Who Was Mikhail Gorbachev's Wife?

On August 30, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev died (via The New York Times). He was 91 years old. As the last Soviet Union leader, Gorbachev was known for working alongside Ronald Reagan, bringing the long-lasting Cold War to an end — a task he earned the Nobel Peace Prize for, according to NBC News. The outlet noted that even though Gorbachev was only in power for a short time, his time in office had a lasting impact. 

While he set himself apart as a Soviet leader with a warm and friendly public demeanor, Gorbachev continued to share his wealth of diplomatic knowledge well into his 90s. World leaders and commentators were (and are) quick to point out the stark differences between the 1980s politician and current Russian president, Vladimir Putin, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson commenting, "In a time of Putin's aggression in Ukraine, [Gorbachev's] tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all," per Politico.

As they say, behind every great man is a great woman, and that was exactly the case for Gorbachev. So, who is the great woman that supported the late Soviet leader for years? And what was her impact? 

Raisa Gorbacheva was a force to be reckoned with

Mikhail Gorbachev's wife, Raisa Gorbacheva, was born in western Siberia and worked her way through hardships as a child — for example, she was illiterate until her 20s — but her hard work earned her a spot at Moscow State University where she studied philosophy, as Oca Magazine reported. In college, the young student was noticed by her future husband, and they tied the knot in 1953 (via IMDb). They later welcomed a daughter. 

Throughout the course of their marriage, the Gorbachevs were the ultimate power couple. As The Washington Post noted, she "was a presence in her husband's life in a way that was unprecedented in the Soviet experience. She appeared with him in public at home and abroad, served as his eyes and ears on her travels and was one of his closest advisers."

Not only an ally to her husband, Raisa was also a key player in making allies with neighboring countries (per The Irish Times). If for whatever reason Mikhail couldn't be in attendance at an event, Raisa was there for him (via The Washington Post). In addition, Raisa was heavily involved in the Soviet Cultural Foundation and one of the Soviet's pediatric hospitals. 

Raisa was diagnosed with leukemia in the late 1990s, and was remembered for "charm[ing] the West with her fashionable clothes and intellect," according to CBC News. Raisa was by Mikhail's side for more than 40 years, until her death in 1999.