(CNN)The death of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, known for his pivotal role in ending the Cold War and introducing key reforms to the USSR, has prompted an outpouring of condolences and tributes from world leaders.

Gorbachev died age 91 on Tuesday following a long illness, according to Russian state news agencies. He was the final leader of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 until its collapse in 1991.Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences and sent a message to Gorbachev’s family and friends on Wednesday.In an official letter published on the Kremlin’s website, Putin expressed his “deepest condolences” to Gorbachev’s relatives and friends, saying the former Soviet leader “had a huge impact on the course of world history.”He said Gorbachev led “our country during a period of complex, dramatic changes, large-scale foreign policy, and economic and social challenges,” adding that “he deeply understood that reforms were necessary.”Read More”I will especially note the great humanitarian, charitable, and educational activities that Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev has been conducting in recent years.”The two leaders were often ideologically opposed, with Putin, who served in the KGB security agency during Gorbachev’s time in office, referring to the demise of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the twentieth century during a 2005 speech. Earlier this year, the Gorbachev Foundation, a research institute set up by the former leader to promote “democratic values,” issued a statement two days after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine calling for “an early cessation of hostilities and (the) immediate start of peace negotiations.” “There is nothing more precious in the world than human lives,” the statement said.European leaders, meanwhile, praised Gorbachev’s legacy, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling the former Soviet leader “a man of peace whose choices opened a path to freedom for Russians.” “His commitment to peace in Europe changed our common history,” Macron said. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised Gorbachev’s “historic reforms” on Wednesday, saying they “opened the possibility to a partnership between Russia and NATO.”Mikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president who took down the Iron Curtain, diesMikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president who took down the Iron Curtain, diesMikhail Gorbachev, former Soviet president who took down the Iron Curtain, diesGerman Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: “We will never forget that perestroika (restructuring) made possible that Russia could try to establish democracy and that democracy and freedom became possible in Europe, that Germany could be united, that the Iron Curtain disappeared.”Scholz added that Gorbachev died during a time when “not only the democracy in Russia has failed … but also Russia and the Russian President Putin draws new trenches in Europe.”Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said in a statement: “His desire for peace and his opposition to an imperialist vision of Russia earned him the Nobel Prize. These are timely messages in the face of the tragedy of Ukraine’s invasion.”Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said on Twitter that Gorbachev had “opened the way for a free Europe.” “He played a crucial role to end the Cold War and bring down the Iron Curtain,” she wrote.British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement, “I always admired the courage and integrity he showed in bringing the Cold War to a peaceful conclusion. “In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”In a statement on Tuesday, United States President Joe Biden called Gorbachev “a man of remarkable vision.””As leader of the USSR, he worked with President (Ronald) Reagan to reduce our two countries’ nuclear arsenals, to the relief of people worldwide praying for an end to the nuclear arms race,” Biden said.Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev poses for a portrait in 2009.Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev poses for a portrait in 2009. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevFormer Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev poses for a portrait in 2009.Hide Caption 1 of 38Gorbachev had humble beginnings: He was born into a peasant family in Privolnoye on March 2, 1931. Here, he's with his parents in Privolnoye.Gorbachev had humble beginnings: He was born into a peasant family in Privolnoye on March 2, 1931. Here, he's with his parents in Privolnoye. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev had humble beginnings: He was born into a peasant family in Privolnoye on March 2, 1931. Here, he’s with his parents in Privolnoye.Hide Caption 2 of 38Gorbachev with his maternal grandparents, Panteley and Vasilisa Gopkalo, circa 1937.Gorbachev with his maternal grandparents, Panteley and Vasilisa Gopkalo, circa 1937. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev with his maternal grandparents, Panteley and Vasilisa Gopkalo, circa 1937.Hide Caption 3 of 38Gorbachev, far right, poses for a photo with his classmates, circa 1947.Gorbachev, far right, poses for a photo with his classmates, circa 1947. