Before Gorbachev became Soviet leader in ,1985, the Soviet Union was one of the world’s two superpowers. By 1989 he had transformed the Soviet system. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the cold war. But at the end of 1991, the USSR collapsed leaving him a president without a country. How did a peasant boy whose high-flown tribute to Stalin won a high school prize become the Soviet Union’s gravedigger? Why did the Soviet regime choose him to be its leader? Why did he try to democratize his country and why did he fail? How did he and arch-conservative American President Ronald Reagan turn out to be perfect partners in ending the cold war? Why did Gorbachev release Moscow’s East European empire without firing a shot to preserve it? Besides addressing these questions, Prof. Taubman will suggest lessons of Gorbachev’s rise and fall for the Putin era.