Raisa Gorbacheva

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Raisa Gorbacheva
First Lady of the Soviet Union
In office
1 October 1988 – 25 December 1991
Preceded by Lydia Gromyko
Succeeded by Title abolished
Personal details
Born Raisa Maximovna Titarenko
(1932-01-05)January 5, 1932
Rubtsovsk, Altai Krai, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Died September 20, 1999(1999-09-20) (aged 67)
Münster, Germany
Spouse(s) Mikhail Gorbachev (m. 1953–1999; her death); 1 child
  • Maxim Andreyevich Titarenko (father)
  • Alexandra Petrovna Porada (mother)
Children Irina Mikhailovna Virganskaya
Alma mater Moscow State University[1]
Profession Philosopher
Religion Russian Orthodoxy

Raisa Maximovna Gorbacheva (Russian: Раи́са Макси́мовна Горбачёва tr. Raisa Maksimovna Gorbachyova, née Titarenko, Титаре́нко; 5 January 193220 September 1999) was the wife of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. She raised funds for the preservation of Russian cultural heritage, fostering of new talent, and treatment programs for children's blood cancer.


Raisa Maximovna Titarenko was born in the city of Rubtsovsk in the Altai region of Siberia. She was the eldest of three children of Maxim Andreyevich Titarenko, a railway engineer originally from Chernigov, and his Siberian wife, Alexandra Petrovna Porada, originally from Veseloyarsk. She spent her childhood in the Ural Mountains, and met her future husband while studying philosophy in Moscow. She earned an advanced degree at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, and taught briefly at Moscow State University.[2]

File:RIAN archive 662287 Metropolitan Pitirim and Raisa Gorbacheva.jpg
Raisa Gorbacheva with the Metropolitan of Volokolamsk on a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, June 1989

They married in September 1953 and moved to her husband's home region of Stavropol in southern Russia upon graduation. There, she taught Marxist–Leninist philosophy and defended her sociology research thesis about kolkhoz life. She gave birth in 1958 to their only child, Irina Mikhailovna (married name: Virganskaya; Ири́на Миха́йловна Вирга́нская). When her husband returned to Moscow as a rising Soviet Communist Party official, Gorbacheva took a post of a lecturer at her alma mater, Moscow State University. She left the post when her husband became a leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. Her public appearances beside her husband as first lady were a novelty at home and went a long way in humanizing the country's image. She was one of the few wives of a communist party leader to have a high public profile of her own.

On June 1, 1990, Gorbacheva accompanied U.S. first lady Barbara Bush to Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Both women spoke before the graduating class during the commencement service, touching on the role of women in modern society. All the American TV networks covered the addresses live; CNN provided live cable-TV coverage round the world. The events of the Soviet Coup of 1991 which attempted to depose her husband from power, left a lasting scar on Gorbacheva.[3] The political turmoil that followed pushed the Gorbachevs into the shadows.

Death and legacy

In 1989, following a personal address from Professor Rumyantsev and others, Gorbacheva contributed US$100,000 to the charity "International Association of Hematologists of the World for Children". This and further donations raised by both of the Gorbachevs helped to buy equipment for blood banks and to train Russian doctors abroad.

Gorbacheva suffered a stroke in October 1993.[4] However, in 1997 she went on to establish the Raisa Maksimovna's Club aimed at galvanizing the participation of women in politics. She also worked to raise awareness of children's issues (she had frequently welcomed youth delegations to the Kremlin when her husband could not be present).

In July 1999 she was diagnosed with leukaemia by the Institute of Haematology RAMS. Shortly after she travelled with her husband and daughter to Münster in Germany for treatment at the medical clinic of the Münster University Hospital. She received treatment for two months under the supervision of Professor Thomas Buechner, a leading haematologist. However, she died on 20 September 1999 aged 67. Her body was repatriated to Russia and interred at the Novodevichy Cemetery in Moscow.

In 2006, her family founded the Raisa Gorbacheva Foundation, which raises money to support those with childhood cancer.[5]


  • Gorbachyova, Raisa Maksimovna (1991). Ya nadejus'... Novosti. ISBN 5-88337-005-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Raisa. Vospominaniya, dnevniki, interview, statyi, telegrammy. Moscow: Vagrius Petro-News. 2000. ISBN 5-12-004641-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. Gorbachev's Revolution, p. 55
  2. Watson, Robert P. (1 September 2000). The Presidents' Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady. Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-1-55587-948-8. Retrieved 15 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "The Gorbachev Files: Secret Papers Reveal Truth Behind Soviet Collapse". Spiegel.de. Retrieved 16 June 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Schmemann, Serge (3 November 1993). "Gorbachev, Energetic, Chatty, but Not Yet Political". The New York Times. p. 3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Combatting Childhood Cancer". RG Foundation. Retrieved 31 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>