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, far right, poses for a photo with his classmates, circa 1947.Hide Caption 4 of 38Gorbachev, wearing the hat, is seen with classmates in the 1940s.Gorbachev, wearing the hat, is seen with classmates in the 1940s. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, wearing the hat, is seen with classmates in the 1940s.Hide Caption 5 of 38Gorbachev, seen here in 1984, became a member of the Communist Party in 1952 and completed a law degree at Moscow University in 1955. By the end of the 1960s, he had risen to the top of the party hierarchy in the Stavropol region.Gorbachev, seen here in 1984, became a member of the Communist Party in 1952 and completed a law degree at Moscow University in 1955. By the end of the 1960s, he had risen to the top of the party hierarchy in the Stavropol region. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, seen here in 1984, became a member of the Communist Party in 1952 and completed a law degree at Moscow University in 1955. By the end of the 1960s, he had risen to the top of the party hierarchy in the Stavropol region.Hide Caption 6 of 38Gorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pose for a picture in London as they meet in December 1984. Thatcher once called him "a man one can do business with."Gorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pose for a picture in London as they meet in December 1984. Thatcher once called him "a man one can do business with." Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pose for a picture in London as they meet in December 1984. Thatcher once called him “a man one can do business with.”Hide Caption 7 of 38Gorbachev, front center, attends an International Women's Day Gala in Moscow in March 1985. He became a full Politburo member in 1980, and he rose to the top party spot in 1985. That effectively made him the leader of the Soviet Union.Gorbachev, front center, attends an International Women's Day Gala in Moscow in March 1985. He became a full Politburo member in 1980, and he rose to the top party spot in 1985. That effectively made him the leader of the Soviet Union. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, front center, attends an International Women’s Day Gala in Moscow in March 1985. He became a full Politburo member in 1980, and he rose to the top party spot in 1985. That effectively made him the leader of the Soviet Union.Hide Caption 8 of 38Gorbachev follows pallbearers carrying the casket of his predecessor as Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko, in Moscow's Red Square in March 1985.Gorbachev follows pallbearers carrying the casket of his predecessor as Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko, in Moscow's Red Square in March 1985. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev follows pallbearers carrying the casket of his predecessor as Soviet leader, Konstantin Chernenko, in Moscow’s Red Square in March 1985.Hide Caption 9 of 38Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan hold a historic "fireside chat" in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 1985. The two had a series of summit talks.Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan hold a historic "fireside chat" in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 1985. The two had a series of summit talks. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan hold a historic “fireside chat” in Geneva, Switzerland, in November 1985. The two had a series of summit talks.Hide Caption 10 of 38Gorbachev and Reagan attend the closing ceremony for the Geneva Summit in November 1985.Gorbachev and Reagan attend the closing ceremony for the Geneva Summit in November 1985. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and Reagan attend the closing ceremony for the Geneva Summit in November 1985.Hide Caption 11 of 38Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, are welcomed in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in April 1987.Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, are welcomed in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in April 1987. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and his wife, Raisa, are welcomed in Prague, Czechoslovakia, in April 1987.Hide Caption 12 of 38Gorbachev visits Bucharest, Romania, in May 1987.Gorbachev visits Bucharest, Romania, in May 1987. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev visits Bucharest, Romania, in May 1987.Hide Caption 13 of 38Gorbachev waves during a parade in Moscow in November 1987.Gorbachev waves during a parade in Moscow in November 1987. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev waves during a parade in Moscow in November 1987.Hide Caption 14 of 38Gorbachev talks with Reagan at the beginning of a summit in Washington, DC, in December 1987.Gorbachev talks with Reagan at the beginning of a summit in Washington, DC, in December 1987. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev talks with Reagan at the beginning of a summit in Washington, DC, in December 1987.Hide Caption 15 of 38Gorbachev and Reagan sign an arms control agreement in December 1987 banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.Gorbachev and Reagan sign an arms control agreement in December 1987 banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missiles. