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  • Published on: 21st September 2019
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  Michael S. Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, bringing along the goal of reformation of the overwrought Soviet Union. It was explicit that he was different from his predecessors not only due to his unique ideas but also due to his younger age, which most likely was a factor stimulating his fresh outlook on the dynamics of the society. He had a fresh perspective on Marxist ideology and was able to use that new perspective to garner support for himself and his policies. Mikhail Gorbachev‘s policies of “perestroika” and “glasnost”, were in effect from 1985 to 1991. During these years many had argued whether his policies are going to help Soviet Union or destroy it.  As soon as the Soviet Union break up took place many blamed it on the failure of Gorbachev’s policies, however, by examining different viewpoints of the effects of perestroika and glasnost on the society and the government, it becomes evident that Soviet Union had benefited from perestroika and glasnost in many ways.

  According to Gorbachev,” Without glasnost there would have been no perestroika.”

Glasnost is defined as openness. Gorbachev argued that glasnost “awakened people from their social slumber, helped them overcome indifference and passivity and become aware of the stake they had in change and of its important implications for their lives.”

 The main goal of glasnost was to allow the voices which have been shut down to be finally heard and also to allow many individuals to see what the environment was like on the external of the Soviet Union in the hopes that it would bring more of their support for a communism shaped society. However, the exact parameters and overall aims of glasnost were not directly expressed by Gorbachev or his government. This failure to clearly state the purposes and meanings of policies were a problem that afflicted Gorbachev’s reforms until the fall of the Soviet Union.

In addition, glasnost gave the freedom to radio, film industry, television, and press to express themselves with almost no limitations which gave the public to freely state their opinion on things beyond Gorbachev’s control. In fact, Gorbachev's glasnost actually continued in Andropov's footsteps, who in 1983 had started to expose it to the press corruption among high-ranking officials. Moreover, Andropov made available some information on Politburo and Central Committee meetings and called for glasnost in nationality relations.'

Moreover, economic crisis  and glasnost awakened political consciousness support continued effervescence among Soviet social groups. Organized forces had a desire to participate in the Soviet political process. Glasnost was viewed as a safety measure for all the traction spreading throughout  Soviet society and it gave the opportunity for communication for political crisis managements.

Continuously, in the April 1985 plenum, Gorbachev told party committees to practice glasnost and in their ideological work to "speak to people in the language of truth." Gorbachev warned that when people are told things that opposed by what they view in reality, this shapes a "serious political question.” Therefore,  Gorbachev’s glasnost gave the people the ability to view the Soviet life and how it was like in democratic countries. This cultural exchange helped to expose the Soviet Union to a differently shaped societies and it made them realize that their country is far behind from what it is like in the western countries; this contrast helped the people admit to a change and look forward to a difference to become one step closer to a stable and flexible society. Furthermore, to help the Soviet people be cooperative with Western nations, glasnost allowed criticism in the media by Soviet and Western representatives which also lead to considering the democratization of the Soviet political system. However, the radical changes that Gorbachev introduced in the Soviet Union's relations with the West had political consequences at home. Initially, glasnost was not an innovation to intend a critical and public analysis of Soviet history or Soviet foreign policy. But glasnost eventually was expanded farther than its original restricted purpose in preventing corruption to permit criticism of the past Soviet leaderships and their foreign and domestic policies. Although, glasnost, in turn, ended up in a radically improved Soviet representation and acceptance abroad. Glasnost sharpened and led to the first open discussion of current foreign policy issues which was taking place in October 1988. Additionally, not all the people were inspired to have a revolutionary change in their governmental structure after being exposed to a variety of western ways in which the government was shaped since many people feared the change without being sure that it would positively impact their country. Also, migration rates were very high at the time since many individuals were seeking a  better living conditions without having a patience to wait for their own country’s change. Therefore, starting from the 1980s, about 15 million citizens changed their place of residence within the Soviet Union.  Then, an estimated 2 million Jews left the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1991. Nevertheless, with the introduction of Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika in the late 1980s, migration policy began its transformation. In 1985,  just 2,943 individuals received official permission to emigrate. By 1990,  the figure had risen to more than 100,000. Usually, the people migrated migrated into economically more developed countries, such as Israel, the USA, Germany and other EU-member states without waiting for a Soviet Union change to occur because they did not have any faith into the governmental improvement and progressivism.  

