Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev is celebrating his 80th birthday on Wednesday night with a gala charity concert in the British capital.
Speaking at the opening of the concert at the London Royal Albert Hall, Gorbachev expressed hope that despite of the controversy surrounding his term in office as the last Soviet president he succeeded in "teaching people the ideals of freedom."
"After all those years...I consider myself a happy man," the Nobel Peace Prize winner told an eclectic crowd of politicians, musicians and artists gathered at the concert.
Gorbachev, the so-called "architect of perestroika and glasnost in Russia," is still worshiped by some Russians for bringing freedom and democracy to the country, while many others consider him a weak politician, who ruined the Soviet empire.
His controversial image in Russia could be one of the reasons why the main celebrations of his birthday, which was on March 2, are taking place in the West, where he is seen as a symbol of the liberalization of Soviet life and the ending of the Cold War.
The gala concert features performances by Scorpions, Brian Ferry, Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, Belgium's Lara Fabian, Russia's baritone Dmitry Khvorostovsky, and ex-Spice Girls Melanie C.
Hollywood stars Sharon Stone and Kevin Spacey host the event.
Gorbachev will award for the first time his eponymous prize "The Man who changed the world".
Organizers of the event are planning to raise about 5 million British pounds. All proceeds will go to cancer charities, including The Raisa Foundation, named in honor of Gorbachev's late wife, who died of leukemia.
Gorbachev was the seventh and last leader of the Soviet Union and is well known for his reform attempts, which led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
LONDON, March 31 (RIA Novosti)