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and Reagan sign an arms control agreement in December 1987 banning the use of intermediate-range nuclear missiles.Hide Caption 16 of 38Gorbachev shakes hands with businessman — and future US President — Donald Trump at the US State Department in December 1987. It was before a luncheon held in Gorbachev's honor.Gorbachev shakes hands with businessman — and future US President — Donald Trump at the US State Department in December 1987. It was before a luncheon held in Gorbachev's honor. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev shakes hands with businessman — and future US President — Donald Trump at the US State Department in December 1987. It was before a luncheon held in Gorbachev’s honor.Hide Caption 17 of 38Gorbachev shows Reagan around Red Square during Reagan's visit to Moscow in May 1988.Gorbachev shows Reagan around Red Square during Reagan's visit to Moscow in May 1988. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev shows Reagan around Red Square during Reagan’s visit to Moscow in May 1988.Hide Caption 18 of 38Gorbachev, bottom right, and members of the Politburo vote to remove Andrei Gromyko, bottom center, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in October 1988. Gorbachev would then succeed him in the role.Gorbachev, bottom right, and members of the Politburo vote to remove Andrei Gromyko, bottom center, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in October 1988. Gorbachev would then succeed him in the role. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, bottom right, and members of the Politburo vote to remove Andrei Gromyko, bottom center, as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in October 1988. Gorbachev would then succeed him in the role.Hide Caption 19 of 38Gorbachev visits New York with Reagan and US Vice President George H.W. Bush in December 1988.Gorbachev visits New York with Reagan and US Vice President George H.W. Bush in December 1988. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev visits New York with Reagan and US Vice President George H.W. Bush in December 1988.Hide Caption 20 of 38A Moscow woman and her cat watch Gorbachev's New Year message in December 1988.A Moscow woman and her cat watch Gorbachev's New Year message in December 1988. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevA Moscow woman and her cat watch Gorbachev’s New Year message in December 1988.Hide Caption 21 of 38Gorbachev and Cuban President Fidel Castro wave during Gorbachev's visit to Cuba in April 1989.Gorbachev and Cuban President Fidel Castro wave during Gorbachev's visit to Cuba in April 1989. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and Cuban President Fidel Castro wave during Gorbachev’s visit to Cuba in April 1989.Hide Caption 22 of 38Gorbachev greets East German leader Erich Honecker after arriving in East Berlin in October 1989.Gorbachev greets East German leader Erich Honecker after arriving in East Berlin in October 1989. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev greets East German leader Erich Honecker after arriving in East Berlin in October 1989.Hide Caption 23 of 38Gorbachev addresses a group of business executives in San Francisco in 1990.Gorbachev addresses a group of business executives in San Francisco in 1990. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev addresses a group of business executives in San Francisco in 1990.Hide Caption 24 of 38Coretta Scott King presents Gorbachev with the Albert Einstein Award for his contribution to peace in June 1990.Coretta Scott King presents Gorbachev with the Albert Einstein Award for his contribution to peace in June 1990. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevCoretta Scott King presents Gorbachev with the Albert Einstein Award for his contribution to peace in June 1990.Hide Caption 25 of 38Gorbachev gives a speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in June 1991. He was awarded "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community."Gorbachev gives a speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in June 1991. He was awarded "for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community." Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev gives a speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in June 1991. He was awarded “for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community.”Hide Caption 26 of 38Gorbachev shakes hands with Bush, then president, in Moscow in July 1991.Gorbachev shakes hands with Bush, then president, in Moscow in July 1991. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev shakes hands with Bush, then president, in Moscow in July 1991.Hide Caption 27 of 38Gorbachev rubs his eyes while speaking in Moscow in August 1991. He threatened to resign if the Soviet Union fell apart. That month, hard-liners in his country staged a revolt while Gorbachev was on vacation in the Crimea. Boris Yeltsin, the president of the biggest Soviet republic and a fierce critic of what he considered Gorbachev's halfway reforms, came to Gorbachev's rescue, facing down and defeating the coup plotters.Gorbachev rubs his eyes while speaking in Moscow in August 1991. He threatened to resign if the Soviet Union fell apart. That month, hard-liners in his country staged a revolt while Gorbachev was on vacation in the Crimea. Boris Yeltsin, the president of the biggest Soviet republic and a fierce critic of what he considered Gorbachev's halfway reforms, came to Gorbachev's rescue, facing down and defeating the coup plotters. