OBITUARY : Alexandra Titarenko

Alexandra Titarenko was the mother-in-law of the former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, and the driving force behind her daughter Raisa. Gorbachev himself often listened to her wise advice.

Alexandra Petrovna, known as "Sasha" or "Shurochka" (both diminutives of Alexandra), was born at Veseloyarsk, "Jolly Resort", in western Siberia, in 1913, one of the six children of Petr Stepanovich Porada, a poor peasant, originally from Ukraine. During Stalin's collectivisation campaign, Porada was declared a kulak, their house and land were confiscated, and in 1937 he was arrested. Being uneducated, he had no idea who Trotsky was, yet he was accused of being a Trotskyist; he perished in the Gulag.

At the age of 19, Sasha met and married Maxim Titarenko, who had come from Ukraine to the Altai Krai, as western Siberia was renamed, in search of employment. He found a job in the railroad construction industry and rose to become an engineer. Raisa, their first child, was born in 1932, in Rubtsovsk. Sasha had her secretly christened at a local Russian Orthodox priest's flat. A son and another daughter followed.

During the Second World War the family lived in various places in the Urals and after it moved to Sterlitamak, centre of the Soviet Union's chemical industry, south of Ufa, the capital of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic.

Alexandra Petrovna was determined to give her children the best education she could. It was she who in 1949 encouraged Raisa to enrol at Moscow University. She approved her daughter's choice when, in 1953, Raisa married Mikhail ("Misha") Gorbachev, a brilliant law student. When the couple left for Stavropol in southern Russia she kept in close touch with her daughter, who spent two years out of work.

The Gorbachevs' only child, their daughter Irina - Sasha's first grandchild - was born in 1957 in the tiny room they rented. Irina spent her summer holidays with her grandparents at Sterlitamak, and it was on her grandmother's advice that in 1974 she became a medical student at Stavropol. In the 1980s Irina gave her two great-granddaughters, Ksenia and Nastenka.

When in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev became First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, it was reported that Alexandra Petrovna could not bring herself to contact her daughter, the new First Lady: to use the Kremlin's internal line would be to disturb the head of state. It took her time to get used to her own new position; but she remained Raisa's confidante, especially when her daughter was in difficulties.

When in 1991 Alexandra Petrovna saw on television that her daughter and son-in-law were virtually under arrest on the island of Foros in the Crimea, she wanted to go there; only her frailty prevented her. As soon as telephone lines were restored, she spoke to Raisa and her husband. She advised them both to hold on and not to give in to their enemies. She was a firm support when, shortly afterwards, Raisa was partly paralysed following a minor stroke.

Raisa's brother Yevgeni graduated from military school, but became an alcoholic. It was his mother who persuaded him to enter a clinic for treatment, after which he became a writer, graduating from the Literary Institute. Her younger daughter, Liudmila, graduated from the Medical Institute at Ufa, and gave her a grandson.

In 1986, when her husband Maxim died at a Moscow hospital after a series of operations, she refused her son-in-law's invitation to move to Moscow and live with the Gorbachevs at their official country residence off Rublevskoe Highway. She thought it would be wrong to take advantage of her son-in- law's position. Instead she moved to Ufa, where she spent her last nine years in an ordinary one-bedroom flat.

Mikhail Gorbachev paid tribute to the active role Alexandra Petrovna played in his work as a statesman and politician and described her as an extremely decent, reliable and appreciative woman.

Jeanne Vronskaya

Alexandra Petrovna Porada: born Veseloyarsk, Siberia 14 March 1913; married 1931 Maxim Andreevich Titarenko (died 1986; one son, two daughters); died Ufa, Bashkiria 14 July 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower