Raisa Gorbacheva Biography

Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev, the wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, was a woman who faced much misunderstanding during her lifetime. However, after her death, she was hailed as a great personality. Despite working tirelessly for the good of her country and making generous donations, her efforts were largely ignored by the common people. Instead, she was criticized for her fashionable clothing and unique demeanor. Raisa Gorbachev was also the first leader’s wife to break tradition and accompany her husband on most visits, which caused resentment among the people. Even her love and support for her husband were not well-received. It must have pained her greatly that she could not win the hearts of her countrymen. Only in her final moments, as letters poured in, did people begin to understand her.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Raisa Maximovna Gorbacheva, Raisa Maximovna Titarenko
  • Died At Age: 67
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Mikhail Gorbachev
    • Father: Maxim Andreyevich Titarenko
    • Mother: Alexandra Petrovna Porada
    • Children: Irina Mihailovna Virganskaya
  • First Ladies
  • Died on: September 20, 1999
  • Place of death: Münster, Germany
  • Ancestry: Ukrainian Russian
  • Cause of Death: Leukemia
  • More Facts
  • Education: Moscow State University

Childhood & Early Life

Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev was born on 5 January 1932 in the city of Rubtsovsk in the Altai region (Alta Krai) of Siberia, to Maxim Andreyevich Titarenko and Alexandra Petrovna Parada. Her father was a railway construction engineer. The Titarenkos had three children. Raisa was the eldest of the three siblings and was very close to sister Ludmila. Although their family moved about a lot, the siblings had a normal upbringing. Raisa spent most of her childhood in the Ural Mountains. During this period, she had to change many schools. However, she was always a good student.

In 1949, Raisa passed her secondary school with a gold medal in Sterlitamak, Barshkiria. It enabled her to enroll at any institute of higher learning without appearing for entrance examinations. Raisa chose Moscow State University and enrolled at the Department of Philosophy, where she studied Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. She graduated from Moscow State University in 1954.


In 1955, Raisa Gorbachev started her career as a lecturer at the Philosophy Department of Stavropol Medical Institute and also at Stavropol Agricultural Institute. She mainly taught Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. By this time she was married to Mikhail Gorbachev, who became the First Party Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee. Along with her teaching assignment, Raisa also started sociological research. Her thesis was based on conditions of the peasants as well as of the collective farming. She sent questionnaires to thousands of farmers and then followed it up with live interviews. To do this she had to travel extensively and thus she could gather a realistic picture about the condition of the people. Mikhail Gorbachev used the data she so painstakingly collected to solve some local problems. This caught the attention of the central leadership.

Raisa completed her Candidates Degree from the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute in 1967. It was equivalent to a Ph.D. In 1978, the Gorbachevs were brought back to Moscow. While Mikhail worked in the Central Committee as Secretary for Agriculture, Raisa joined her alma mater. She taught Marxist-Leninist philosophy at the Moscow State University. She left the post in April 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. From now on she dedicated herself solely to the good of the people, patronizing many public as well as private charities.

In 1986, Raisa Gorbachev, along with few other prominent personalities, established Soviet Cultural Foundation, later renamed as Russian Cultural Foundation. During her tenure as the president, the Foundation was able to retrieve more than 50 thousand priceless objects and works of arts, which had been taken away from the country after the Bolshevik Revolution. Other than that, Raisa co-chaired the Aid for the Children of Chernobyl Fund. She also patronized the association Hematologists of the World – For the Children and Moscow’s Central Children’s Hospital.

In 1991, as Mikhail Gorbachev resigned from the post of the President of USSR, Raisa thought of setting up Gorbachev Foundation. The foundation started working in 1992 and from the very beginning, Raisa worked hard to make it a success. Since its inception, the foundation has been doing research work on economic, political and social problems and processes in Russia. In 1997, Raisa set up The Raisa Maksimovna Club in order to promote the participation of women in public life. It also aimed to combat other social problems like homelessness of children, growing violence in the society, gender inequality etc. The good work is now being carried on by her daughter Irina M. Virganskaya.

Major Works

Raisa Gorbachev broke all traditions as she carved out a public profile of her own. By appearing by her husband’s side on all foreign as well as domestic tours, she not only improved the country’s image in the eyes of the outside world, but also dispelled many of the misgivings that the world had about Russia.

Philanthropic Works

In 1989, Raisa Gorbachev contributed US$ 100,000 to the charity “International Association of Hematologists of the World for Children”. To further the cause she also actively raised additional funds. The amount was spent on buying equipment for blood banks and for training of Russian doctors.

Awards & Achievements

Although she was not much valued at home, the world at large was highly appreciative of Raisa Gorbachev. The British magazine ‘Woman’s Own’ was the first to recognize her worth. In 1987, it named her as the Woman of the Year. ‘Together for Peace’, the well known international foundation, also awarded Raisa Gorbachev the ‘Women For Peace Prize’ in 1991. She was also awarded the ‘Lady of the Year’ award.

Personal Life & Legacy

Raisa married Mikhail Gorbachev on 25 September 1953. At that time, both of them were students at the Moscow State University. The couple celebrated their wedding on 7 November 1953, in the university hostel at Stromynka Street; almost six weeks after their actual event. Raisa gave birth to her only daughter Irina Mikhailovna in 1958. Raisa also had two granddaughters named Ksenia and Anastasia and one great granddaughter named Aleksandra. Raisa was diagnosed with leukemia in July 1999. She was immediately taken to Münster in Germany and was admitted at the Münster University Hospital for her treatment. There she was put under the care of Professor Thomas Buechner, a leading hematologist. She received treatment for around two months, but all efforts failed. Raisa Gorbachev died on 20 September 1999, at the age of 67, in Münster. At the order of the Russian President, a government plane was sent to Münster to bring back her body. Raisa Gorbachev was finally interred at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

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