In 1991, who resigned as president of the Soviet Union?
And the answer: Mikhail Gorbachev.
Between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev led the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and then served as president in 1990 and 1991. As several states declared their independence, the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) dissolved in 1991 and Gorbachev resigned.
In the 1980s, the U.S.S.R. faced some significant problems. While the economy plummeted, the political elite began to fade out as corruption took a steady grip on society. What's more: three successive leaders died holding office, bringing even more instability to a state in crisis.
Enter: Gorbachev. Recognizable by the birth mark on his forehead, Gorbachev entered office in 1985 with the nickname "The Marked One." At 54 years old, he was one of the youngest members of the Communist Party – a stance which was reflected in his ideas for the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was convinced he could reform and modernize the Soviet Union, and that the nation faced new problems that could be tackled with new solutions. Throughout his 6.5 years as the leader of the U.S.S.R., Gorbachev attempted to radically restructure the nation.
Two policies that define the era that followed were called Perestroika and Glasnost. The former, Russian for "restructuring," was an attempt by Gorbachev to revitalize and restructure the country's stagnant economy. He began by suggesting a new market model that would allow businesses more freedom and restore balance organically. While his ideas were frowned upon by senior members of the Communist Party, implementation of the new plans allowed small businesses to open and thrive, and government-owned businesses to hold more agency over their own work.
Glasnost, or "openness," was the second main reform Gorbachev implemented. It targeted three main affairs: corruption, media, and culture. As corruption ran rampant in the Communist Party, Gorbachev structured the reforms around increasing transparency to prevent economic misconduct. Policies were also introduced to reduce censorship in the state, which until that point was a primary source of the Party's propaganda. Under these new, liberating policies, Russian culture began to blossom, finding newfound power in the right to express political beliefs.
Learn more about Gorbachev's legacy and the fall of the Soviet Union below.