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Tribute exhibition to the USSR’s first lady

Published time: September 18, 2009 18:32
Edited time: September 18, 2009 18:32
Raisa Gorbacheva (Photo from

Raisa Gorbacheva (Photo from

She was the first public figure among the wives of Soviet leaders. An exhibit dedicated to the memory of the USSR’s first lady, Raisa Gorbacheva, opened on Friday in St. Petersburg about the life of this special woman.

The first president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, his daughter Irina and his grand-daughter Anastasia were present at the opening of the exhibition, commemorating the tenth anniversary of Raisa Gorbachev’s death.

“It’s hard for me to speak, but I’m lucky that she was my wife,” the ex-president of the USSR said at the opening, hardly hiding his emotions.

Organizers of the display at the Museum of Political History of Russia tried to recreate the image of Raisa Gorbacheva – teacher, scientist, public figure, wife, mother and grandmother. The display includes photographs, documents and books telling about the social activity of USSR’s first lady in charity. Awards from international organizations and foreign universities, gifts and letters from different people and establishments testify to the contribution Raisa Gorbacheva made to the country’s social life.

Visitors will see Raisa Gorbacheva's personal belongings connected with memorable dates in her life, including a Catholic cruicifx – a present from Pope John Paul II.

The first section of the display is devoted to Gorbacheva’s childhood and early years.

The second and the main section of the exhibition tells about the Moscow period in Gorbacheva’s life when, in 1985, she became the wife of the head of the state.

“Having broken down the tradition when wives of the Soviet leaders remained behind the scene in public life, Raisa Gorbacheva achieved public renown both in the country and abroad, proving to be the true first lady of the Soviet state, and became a symbol of the time,” the organizers’ official message says. In 1987, the British ‘Woman’s Own’ magazine named her “Woman Of The Year.”

During this period, Raisa Gorbacheva had an active public life and was very involved with charities, including the Soviet Fund of Culture. Decisions about many social problems were connected with her name. In particular, her cooperation with the International association “Hematologist of the world – for children” assisted in leukemia treatment for children in our country.

Objects on display in the exhibition reflect numerous trips across the USSR and abroad, the Western and Soviet societies’ attitude to the first lady of the USSR, and her touching and gentle relations with her family. A significant part of the display is dedicated to Gorbacheva’s life after her spouse resigned from the post as USSR president.

Raisa Gorbacheva died on September 20, 1999 from leukemia, which she was desperately trying to fight, along with others who had the disease. In London, the International Fund in her name (created in 2002 with the support of Gorbacheva’s family) continues helping children, including those from Russia, suffering from hematological diseases. In 2007, the Institute of Children's Hematology and Transplantology was established in St.Petersburg in the memory of the Soviet Union’s first lady.