On the death of Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, party leaders selected the talented and vigorous Soviet official Mikhail Gorbachev to succeed him. The new Soviet leader had shown early signs of promise. Born into a peasant family in 1931, Gorbachev combined farmwork with school and received the Order of the Red Banner for his agricultural efforts. This award and his good school record enabled him to study law at the University of Moscow. After receiving his law degree in 1955, he returned to his native southern Russia, where he eventually became first secretary of the Communist Party in the city of Stavropol and then first secretary of the regional party committee. In 1978, Gorbachev was made a member of the party’s Central Committee in Moscow. Two years later, he became a full member of the ruling Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee. During the early 1980s, Gorbachev began to realize the extent of Soviet problems and the crucial importance of massive reform to transform the system. During a visit to Canada in 1983, he discovered to his astonishment that Canadian farmers worked hard on their own initiative. “We’ll never have this for fifty years,” he reportedly remarked.4 On his return to Moscow, he established a series of committees to evaluate the situation and recommend measures to improve the system.