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12/8/1987 President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the White House Library

It looks as if Mikhail Gorbachev has passed.

Major US outlets haven’t confirmed (now they’re starting to come in) yet so could be false alarm but news seems to be drifting in from a lot of places. There is absolutely no question that Mikhail Gorbachev was a deeply consequential figure in the most important event of the latter part of the twentieth century, the collapse and fall of the Soviet empire. Everything could have gone much, much differently under another Soviet leader, and the more I read about the period (and this is obviously colored by my appraisal of the current state of Russian leadership) the more I wonder at how we managed to get through that period with only the intermediate level of bloodshed that resulted. I had the opportunity to see Gorbachev speak a few years ago in Louisville but unfortunately I did not get the chance to meet him.

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