Born Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko in southern Siberia. While a sociology student at Moscow State University she met her future husband, Mikhail Gorbachev. They were married in September 1953 and upon graduation moved to Mr. Gorbachev's home region of Stavropol in southern Russia. There, Mrs. Gorbachev taught Marxist-Leninist philosophy and in 1956 gave birth to their only child, daughter Irina (Virganskaya).
When her husband returned to Moscow as a rising Communist Party official, Raisa Gorbachev took a job as a lecturer at her alma mater, Moscow State University. On the death of Premier Konstantin Chernenko in 1985, her husband became the leader of the Soviet Union. She gave up her job and would, behind the scenes, become her husband's principal adviser.
Mrs. Gorbachev's behaviour would profoundly affect the Soviet citizenry, in particular the women. Previous Soviet leaders wives were never seen publicly but Mrs. Gorbachev, appearing repeatedly with her husband at public functions wearing designer clothes and jewelry, shocked the country. Her "bold" behaviour was much criticized at home but went a long way to humanizing Russia, dispelling the "Evil Empire" perception of the West. Through it all, her husband stood behind her saying that they both preached the principle of equality.
In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, her husband lost his position and Raisa Gorbachev retreated from the headlines until being diagnosed with leukemia. By then, public attitudes in Russia had changed dramatically towards her and she received much support in raising money for children's leukemia hospitals.
Raisa Gorbachev passed away on September 20, 1999 at Münster University Hospital in Germany. Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, dispatched a government jet to bring her body back to Moscow where after a public funeral, she was interred in the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, Russia.