The Making of a Reformist General Secretary
This chapter traces Gorbachev's progress from birth in March 1931 in a peasant family in southern Russia to his appointment as the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party with responsibility for agriculture in 1978. The impact of Stalin's terror on the older generation of Gorbachev's family and his childhood wartime experiences are noted, as is the importance of his study for five years in the Law Faculty of Moscow University. There he met his wife, Raisa, and their relationship was to remain exceptionally close, both intellectually and emotionally. Upon graduation, Gorbachev returned to his native Stavropol region and began a rapid ascent through the ranks of the Komsomol and Communist Party, becoming party chief of the whole region in 1970. As such, he had the opportunity to greet such senior party figures as Yury Andropov and Mikhail Suslov on their visits to this spa territory. Their good opinion of Gorbachev, as well as that of Fedor Kulakov, a former Stavropol party secretary who, by the 1970s, was a member of the Politburo, helped facilitate Gorbachev's move to Moscow when Kulakov, who had been the overseer of agriculture, died in 1978.
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