Russian President Vladimir Putin offered his congratulations to Mikhail Gorbachev today on his 87th birthday.
Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union before it broke apart, marking the end of Communism and the Iron Curtain. His policies of glasnost (openess) and perestroika (restructuring) also contributed to the end of the Cold War, and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 “for his leading role in the peace process which today characterizes important parts of the international community”.
Gorbachev has never left the Russian political scene, and in 1992 started ‘The Gorbachev Foundation’, an international not-for-profit organization that “seeks to promote democratic values as well as moral and humanist principles in the life of society.” As well as this, between 2001 and 2009 he has attempted to establish no fewer than 3 political parties in Russia that focused on a return to democracy, legal and economic reform and promoting an independent media.
Gorbachev has been openly critical of Putin, for his backsliding on democracy, corruption, and the fact that he wasn’t permitted to register his most recent social democratic party. In a 2011 interview with the BBC on the state of democracy in the Russian Federation, he said “The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it”. Obviously not one to mince his words, he has also been disparaging about the situation in the media, and in a 2013 he gave a political lecture for RIA-novosti news agency, covered by Winnipeg free press.
“To go further on the path of ‘tightening the screws,’ having laws that limit the rights and freedoms of people, attacking the news media and organizations of civil society, is a destructive path with no future,” he said in the lecture.
Despite what appears to be a difficult relationship, Putin sent Gorbachev warm wishes, and congratulated him on his public research, his work on international development and strengthening international cooperation.
“Your knowledge and rich professional and life experience have proven of the utmost use in this important work,” he said in a statement.