He was the last General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, serving from 1985 until 1991, and also the last head of state of the USSR, serving from 1988 until its collapse in 1991. He was the only Soviet leader to have been born after the October Revolution of 1917.
Gorbachev won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
Gorbachev was chided by then-President Reagan for his atheism during one of their summits.
In response to speculation that Gorbachev might be a "closet Christian", he made the following statement: "Over the last few days some media have been disseminating fantasies—I can't use any other word—about my secret Catholicism, [...] To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist." (according to 2008 article by The Chicago Tribune, "Gorbachev a Closet Christian?")