Glasnost, Perestroika, and the Erosion of Authority
On December 26, 1991, a day after the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union dissolved signaling the end of the Cold War and the world’s largest Communist state. The end of the superpower USSR was a monumental event in history that truly astounded the rest of the world. How could a nation as powerful as the Soviet Union collapse mostly on its own accord? There are many different factors and decisions to consider while examining this question with no one right answer. The break-up of the Soviet Union was the result of Gorbachev’s failed attempt to manage the multiple wide-ranging social, economic, and political reforms (primarily glasnost and perestroika) which led to nationalist movements in Soviet-controlled states. His reform became a revolution that failed to save the system, destroyed the Soviet Union, and seriously weakened Russia in relation to the West. Gorbachev’s efforts to make the Soviet Union more transparent through glasnost and perestroika opened up processes of change that ran ahead of their efforts to control them. “Gorbachev came to power as a reformer determined to liberalize the Soviet system but without a clear idea of how far change would have to reach” (Suny 481). Gorbachev and his team of economic advisors realized that fixing the Soviet economy would be nearly impossible without reforming the political and social structure of Communism. The main dilemma they faced was bridging the gap between socialism’s ideals and disappointing realities, within the context of superpower competition. One thing they felt was essential to reform was to create a more open government to reduce corruption within the government and Communist Party by appealing directly to the working people (Kotkin 59). “Communists, Gorbachev said, want the truth, always and under all circumstances; government should not be the privilege of a narrow circle of professionals” (Suny 482). This policy of...
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