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev rubs his eyes while speaking in Moscow in August 1991. He threatened to resign if the Soviet Union fell apart. That month, hard-liners in his country staged a revolt while Gorbachev was on vacation in the Crimea. Boris Yeltsin, the president of the biggest Soviet republic and a fierce critic of what he considered Gorbachev’s halfway reforms, came to Gorbachev’s rescue, facing down and defeating the coup plotters.Hide Caption 28 of 38Gorbachev held a news conference the day after he returned from Crimea in August 1991. He had been held captive in his dacha by coup plotters attempting to remove him from power in order to stop his economic reform policies. The coup leaders had stated publicly that Gorbachev was stepping down due to ill health. Here, Gorbachev holds a crumpled note that he had hidden on his body to explain what really happened in case he was killed.Gorbachev held a news conference the day after he returned from Crimea in August 1991. He had been held captive in his dacha by coup plotters attempting to remove him from power in order to stop his economic reform policies. The coup leaders had stated publicly that Gorbachev was stepping down due to ill health. Here, Gorbachev holds a crumpled note that he had hidden on his body to explain what really happened in case he was killed. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev held a news conference the day after he returned from Crimea in August 1991. He had been held captive in his dacha by coup plotters attempting to remove him from power in order to stop his economic reform policies. The coup leaders had stated publicly that Gorbachev was stepping down due to ill health. Here, Gorbachev holds a crumpled note that he had hidden on his body to explain what really happened in case he was killed.Hide Caption 29 of 38Gorbachev closes his resignation speech after delivering it on Soviet television in December 1991. Across the Soviet Union, republics — one after another — were declaring independence. Shortly after his speech, the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin, and in its place rose the white, blue and red flag of Russia.Gorbachev closes his resignation speech after delivering it on Soviet television in December 1991. Across the Soviet Union, republics — one after another — were declaring independence. Shortly after his speech, the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin, and in its place rose the white, blue and red flag of Russia. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev closes his resignation speech after delivering it on Soviet television in December 1991. Across the Soviet Union, republics — one after another — were declaring independence. Shortly after his speech, the Soviet hammer-and-sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin, and in its place rose the white, blue and red flag of Russia.Hide Caption 30 of 38Gorbachev and Reagan spend time together at Reagan's ranch in California in May 1992. Both were no longer in power.Gorbachev and Reagan spend time together at Reagan's ranch in California in May 1992. Both were no longer in power. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and Reagan spend time together at Reagan’s ranch in California in May 1992. Both were no longer in power.Hide Caption 31 of 38From left, Bush, Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl attend a ceremony at Prague Castle in 1999. They were among six former world leaders being honored with the Order of the White Lion, the highest Czech state award.From left, Bush, Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl attend a ceremony at Prague Castle in 1999. They were among six former world leaders being honored with the Order of the White Lion, the highest Czech state award. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevFrom left, Bush, Gorbachev and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl attend a ceremony at Prague Castle in 1999. They were among six former world leaders being honored with the Order of the White Lion, the highest Czech state award.Hide Caption 32 of 38Gorbechev bows his head at Reagan's funeral in June 2004.Gorbechev bows his head at Reagan's funeral in June 2004. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbechev bows his head at Reagan’s funeral in June 2004.Hide Caption 33 of 38Gorbachev talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a news conference in Germany in December 2004.Gorbachev talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a news conference in Germany in December 2004. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev talks to Russian President Vladimir Putin before a news conference in Germany in December 2004.Hide Caption 34 of 38CNN founder Ted Turner and Gorbachev answer questions during a United Nations news conference in 2005. Gorbachev was presenting Turner with the Alan Cranston Peace Award later that day.CNN founder Ted Turner and Gorbachev answer questions during a United Nations news conference in 2005. Gorbachev was presenting Turner with the Alan Cranston Peace Award later that day. