Mikhail “glasnost” Gorbachev, the Russian leader who gradually liberalized the Soviet Union between the mid ’80s and early ’90s and thereby paved the way for further democratic reforms, has died at age 91. Respect and condolences.

First and foremost a skilled politician and consensus builder, Gorbachev was in my eyes the first moderate-minded Russian — the first Soviet commie with whom I felt a vague kinship. I loved his kind dark eyes. They told me “this man is essentially decent.”

In August ’91 Soviet hardliners ousted Gorbachev in a coup, but it failed hours later and within two or three days he was back in power. But the courageous Boris Yeltsin had become the new big dog, and before you knew it the Soviet Communist party was no more and the Soviet Union was dissolved. By the end of the year Gorby had resigned.

I was sorry that he gained a ton of weight about ten years ago, perhaps due to some medical condition or whatever. All I knew was that suddenly his face had become a beach ball, and he was such a handsome man during his heyday.