Perestroika, glasnost,
“…when four great transformations - even …
revolutions - were begun under the leadership
of Mikhail Gorbachev: attempts to transform
the authoritarian political system into some
kind of democracy, the state command
economy into a market-based one, the Moscow
dominated “union” into an authentic federation,
and the country’s forty-year Cold War with the
West into a ‘strategic partnership’.” (Stephen F.
becomes Foreign
Minister, proclaims
the “Sinatra doctrine”
 1985
Gorbachev brings
Eltsin to Moscow to
head the party
apparatus for the city
 1987
Eltsin criticizes
Gorbachev openly in
Committee, divested
of power
 "Struggle
against alcoholism” May 1985-1990
 Clumsy
program of destroying vineyards,
increasing cost of vodka, closing beer halls
 Government
 Loss
propaganda created resentment
of 10 billion Rubles of state income
 Huge
growth in production of samogon
February – March First mention of
perestroika at Party Congress
April: Chernobyl disaster
December: Sakharov brought back from
exile in Gorky
February 1986 27th Party Congress
Objective: “acceleration” of the economy, overcome
Restructuring of the economy, injecting reality into
targets and prices, allowing enterprises to make their
own decisions, keep the profits from new enterprises
and production
Central planning and control remained: half-way
January at Plenum of Politburo economic
and political reforms announced
Rehabilitation of victims of Stalin
Eltsin attacks Gorbachev, resigns from
The year of glasnost
March: Nina Andreyeva’s letter in Sovetskaya
May: Law on cooperatives, allowing private
June: Gorbachev proposes a new Congress
of People’s deputies
December Armenian Earthquake, 45,000
Inspired by the NEP (Lenin’s New Economic
Policy) of the 1920s
 May
1988 Law on cooperatives - essentially
private businesses - approved
 Private
banks began to be allowed
 Russian
businesses permitted to deal with
foreign partners directly
No rules to govern private economy: laws, contract
Criminals quickly learned to exploit system: take-overs
of businesses, protection rackets
Prices not decontrolled; budget had huge deficit,
money printed to cover deficit led to huge increase in
real price inflation
Profits syphoned into offshores
Shortages continued: perestroika discredited
Theory: Open discussion of problems as a means to
achieve real efficiencies
By 1988 censorship lifted from literature, film, the arts.
Now Soviet citizens can read anything…
Led to questions about “blind spots” of history: Katyn
execution of Polish officers, the hidden protocols of the
Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939, the Gulags and
Stalin’s show trials, esp. Nikolai Bukharin
Approved by 19th Party Conference in July 1988
Objective: Transfer of control of state from Party to
semi-elected Congress of People’s Deputies and
Supreme Soviet elected by it
750 members from districts, 750 from territories, 750
from “public organizations” including 100 from
Communist Party: First meeting 1989.
15 March 1990 Congress elected President of the USSR.
January – February withdrawal from Afghanistan
March-April Elections to Congress
June Tianan Men Square incident in China:
dissidence suppressed
9 November Berlin Wall comes down
November – December Communists ousted
throughout Soviet bloc: GDR, Hungary,
Czechoslovakia, Romania.
December 14: Sakharov dies
 Open
discussion of Molotov-Ribbentrop pact
 As
central power was loosened, republics
begin to demand their languages be given
prime status over Russian: Ukrainian, Georgian,
 Baltic
Republics Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and
also Moldova (formerly Bessarabia) demand
and start to declare their independence
 Germany
is being reunited
 Other Soviet bloc members “do it their way”
 Gorbachev is awarded the Nobel Prize for
 Gorbachev chosen president of the Supreme
Soviet of the USSR
 BUT crisis looms in Soviet leadership: Yakovlev,
Shevardnadze forced out in December. Is
another Tiananmen looming?
September 9 Alexander Men murdered
September: Battle over 500 Days reform
program for economy
 Ended
Cold War
 Brought
the USSR out of Afghanistan
 Moved
USSR towards elected democracy
and free economy
 Nearly
succeeded in saving a reformed
 Was
he a “dissident” or a “Menshevik”?
 Many
reforms resembled those proposed
by Sakharov
 Remained
 Economic
wedded to Communist Party
difficulties created by gradual
reforms made him deeply unpopular.

Towards the tipping point: USSR 1980-1990