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March 1985 - Gorbachev becomes leader

Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev becomes Communist Party General Secretary. He is a popular choice - the last three leaders have all been elderly, sick, old-school communists. All three ruled until they died. Gorbachev, at the age of 54, is younger and fitter - and is talking about change.

He will introduce two Russian words to international vocabulary: "perestroika", meaning restructuring, and "glasnost", meaning openness.

Both concepts are revolutionary in Soviet terms - until now the system has been stagnant and closed.

But Gorbachev has no idea that the events he is setting in motion will bring about the collapse of an entire empire - and tear down the "Iron Curtain" which has divided Europe since the end of World War II.

Mikhail Gorbachev
Gorbachev: Began making changes

 From the archive: Watch Tim Sebastianís report (11/3/85)
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