In an interview with the BBC, he called on President Vladimir Putin “not to be afraid of his own people”.
Mr Gorbachev also criticised Mr Putin’s inner circle, saying it was full of “thieves and corrupt officials”.
The laws include fines for organising unsanctioned protests, stiffer libel penalties, a wider definition of treason and restrictions on websites.
In January, Human Rights Watch accused President 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.
The group also said he had overseen “the swift reversal of former President Dmitry Medvedev’s few, timid advances on political freedoms”.
A number of opposition leaders have been arrested since major anti-government protests began to be staged in Moscow and other big cities following the disputed parliamentary elections in December 2011.
Mr Gorbachev said he was “astonished” by the number of controversial laws passed in Russia since Mr Putin’s return to the Kremlin.
“The common thread running through all of them is an attack on the rights of citizens,” he told the BBC. “For goodness sake, you shouldn’t be afraid of your own people.”
“What people want and expect their president to do is to restore an open, direct dialogue with them. He shouldn’t take offence at this.”
“He should concentrate on trying to drag Russia out of the difficult situation that she is in,” Mr Gorbachev added.
The BBC’s Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says the former Soviet president has been increasingly critical of President Putin, and that has not gone down well in the corridors of power.
In the BBC interview, Mr Gorbachev claimed that Mr Putin “sometimes loses his temper”.
“Once he said that ‘Gorbachev’s tongue should be cut short’.”
“I get the feeling that he is very tense and bored. Not everything is going well. I think he should change his style and make readjustments to the regime,” he added.
Mr Gorbachev also expressed concern about the president’s entourage.
“Even the inner circle, those by his side, there are so many thieves and corrupt officials there,” he said. “If things don’t change, Russia will continue to drift like a piece of ice in the Arctic Ocean.”