In January 1959, the young Fidel Castro rode to power in Havana after a protracted guerrilla struggle against the Batista dictatorship, proclaiming humanism as the guiding principle of the Cuban revolution. At that time Mikhail Gorbachev, some 6,000 miles away, had just been promoted from the propaganda department to become first secretary of the Young Communist League in the Stavropol Region of the Russian Republic in the Soviet Union, marking his first steps on the way to the top of a highly centralized, rigidly structured and tightly disciplined Marxist-Leninist political system. Gorbachev was just 28 years of age, only four years younger than Castro.