Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader who brought the Cold War to a peaceful end, has died aged 91.

The hospital in Moscow where he died said he had been sick for a long time and that he suffered from a serious illness.

He was a young star in the Communist Party, and when he was named leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, he was already building relationships with Western leaders like British PM Margaret Thatcher.

In 1990, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for being the person most responsible for the major changes in East-West relations."

He was part of the group of children who grew up during World War II. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Gorbachev said watching the Nazis occupy his village as a boy shaped his life.

He was born in 1931 in the southern Russian village of Privolnoye. He was the son of farmers, so he knew how to use farm tools. He also knew how horrible the war was.

Few leaders have had such a profound impact on the world, but Mr. Gorbachev didn't have the intentions of releasing eastern Europe from Soviet control. Instead, he desired to revitalise the society.

"Mikhail Gorbachev was a one-of-a-kind statesman," tweeted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. "The world has lost a colossal global leader, devoted multilateralist, and ardent peace campaigner."

In the midst of the Cold War, US President Joe Biden referred to Mr. Gorbachev as a "rare leader" and commended him as a politician with "the creativity to realise that a new future was possible."