouraged by the need to appoint a younger leader, it was at this point that Gorbachev was named General Secretary and became a figure on the world stage. Gorbachev's leadership ushered in a new era of reform. Many freedoms previously denied to citizens began to be tolerated, including limited criticism. The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was ended and two words which will forever be associated with Gorbachev entered western vocabulary. The first was "Glasnost," meaning "openness;" the second was "Perestroika" which represented "economic reform."One of most visible areas of Gorbachev's leadership was in his relationship with the United States, most notably in the agreements to reduce their nuclear arsenals. For his foreign policy initiatives, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. By 1989, calls for democracy in Eastern Europe had become uncontainable, and without the promise of Soviet military backing, their regimes fell in rapid succession. Tensions within the Soviet Union led to an unsuccessful coup attempt in August 1991. However, the internal pressures led Gorbachev to resign as President on Christmas day 1991, and the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist the following day. Since leaving office, despite his much lower profile, Gorbachev remains in the public eye and has even attempted a return to frontline politics. Although unsuccessful, he remains without doubt one of the most important world leaders of the 20th Century. For more excellent, insightful, and interesting information on the 20th Century, check us out at About.com.