Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman. He was the seventh and last undisputed leader of the Soviet Union, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the country's head of state from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991. He was the only general secretary in the history of the Soviet Union to have been born after the October Revolution.
Gorbachev was born in Stavropol Krai into a peasant Ukrainianâ€“Russian family, and in his teens operated combine harvesters on collective farms. He graduated from Moscow State University in 1955 with a degree in law. While he was at the university, he joined the Communist Party, and soon became very active within it. In 1970, he was appointed the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Kraikom, First Secretary to the Supreme Soviet in 1974, and appointed a member of the Politburo in 1979. Within three years of the deaths of Soviet leaders Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko, Gorbachev was elected General Secretary by the Politburo in 1985. Before he reached the post, he had occasionally been mentioned in western newspapers as a likely next leader and a man of the younger generation at the top level.