Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who played a central role in ending the Cold War, died Tuesday at the age of 91.

Russian media reported his death, citing the hospital that was treating him as saying he died of a "serious and protracted disease," without providing more information.

Gorbachev's trademark policies of glasnost and perestroika helped open up the Soviet economy and liberalize society in the late 1980s

He also oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from about a decadelong military campaign in Afghanistan, as well as the USSR's handling of Chernobyl.

Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, he was seen by many abroad, including President Ronald Reagan, as a visionary

But his legacy is complicated at home, where many viewed him as the man who engineered the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He was born in 1931 in Privolnoye, a village in southern Russia. He was the son of peasants and knew how to operate farm equipment. He also knew the horror of war.

In an interview with the Academy of Achievement years later, Gorbachev said watching the Nazis occupy his village as a boy shaped his life.

This was all happening right in front of our eyes, the eyes of the children," he said.