Perestroika and Glasnost

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Reforming the Soviet Union: Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev (born in 1931) became the leader of the Soviet Union (U.S.S.R.) in 1985. Wanting to improve the social and economic conditions of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev became a reformer within the Communist Party. Perestroika and Glasnost were his two most important reforms. Perestroika meant “restructuring” and it was designed to make the Soviet Union’s economy more efficient. Gorbachev granted citizens the right to private enterprise or the right to establish their own businesses. Gorbachev’s Perestroika violated the Marxist conception of a Command Economy. In a Command Economy, government officials make all economic decisions. Perestroika allowed individuals to make economic decisions. However, Gorbachev realized that a Command Economy was not efficient and did not produce as many goods as the people needed. Glasnost meant “openness” and was a reform that granted and increased freedom of speech and press in the Soviet Union. As Gorbachev restructured the Soviet Union, relations with the United States improved. At the end of 1991, Gorbachev resigned. By 1991, the Soviet Union no longer existed. The Communist government had come to an end. As a result, the Cold War had come to an end as well. Gorbachev had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

Primary Source: An excerpt from: Gorbachev Speech Dissolving the Soviet Union (USSR): Christmas 1991”

“…There is plenty of everything: land, oil and gas, other natural riches, and God gave us lots of intelligence and talent, yet we lived much worse than developed countries and keep falling behind them more and more. .. The society was suffocating in the vise of the command-bureaucratic system…and the terrible burden of the arms race…The country was losing perspective. We could not go on living like that. Everything had to be changed radically…The totalitarian system which deprived the country of an opportunity to become successful and prosperous long ago has been eliminated…Free elections, freedom of the press, religious freedoms…became a reality…Economic freedom of the producer has been legalized, and entrepreneurship, shareholding, privatization are gaining momentum.”


1: Who was Mikhail Gorbachev? ________________________________________________________________________

2: What was Perestroika? ________________________________________________________________________

3: What was Glasnost? ________________________________________________________________________

4: According to the Primary Source, why did Gorbachev believe that change must come? __________________________________________________________________

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