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevCNN founder Ted Turner and Gorbachev answer questions during a United Nations news conference in 2005. Gorbachev was presenting Turner with the Alan Cranston Peace Award later that day.Hide Caption 35 of 38Gorbachev shakes hands with a member of Green Cross International during a tour of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward in 2007. Gorbachev founded Green Cross International, an environmentalist organization.Gorbachev shakes hands with a member of Green Cross International during a tour of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward in 2007. Gorbachev founded Green Cross International, an environmentalist organization. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev shakes hands with a member of Green Cross International during a tour of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward in 2007. Gorbachev founded Green Cross International, an environmentalist organization.Hide Caption 36 of 38Gorbachev and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands at the UN's European headquarters in 2009. The theme that day was "resetting the nuclear disarmament agenda."Gorbachev and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands at the UN's European headquarters in 2009. The theme that day was "resetting the nuclear disarmament agenda." Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shake hands at the UN’s European headquarters in 2009. The theme that day was “resetting the nuclear disarmament agenda.”Hide Caption 37 of 38Gorbachev appears on stage during the finale of the Gorby 80 Gala in London in 2011. The concert celebrated Gorbachev's 80th birthday.Gorbachev appears on stage during the finale of the Gorby 80 Gala in London in 2011. The concert celebrated Gorbachev's 80th birthday. Photos: Former Soviet President Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev appears on stage during the finale of the Gorby 80 Gala in London in 2011. The concert celebrated Gorbachev’s 80th birthday.Hide Caption 38 of 38gorbachev gallery RESTRICTED02 gorbachev obit02b gorbachev obit 02c gorbachev obit 02d gorbachev obit 03b gorbachev obit 01 thatcher gorbachev04 gorbachev editBPT105 Mikhail Gorbachev obit RESTRICTED 08302205 gorbachev obit 06 gorbachev obit09 gorbachev obit10 gorbachev obitBPT103 Mikhail Gorbachev obit RESTRICTIVE083022gorbachev obit dec 198707 gorbachev obit12 gorbachev obit13 gorbachev obitgorbachev obit oct 198808 gorbachev obit14 gorbachev obit15 gorbachev obit 16 gorbachev obitBPT102 Mikhail Gorbachev obit RESTRICTED 083022 18 gorbachev obitBPT104 Mikhail Gorbachev obit RESTRICTED 08302201 bush gorbachev 20 gorbachev obit21 gorbachev obit 22 gorbachev obit23 gorbachev obit33 gorbachev obit 34 gorbachev obit01 putin gorbachev 36 gorbachev obit 37 gorbachev obit 39 gorbachev obit 40 gorbachev obit “He believed in glasnost and perestroika — openness and restructuring — not as mere slogans, but as the path forward for the people of the Soviet Union after so many years of isolation and deprivation.”Other world leaders, past and present, who released similar statements included Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Irish President Micheal Martin, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.Heads of international organizations also offered messages of remembrance, with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling Gorbachev a “towering global leader.””He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War,” Guterres said. The last Soviet leaderGorbachev is widely credited with introducing key political and economic reforms to the Soviet Union and helping to end the Cold War.With his outgoing, charismatic nature, Gorbachev broke the mold for Soviet leaders who until then had mostly been remote, icy figures. Almost from the start of his leadership, he strove for significant reforms, so the system would work more efficiently and more democratically. In 1986, face to face with US President Reagan at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Gorbachev made a stunning proposal: Eliminate all long-range missiles held by the US and the Soviet Union. It was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.Why Gorbachev is remembered as a giant in the West and a pariah at homeWhy Gorbachev is remembered as a giant in the West and a pariah at homeWhy Gorbachev is remembered as a giant in the West and a pariah at homeHe was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 for his leading role in the peace process.”I began these reforms and my guiding stars were freedom and democracy, without bloodshed. So the people would cease to be a herd led by a shepherd. They would become citizens,” he later said.After a failed coup by frustrated hard-liners in 1991, Gorbachev resigned by the end of the year. In the years since, he continued to speak out on nuclear disarmament, the environment, poverty — and in his late wife’s memory, set up the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation to fight children’s cancer.He will be buried next to his wife at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow, RIA Novosti reported, citing the Gorbachev Foundation.

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