Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev dies

(NBC) Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union credited with reforming the Marxist state and ending the Cold War, died at the age of 91.

Tuesday the Gorbachev Foundation confirmed his death “after a serious and long illness.”

A son of peasants and raised a committed communist, Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union and in just a few years tore down the Iron Curtain.

He introduced greater openness, both culturally and economically, to the hard-line state.

While he came to power during the Cold War, he is credited with ending it.

Gorbachev and then President Reagan presided over an arms agreement that eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons and started the withdrawal of most Soviet nuclear weapons from Eastern Europe.

While he is credited with reforming the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was also blamed by critics for its collapse.

Once a global power, the Soviet Union broke up into 15 separate nations, including Russia, and in later years he was blamed for the troubles in the region.

Gorbachev is remembered as one of the transformative figures of the 20th Century.

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