glasnost (openness) Along with perestroika, it was the central policy of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev which encouraged a more open debate about the state of the Soviet Union and its history. Opening the lid of decades of repression, it created a critical public as Soviet publishers, newspapers, and television stations gradually expanded the limits of their criticism. Ultimately, it made possible Gorbachev's own downfall as he, too, became subject to a hostile and dissatisfied public, and it enabled the breakup of the Soviet Union, the purpose and legitimacy of which became increasingly challenged.
perestroika (‘restructuring’) Together with glasnostthe central pillar of Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to reform Soviet economy and society. In appreciation of the poor state of the Soviet Union's economy, which was centrally planned by appointees of the Communist Party, Gorbachev wanted to increase the efficiency of the economy and, implicitly, of the party. Gorbachev's aim was thus to reform the Communist Party to enable promotion by merit and intelligence as well as the traditional commitment to party ideology. As a result, he replaced more party officials in important posts than had happened since the days of Stalin's Great Purge, a fact which initially greatly increased his power and authority within the party. However, it brought to the fore many who were even more reformist, such as the Mayor of Moscow, Boris Yeltsin. At the same time, it caused considerable resentment among the more conservative elements within the party, which led to the August coup of 1991. Ultimately, perestroika failed because Gorbachev sought to correct the problems in state and society caused by the Communist Party through the party itself. Caught between bitter conservatives and impatient progressives, Gorbachev lost more and more political support, so that he became the ultimate victim of perestroika.