Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union before its break-up in 1991. He supported Marxist–Leninist Communism but moved towards social democracy in his later life. From his early thirties onward, he suffered from diabetes that caused him to be hospitalized many times for various complications of the disease. His diabetes caused kidney failure that required several years of dialysis. On August 30, 2022 at age 91, he died of kidney failure.
His Mark On The World
Gorbachev’s parents were poor Russian and Ukrainian peasants, and his first job was driving a tractor on a collective farm. He went to Moscow State University, married another student, Raisa Titarenko, in 1953 and received his law degree in 1955. He was a strong antagonist to Stalin and after Stalin died in 1953, he was a strong supporter of Nikita Khrushchev who rose from First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1953 to Chairman of the Council of Ministers from 1958 to 1964. In 1978, Gorbachev was appointed Secretary of the party’s Central Committee. In 1979, he became a member of the governing Politburo, and in 1985, he was elected the leader of Russia as the General Secretary of the Politburo.
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991
Gorbachev was a man of peace. After the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986, he withdrew troops from the Soviet–Afghan War in 1988 and embarked on summits with U.S. President Ronald Reagan to limit nuclear weapons and end the Cold War.
• He started a new policy in Russia of glasnost, enhanced freedom of speech and press.
• He started perestroika (restructuring) to decentralize economic decision-making to improve its efficiency and the economy in Russia.
• He tried to get rid of the one-party state by forming an elected Congress of People’s Deputies
• He did not invade Eastern Bloc countries that abandoned communism in 1989–1990.
After an unsuccessful coup attempted to get rid of Gorbachev in 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved against Gorbachev’s wishes. He gave up his presidency and started the Gorbachev Foundation that criticized Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin.
Consequences of Diabetes Out of Control
Gorbachev was overweight much of his life and did not eat a healthful anti-diabetic diet until his later years. He did follow healthful lifestyle habits of limited alcohol drinking, not smoking and going for frequent walks.
In 2011, at age 80, Gorbachev had surgery for what may have been diabetes-associated osteoporosis. In June 2013, he was hospitalized in the Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, as reported by the Gorbachev Foundation. On October 22, 2013, he was hospitalized in a German clinic. On October 9, 2014 and May, 2015, he was again hospitalized. I do not know the reasons for these hospitalizations.
In November of 2015 he had a heart pacemaker installed. Diabetes causes heart disease.
• In 2016, he had cataracts removed from both eyes. Diabetes can cause cataracts.
• In 2019, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. Diabetes increases risk for infections.
• In 2021, he was in almost daily contact with doctors, had four more operations, and lost more than 90 pounds. He was in kidney failure and was on dialysis. Diabetes can destroy the kidneys.
• From then on he had round-the-clock medical care. He died of kidney failure on August 30, 2022.
Other Recent High-Level Russian Deaths
• On June 19, 2022, Gennady Burbulis, the Russian official who confirmed the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, died suddenly at the age of 76 in Azerbaijan.
• Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk and Belaruss’ Stanislav Shushkevich, two other leaders who signed the December 1991 Soviet Union dissolution, both died last month at ages 88 and 87. The other signer and first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, died in 2007.
• At least eight prominent Russian businessmen have reportedly died by unexplained accidents or suicide since January 2022, with six of them associated with Russia’s two largest energy companies.
• The 29-year-old TV commentator Daria Dugina, daughter of an influential Russian nationalist, was killed by an explosive device planted in the SUV she was driving. Suspicions are that the intended target was her father, Alexander Dugin, a nationalist philosopher and writer.
Lessons from Gorbachev’s Life with Diabetes
Seventy percent of North Americans will become diabetic because of unhealthful lifestyles. Every time your blood sugar rises too high, sugar can stick to the outer membranes of cells throughout your body and damage them. It is very unusual for a person who developed diabetes in his thirties to live into his nineties.
Gorbachev’s doctors convinced him that his unhealthful lifestyle of his early days was one of the reasons why he developed diabetes at such a young age, and he did make major lifestyle changes as he grew older. He went from his earlier lifestyle that caused him to be morbidly overweight, to:
• trying to walk every day
• avoiding overeating
• losing excess weight
• restricting sugar-added foods
• substituting fish for red meat
• restricting alcohol
• not smoking
The scientific literature contains more than 157,800 articles describing the horrible side effects of diabetes, and many are not reversible (World J Diabetes, April 15, 2017;8(4)). Gorbachev’s more healthful lifestyle in later life was not able to repair all of the damage to his body that was caused by unhealthful behaviors in his earlier years.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent and Treat Diabetes
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev
March 2, 1931 – August 30, 2022