The Truth About Mikhail Gorbachev's Late Wife

Mikhail Gorbachev died on August 30 at the age of 91, the Associated Press reported, marking the end of one the West's most significant chapters. As the general secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev served as the political bloc's final leader, presiding over the end of the Cold War that dissolved the Soviet empire after nearly 70 years. While often seen through favorable lenses in the West for his role, Gorbachev is often criticized in his homeland for implementing reforms across the Soviet Union that aligned more closely with policies of the United States, the The Washington Post reported.

Regardless of sides, Gorbachev was different in more ways than one from other Russian leaders, both before and after his time. Unlike current President Vladimir Putin, who prefers to keep his family out of the spotlight, Gorbachev felt no need to hide his intentions to prioritize his wife, Raisa Gorbachova, and daughter, Irina, the BBC noted. Gorbachev often took Raisa with him on official events, a practice largely unknown in the Soviet Union at the time, The Washington Post noted.Gorbachev also felt he needed no favors to raise his child with privilege. "My parents did not enroll me, on principle, in a special school for the children of Party officials," Irina told Russia Beyond in 2011. "I went to a perfectly ordinary school." 

All that to say, Gorbachev made history in his years in power — and Gorbachova was no small part in it.

Mikhail Gorbachev valued Raisa's political advice

Raisa Gorbacheva was no ordinary first lady. Gorbachova met Mikhail Gorbachev while studying philosophy at the Moscow State University, where the future leader of the Soviet Union was studying law, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1987. Gorbachova continued to advance her studies, later earning a degree from the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, which allowed her to teach at her alma mater, according "The Presidents' wives: reassessing the office of First Lady" by Robert P. Watson.

Gorbacheva saw education as a priority. "We were happy. Happy with our youth and with our hopes for the future," she said, according to the Gorbachev Foundation's website. "Even just with being alive. That we were studying at the university. That was what we valued." Gorbacheva went on to make history, not because she married Gorbachev, but because she had a voice in her role as the one of leader's most trusted advisers, The Washington Post noted.

Gorbachova is often credited with influencing his political decisions. "We believe that Raisa was a strong partner with her husband and an important voice in the friendship that our two countries established in the 1980s," former U.S. First Lady Nancy Reagan said, per the Post. Raisa died of leukemia in 1999, and Gorbachev continued to sing her praises throughout his widowerhood. "My life has lost its principal meaning," he wrote in the 2013 chapter of his memoirs (via BBC). "I have never had such an acute feeling of loneliness."