When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the USSR was one of the world’s two superpowers. By 1989 he had transformed Soviet Communism. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the Cold War, and in December 1991 he unintentionally presided over the collapse of the USSR. In this first comprehensive biography of Gorbachev, William Taubman shows how a peasant boy turned into the Soviet system’s grave digger, why the Communist regime allowed him to destroy it, how Gorbachev’s dream of democratizing Russia through perestroika and glasnost foundered, and why he permitted Eastern Europe to abandon Communism without conflict. Drawing on interviews with Gorbachev himself, Russian archives, interviews with Kremlin aides and adversaries as well as with foreign leaders, Taubman’s intensely personal portrait also extends to Gorbachev’s remarkable marriage to a woman he deeply loved. Nuanced and poignant yet unsparing and honest, this sweeping account has the amplitude of a Tolstoy novel.