Mikhail Gorbachev- The Gorbachev Era

Soviet Union
March 1, 2024

Gorbachev was born in Privolnoye in southern Russia in 1931 and his family were victims of Stalinist repression. He helped the end of the cold war between US and the USSR and also removed a huge volume of its troops from Soviet occupied Eastern Europe.

As a Communist Party politician, Mikhail Gorbachev took power in 1985.

Mikhail Gorbachev took power in 1985 as General Secretary of the Communist Party. He inherited a stagnant economy and fragile political system. Although the government of the Soviet Union was Communist in name, it didn’t emulate the values and structure of Communism. It reflected a more authoritarian, or even dictatorship, style of government. Citizens were highly controlled, as what they read, watched and said was monitored and their public lives were enforced in a way to prevent rebellion or resistance. Political and social freedoms were minimal. Citizens were closely monitored about what they said about their country, as they were not free to openly criticize their nation’s leadership and so was the press. There was no freedom of press.

Gorbachev started reforming the Soviet Union by implementing policies to bring about individual freedom, bureaucratic transparency and to stimulate economic change:-

The Sinatra Doctrine allowed East Bloc governments to be more autonomous and self-governing and gets its namesake for the Frank Sinatra classic “My Way.” In a way allowing previously Soviet-controlled countries to go their own way. Prior to Gorbachev, the Brezhnev Doctrine controlled these satellite countries and maintained that the affairs of these countries should be tightly controlled by the Soviet government in Moscow.

Soviet Union was the World's second largest economy and, if not the most powerful military force in the World. It produced more machine tools, oil and natural gas than any other country. The country's stock of nuclear and conventional weapons in Europe was at least double than of the United States.

Domestically, Gorbachev's policy was primarily conducted under three programs commonly known as "perestroika", "glasnost", and " demokratizatsiya", in other words, economic reform, openness and democratization.

Perestroika meaning restructuring, is viewed as the Soviet economic and social reform policy of the late 1980s. According to Gorbachev, it means "priority development of the social sphere aimed at better satisfaction of the Soviet people's requirements for good living and work conditions, for good rest and recreation, education and healthcare" . The concept was attached to the attempts by him to transform the stagnant, inefficient command economy of the Soviet Union into a democratized market-oriented economy. Gorbachev's "perestroïka" program virtually eliminated the monopoly that the ministry of foreign trade had once held on most trade operations. The reform permitted the ministries of the various industrial and agricultural branches to conduct foreign trade only in sectors under their responsibility. They are not allowed anymore to operate indirectly through the bureaucracy of trade ministry organizations. In addition to this, regional and local organizations, and individual State enterprises were permitted to conduct foreign trade. This change was an attempt to redress a major imperfection in the Soviet foreign trade regime namely, the lack of contact between Soviet users and suppliers and their foreign partners.

The most significant of Gorbachev's reforms in the foreign economic sector was to allow foreigners to invest in the Soviet Union in the form of joint-ventures with Soviet ministries, State enterprises and cooperatives.

Glasnost meaning openness, gave new freedoms to the people, such as a greater freedom of speech. In fact, the Soviet Press could criticize senior Communist officials. This was a radical change, as control of speech and suppression of government criticism had previously been a central part of the Soviet system. The Press became a liberal Press and allowed to grow and flourish within the USSR. Gorbachev's goal in undertaking " glasnost" was to pressure Conservatives within the CPSU who opposed his policies of economic restructuring. He also hoped that through different ranges of openness, debate and participation, the Soviet people would support his reform initiatives.

Mikhail Gorbachev called for Democratization ; the source of this appeal was an open letter to Brezhnev Witten in 1970 by three leading dissidents : Andrei Sakharov, Roy Medvedev, and Valentin Turchin. The dissidents suggested that it was important to widen the decision-making process, to bring in all the elements of the society, including non-Communists to solve the nation's problems. In the democratization process, Gorbachev decided the infusion of democratic elements such as multicandidate elections into the Soviet political process. He also launched radical political reforms in reducing the Party control of the government apparatus.

These reforms , were aimed at economic reconstruction, transparency and Soviet Regime liberalization, such as freedom of expression and information sharing.

The reforms were linked to the “new thinking” and were adopted following a decade of economic stagnation, declining production, major shortages, and poor living conditions in the USSR. Gorbachev believed that with that those existing degree of centralization and bureaucracy, the Union could not develop and achieve economic revival.

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