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Dignitaries around the world are recalling the historical legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader whose reforms helped end the Cold War and free Eastern Europe from communism.

Gorbachev died on August 30 in Moscow at the age of 91 following a prolonged illness.

The news unleashed an immediate outpouring of praise from foreign leaders, especially in the West, for the man who triggered a pivotal turning point in world history.

The reception in Russia and some of the other former Soviet states was much cooler, with Moscow so far not committing to a state funeral for the former leader.

Gorbachev was “a one-of-a-kind statesman who changed the course of history. He did more than any other individual to bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“The world has lost a towering global leader, committed multilateralist, and tireless advocate for peace,” said Guterres who also served as Portugal’s prime minister from 19952002.

U.S. President Joe Biden called Gorbachev a “rare leader – one with the imagination to see that a different future was possible and the courage to risk his entire career to achieve it.”

Biden said the former Soviet leader – who won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize – made the world safer and freer for millions of people.

Gorbachev, who was born in the south of Russia in 1931, took over the Communist Party and Soviet leadership in 1985 at a time of growing tension between the Soviet Union and the West.

A generation younger than many of his contemporaries, he ushered in political and economic changes known as glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) that helped trigger the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, and ultimately the Soviet demise.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on August 31 hailed Gorbachev’s role in reuniting Germany but lamented that his attempt to establish an enduring democracy in Russia had “failed,” a thinly veiled criticism of Putin, who has rolled back many of the freedoms unleashed by glasnost.

“The democracy movements in Central and Eastern Europe benefited from the fact he was in power then in Russia,” Scholz said. However, Gorbachev “died at a time in which democracy has failed in Russia.”

The former Soviet leader’s death comes as Putin pushes ahead with his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, jailing citizens who speak out against the war or even refer to it other than as a “special military operation.”

Britain’s outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson also took a swipe at the current Kremlin leader as he praised Gorbachev.

“In a time of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, his tireless commitment to opening up Soviet society remains an example to us all.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Gorbachev was a “man of peace” whose decision opened a “path of freedom” for Russians and “changed” European history.

China, like the Soviet Union a one-party state, praised Gorbachev but not for his political reforms.

Beijing highlighted his part in improving ties between Beijing and Moscow in the 1980s and 1990s after decades of tensions over ideological differences and competing geopolitical interests.

“Mikhail Gorbachev made positive contributions to the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a press conference, adding: “We mourn his death and express our condolences to his family.”

Critics of Gorbachev noted the sometimes-violent response by Soviet authorities to the impending breakup of the Soviet Union, the economic collapse that engulfed many states, and the decline of Moscow’s geopolitical influence.

In January 1991, Soviet troops killed 14 people at Lithuania’s main TV tower in an attack that Gorbachev denied ordering. In Latvia, five demonstrators were killed by Soviet special forces.

“Lithuanians will not glorify Gorbachev,” tweeted Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, the son of Vytautas Landsbergis, who led Lithuania’s independence movement in the early 1990s.

“We will never forget the simple fact that his army murdered civilians to prolong his regime’s occupation of our country. His soldiers fired on our unarmed protesters and crushed them under his tanks. That is how we will remember him,” he added.

WATCH: Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who has died aged 91, presided over the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War.

Gorbachev was politically debilitated by a hard-line coup in August 1991 that failed in large part due to a popular resistance led by Boris Yeltsin.

In late December, he resigned as president of the Soviet Union, bringing an end to Moscow’s empire.

Russia’s transition to a market economy following the Soviet collapse was accompanied by surging inflation, widespread job losses, and poverty.

In an attempt to find a scapegoat, many Russians pointed their finger at the reforms ushered in by Gorbachev and his successor Yeltsin.

Putin’s Reaction

Putin, who called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” delivered a dispassionate statement following Gorbachev’s death.

“Mikhail Gorbachev was a politician and statesman who had a tremendous influence on the course of world history,” reads the condolence message to relatives released by the Kremlin on August 30.

Gorbachev led the country to a time of “dramatic change” and recognized the great need for reform at the time, Putin’s message said.

“I would like to particularly emphasize the great humanitarian, charitable and educational activity that Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev carried out all these past years,” it added.

A more critical assessment of Gorbachev’s legacy was made by Oleg Morozov, a member of Russia’s lower house of parliament, or Duma, representing Putin’s ruling United Russia party.

He called Gorbachev one of the “co-authors” of a new world order that in Moscow’s eyes was “unjust.”

Gorbachev will be buried on September 3 in Moscow next to his wife. It is not clear if he will receive a state funeral.

If not, he would be the first former Kremlin leader not to receive a state funeral since ousted General Secretary Nikita Krushchev, who died in 1971.

Grigory Yavlinsky, a liberal politician who as a Soviet economist authored a plan to transition the communist state to a free market one, said Russians critical of Gorbachev need to do some soul searching.

Gorbachev “gave freedom to hundreds of millions of people in Russia and near abroad as well as half of Europe.”

“How we in Russia used the freedom that was gifted to us — [how we used] this great opportunity — that is our responsibility,” he said.

With reporting by Izvestia, TASS, Interfax, Reuters, Forbes, and The New York Times

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