Perestroika refers to the reconstruction of the political and economic system established by the Communist Party. Gorbachev defined his intent for perestroika in a book that was published in 1987. He wrote, “Perestroika is an urgent necessity arising from the profound processes of development in our socialist society. This society is ripe for change. It has long been yearning for it.”  This reflects on his belief of the society desiring a change itself and least he can do is to take upon the action to make that change happen by bringing his policies. He has started this change by searching for the details in Soviet economy that were the cause for the decline of the society. His investigation was shared with the Party leaders and economists who have helped him to come closer to the end of the investigation. The investigation concluded that the Soviet economy was going rearwards , lacked technology and did not have the financial backing to support it. According to Gorbachev, perestroika was the key to solving these problems or as he said it  “was to put the economy into some kind of order, to tighten up discipline, to raise the level of organization and responsibility, and to catch up areas where [the country was] behind.”

As postulated by Stefan Heym, the people certainly hoped that perestroika would win out bringing with itself certain changes and all along it was clear that socialism could flourish only with a certain amount of freedom and democracy. The concept of democratization necessitates multi-candidate in the regime of governance in Russia. By adoption of multi-candidate, the opportunity to lead the people was handed to the government. According to Cohen, due to multi-candidate, a better watch and management of the national resources and national affairs was made more efficient.  

One more beneficial factor of perestroika was that the Communist Party was separated from government network.  The party officials and the different legislators had a major influence over government structure thus leading to making their own interests a priority. The concept of separating the party from the government was a brilliant idea and led to more transparency and responsibility in the execution of national policies ( Kushner). However, this shows the manipulative approach which limits the abilities to disagree with the Party’s authorities.

Furthermore, by aligning himself and his policies with Lenin, Gorbachev was again fading away from Stalin by debating that the country needed to return to its Leninist roots. In fact, he gave a speech on November 2, 1987 in which he asserted  that perestroika was the continuation of the 1917 Revolution and signaled a return to true Leninist thinking. In addition, perestroika was very beneficial in establishing political development when the new amendments led to organizing a smaller soviet union's legislative body which included 542 members. This led to all public organizations being accommodated in the new system.

Additionally, democracy and human freedom took place in the 1989, when the people expressed their democratic right to choose members for national legislative body. The people could choose their favorite candidates which shows how the people took a role in a decision making whereas their opinion mattered.

Moreover, production of industry and agriculture was also heightened due to Gorbachev’s favorable outlook on fast-paced technological modernization which provided a auspicious economic environment. The working class, which was the largest group of people in the Soviet Union, believed that they would receive wider variety of goods and services and a more efficient handling of social and economic issues. Gorbachev implied that the fostering economic reforms is the result of improvement of the soviet bureaucracy. One example of the success of the economic reforms was the anti-alcohol campaign. The issue of alcoholism had grown rapidly over the years which was a hazardous condition for the consumers and the people who surround the alcoholics. Alcoholics are not in control of their actions when they are under the influence which makes their behavior very unpredictable and can lead to a harmful effects towards others. To prevent the alcoholism rates, the prices of Vodka, beer and wine were raised as well as the restriction of their sales. The results of these changes led to a higher involvement of the people in productive activities and developments in the economy.

However, increase of the prices of alcohol products led to an increase in crime activities.  There was a high amount of interlope of alcohol products across the borders as well as illegal production of alcohol in the areas such as urban. Also health of the nation was at risk due to production of low quality products since many were making their own alcohol at home with low hygiene standards which caused different diseases.

Lastly, perestroika stimulated a better relationship between the soviets and western leaders. Trade with the west contributed to the shaping global relationships and reducing the tension of the cold war. As an epitome, the relationship of Russia with Germany was strengthened which led to improving their business bonds.  Gorbachev claims that because the people still believed in the potential of their country, they supported perestroika and thought that the reforms could help the USSR “surpass the developed nations of the West or at least eliminate the enormous gap between us.” Although, there was also a phase of hesitation regarding how perestroika would actually reflect on economic and social issues since it was a completely new invention for the people so the only thing that led the people supporting that change was a hope that it would be a revolutionary change for the better life.  According to all of the above, it is clear that perestroika was not only an economic policy which Gorbachev invented but it was also an economic policy with an attempt for improving the life of individuals which people supported until the shift happened due to the doubts of its rapid results and not fast enough progress along with fixation of problems to a full satisfaction of the people itself; it still gave a numerous benefits to the Soviet Union as well as the global community.  

In conclusion, Gorbachev’s  dual program of “perestroika” (“restructuring”) and “glasnost” (“openness”) exposed the population to intense changes in economic practice, internal affairs and international relations. It might not have been as successful as Gorbachev intended it to be, however, these policies, indeed, made certain good reformations therefore are we able to feel certain to blame these policies on the Soviet Union’s break up according to all of their beneficial factors.

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