In an interview with the BBC in Moscow, Gorbachev said he was "astonished" by the number of controversial laws passed in Russia since President Vladimir Putin's return to the Kremlin.
In the interview, Gorbachev calls on Putin "not to be afraid of his own people."
He also said Putin's inner circle is full of "thieves and corrupt officials."
He said that "if things don't change, Russia will continue to drift like a piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean."
In January, Human Rights Watch accused Putin of unleashing "the worst political crackdown in Russia's post-Soviet history" since returning to the Kremlin for a third term in May 2012.