It’s beyond ironic that the man most responsible for the breaking up of the Soviet Union died at the very moment one of his successors is doing everything he can to piece it back together. Mikhail Gorbachev helped usher in a new world and, in some ways, helped usher in Vladamir Putin’s political traits, the wrath of which is currently being felt throughout the world. Gorbachev, “who set out to revitalize the Soviet Union but ended up unleashing forces that led to the collapse of communism, the breakup of the state and the end of the Cold War, died Tuesday. The last Soviet leader was 91.”

+ “The fall of the Berlin Wall had happened by accident, after all; it was not something Gorbachev had ever planned. He had not set out to break up the Soviet Union, to end its tyranny, or to promote freedom. He presided over the end of a cruel and bloody empire, but without intending to do so. Almost nobody in history has ever had such a profound impact on his era, while at the same time understanding so little about it.” Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: Gorbachev Never Realized What He Set in Motion.

+ “Even at his worst moments, he exuded warmth and sparkled with optimism and humor. A passionate political animal, he refused to cling to power for power’s sake. Such qualities gave Gorbachev the determination to push forward with the policies of perestroika and glasnost … His place in Russian history, however, is more complex—and still to be determined. Russian nationalists and stalwarts of the old order generally view him as a dupe or a traitor, in large part because he oversaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Other Russians and members of the former Soviet bloc praise him as a farsighted liberator who tried to free them from the yoke of corrupt totalitarianism. For his part, Gorbachev, who suffered from the sort of cheerful vanity that led him to speak of himself in the third person, told biographer William Taubman that ‘Gorbachev is hard to understand.'” FP: Gorbachev’s Disputed Legacy. One part of his legacy that can’t be disputed is his early and aggressive focus on issues related to climate change and the environment. And, of course, there was the Pizza Hut commercial.