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The Role of Mikhail Gorbachev's Social Reforms Under Glasnost in The Fall of The Soviet Union from 1985-1991

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On December 26, 1991 the dissolution of the Soviet Union was finalized when the self-governing Republics of the Soviet Union were granted independence as par to declaration number 142-H. Historians have long argued about the factors and implications that catalyzed the fall of the Soviet Union, with arguments spanning from the involvement of Nationalistic Uprisings to the effect of Western aggression. Mikhail Gorbachev made colossal strides in making the old communist methods of the Soviet Union more democratic, despite the fact it led to his political demise.

His reforms weakened the USSR & opposition began to grow on all sides as he tried to restructure the communist party & purge it of corruption, all the while trying to establish a more democratic process for electing officials. Through glasnost he attempted to reform and restructure his nation through his policies from 1985-1991. His efforts to democratize his country’s political system & decentralize its economy led to the downfall of communism, eventually helped cause the economic downfall of the Soviet Union.

On March 3rd 1985, Konstantin Chernenko, passes away as is replaced by Michael Gorbachev as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was noted for his policy of “Glasnost” that allowed freedom of expression and the loosening of controls on radio, press, the film industry and television. However, this policy quickly paved the way for public opinion to slip beyond Gorbachev’s grasp. This evident as the Soviet system all areas of social life was subject to an ideological and politically derived rationale, as a result economic restructuring can to an extent not be separated from politics. At 1:23 a.m. on April 26, 1986, Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, following a ill-judged systems test by undertrained technicians caused the immediate deaths of factory workers and exposing others to deadly levels of radiation. It took approximately two days for the explosion to be announced and in vague terms, others did not discover its true extent until radiation was detected out of the Soviet borders.

Gorbachev introduced his policy of glasnost, or “openness” of ideas and expression, not long before the Chernobyl explosion. Some consider this situation, the first “crack” of the Soviet system that may have contributed to its collapse. According to Gorbachev, the Chernobyl explosion was a turning point that “opened the possibility of much greater freedom of expression, to the point that the system as we knew it could no longer continue.” It was his remedy for widespread censorship and government secrecy. To Gorbachev, Chernobyl proved the wisdom and necessity of glasnost and claims, “made absolutely clear how important it was to continue the policy of glasnost.” By 1987, the year following Chernobyl, glasnost had taken hold of Soviet society, with sudden openness dominating the press and the public forum. Outrage over the catastrophe began to spread among even loyal citizens who had never questioned the infallibility of their government.

Gorbachev, fighting a political battle as a reformer, chose to maintain glasnost while casting censorious conservatives as nemeses of liberty and wooing the intelligentsia. “Gorbachev did really imagine an honest discussion of the country’s problems in the press and workplaces,” and saw the complaints from the Russian public trickle down through much of the population as the image of the Soviet Union being a world superpower had shattered as more information of the crisis leaked.

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