Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev was born in the village of Privolnoye near Stavropol, Russia. From the age of 13 he worked on a collective farm, where his father was a mechanic. He was an exceptional student and earned a law degree at Moscow University where he joined the Communist Party and became Secretary of the law department's Young Communist League. After returning to the Stavropol area he rose in the League hierarchy to become Regional Secretary of the League, and in 1961 first became a delegate to the Party Congress. He spent the 1960s working his way up through the territorial bodies of the Party and continuing his education in agronomy and economics.
As an agricultural administrator and party leader in his native region, he acquired a reputation for innovation and incorruptible honesty, and he soon rose in the Party hierarchy. He was first elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1970, and served on commissions dealing with conservation, youth policy, and foreign affairs. In 1971 he was elected to the Central Committee. In 1978 he became First Secretary of the Stavropol territorial committee and by 1980 was a full member of the Politburo.