MOSCOW, OCT. 15 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev today won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end the Cold War and allowing the Kremlin's former East European satellites to regain their political freedom.
Tributes to the new Nobel laureate poured in from around the world, including many from Western countries long viewed as the Soviet Union's ideological enemies. Reaction at home was mixed, ranging from pride in Gorbachev's international image as a peacemaker to anger at his failure to deal effectively with the country's growing economic and ethnic turmoil.
Gorbachev, 59, is the first Communist head of state to win the Nobel Peace Prize, generally regarded as the highest honor the international community can bestow on a statesman, since its inception in 1901. The last U.S. president to win the award was Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
Speaking to journalists in the Kremlin, the Soviet leader described the $710,000 award as international recognition of the importance of his perestroika reform movement. He said he felt at home in the company of such former Nobel Peace Prize laureates as Soviet human rights campaigner Andrei Sakharov and Polish labor leader Lech Walesa, both of whom were denounced as "anti-Communists" by previous Kremlin leaders.
"The award is support for our efforts and is very inspiring for me. . . . It coincides with a crucial period in perestroika," said Gorbachev, adding that he planned to travel to Oslo, the Norwegian capital, on Dec. 10 for the award presentation ceremony.
The Nobel Prize committee said it wished to honor Gorbachev for his "many and decisive contributions" to the dramatic changes in East-West relations and the new role now being played by the United Nations. It also praised the Soviet leader for "the greater openness he has brought about in Soviet society," which "has also helped promote international trust."
President Bush sent congratulations to the Soviet president, describing Gorbachev as a "courageous force for peaceful change in the world" and adding that "East-West relations hold greater promise for peace and world stability today than at any time in the last 45 years." The leaders of last year's peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe -- including Walesa and Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel -- also welcomed the award of the Nobel Prize to Gorbachev, saying that it was well deserved.
Soviet citizens coupled praise for Gorbachev's foreign-policy achievements with expressions of alarm about the Soviet Union's deepening internal crisis. The Soviet leader's domestic popularity has plummeted to an all-time low -- a 19 percent approval rating, according to one recent poll -- as ethnic turmoil mounts, and food and basic consumer items disappear from the stores.
"I think that Gorbachev only half deserves this award. He has done a lot for peace in the world, but he hasn't done much for us here in the Soviet Union. Ultimately, it's what you do for your own people that is really important," said Elena Ryzkhova, a young Moscow office worker, standing in a long line for fabric at the state department store Gum on Red Square.
There was hostile reaction to the award in the makeshift community of huts and tents near St. Basil's Cathedral, scene of a six-month-long protest by dozens of homeless families. Some residents of "Tent City" accused the Soviet leader of responsibility for the killing of more than 100 protesters by the army in Azerbaijan last January following the imposition of martial law in the republic's capital, Baku.
"Gorbachev doesn't deserve the Nobel Prize," said Tamara Archinnikova, who was expelled from her state apartment in the provincial town of Saratov earlier this year. "How can they talk about his services to peace in the world when there isn't peace here in the Soviet Union?"
But a taxi driver in Red Square, who gave his name only as Oleg, linked this year's award with Western recognition of the changes underway in the Soviet Union. "I hope it will help us. Western support is important for us, perhaps it will mean we will get some assistance," he said.
While reveling in the international prestige of the Nobel award, Soviet officials were also sensitive to public disenchantment with an ailing economy. At a news conference in Moscow, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov said Gorbachev had changed the course of international relations, but added, "We must remember that this certainly was not the Nobel prize for economics."
During the 5 1/2 years since he became Soviet leader, Gorbachev has reversed many long-standing Kremlin policies. He withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan after a bloody 10-year war, cut the size of the Soviet armed forces, ended 45 years of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe and allowed the peaceful reunification of Germany.
At home, Gorbachev's policy of glasnost, or openness, undermined the structure of the totalitarian one-party state constructed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin by allowing expression of competing opinions. The Soviet leader also encouraged development of power structures that rival that of the Communist Party by creating new institutions such as the popularly elected legislative body known as the Congress of People's Deputies and permitting at least partially free elections.
But while Gorbachev has shaken up the Soviet political system, he has so far been frustrated in his ultimate goal: the modernization of the nation's ramshackle economy. A series of economic reforms, most of which were widely seen as half-hearted and ill-prepared, has discredited the old system of central planning without yet laying the foundations for a new, market-based economy.
The Soviet leadership's failure to devise a coherent economic reform program was underlined again today by a further postponement of a vote by the standing legislature, or Supreme Soviet, on the long-awaited transition to the market-based system. Gorbachev had been due to present his own proposals for economic reform to the Supreme Soviet by today, but deputies were told today that they would have to wait until the end of the week.
The Soviet leader has spent most of the past month attempting to reconcile two very different proposals for a transition to a market economy. His prime minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, favors a cautious approach that would preserve a large degree of government control over the economy while Gorbachev's principal economic adviser, Stanislav Shatalin, has called for the foundations of a free market to be created in 500 days by a massive sale of state assets.
Deputies said that the compromise version prepared by Gorbachev drew on both variants, relaxing Shatalin's rigid, stage-by-stage timetable in favor of greater flexibility. The president is likely to outline his proposals to the Supreme Soviet on Friday.
Members of the Supreme Soviet responded with only a perfunctory round of applause when Speaker Anatoly Lukyanov broke the news of the Nobel Peace Prize at the end of this morning's session.
Recent winners of the peace prize were the Dalai Lama, exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, in 1989; the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces in 1988; Costa Rican President Oscar Arias in 1987; and U.S. writer and human rights activist Elie Wiesel in 1986.
Five prizes are awarded each year through endowments from the estate of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite, who died in 1896. Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz won this year's prize for literature, and two American doctors, Joseph Murray and Donnall Thomas, were named winners of the prize for medicine.