Glasnost described the new Soviet policy of Mikhail Gorbachev that encapsulated the concept of openness as a desirable form of conduct. The new policy of Glasnost encouraged open debate and allowed a greater opportunity to voice discontent with the government which ultimately led to the downfall of communism in Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Facts about Glasnost
The terms Glasnost and Perestroika were often used in conjunction with each other, during the late 1980's to encompass new reform measures in the Soviet Union and the democratization of the Communist Party.
The term 'Glasnost means "openness to public scrutiny" and the Russian word 'Perestroika' means "reform, rebuilding, reconstruction".
Glasnost and Perestroika were used during the late 1980's in relation to changes in Soviet society and its economic policy allowing competition in business.
The policy of Glasnost encouraged open debate and freedom of speech in the Soviet Union and its 'satellite nations' in the Eastern bloc that consisted of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Albania
Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. His goal was to revive the ailing economies and to revitalize the Soviet Stalinist regime into a more modern social democracy by relaxing bureaucracy and censorship.
The plans of Mikhail Gorbachev were based on the introduction of Glasnost and Perestroika. Glasnost allowed for the distribution of information regarding Soviet life and Perestroika related to political and economic restructuring.
President Ronald Reagan had adopted a strong stance against communism and increased defense spending during his presidency. The Soviet Union's efforts to match the expenditure of the U.S. in the Cold War Arms Race had brought the nation to the point of bankruptcy. Mikhail Gorbachev realized that the USSR could not afford the arms race, withdrew from the conflict in Afghanistan and opened the START (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) with the USA.
Economic restructuring was vital. Agriculture and industry were stagnating and the effects and unrest about shortages was increasing. Mikhail Gorbachevís implementation of perestroika aimed at restructuring the economy by privatizing farms, making industries more efficient, reducing imports and increasing exports.
The ideals were prominently referred to in his speech of March 11, 1985, in which he accepted the post of general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).
Gorbachev used Glasnost (meaning openness) and Perestroika (meaning restructuring) to introduce policies aimed at moderating the abuse of administrative power and reducing corruption at the top of the Communist Party and in the Soviet Government.
The new policies of Mikhail Gorbachev had the effect of weakening the system of political repression and in turn undermined and reduced the authority and ability of the Soviet central Moscow government to impose its will on its 'satellite nations'.
Glasnost limited strict government censorship rules and allowed for freedom of expression and relaxed controls on the media via the radio, newspapers and television. The previously censored literature in the libraries were also opened to the public. Soviet citizens were shocked to discover the truth about Stalin's brutal regime and caused many to lose faith in communist ideology.
The new freedom of information raised Soviet citizens awareness of the high standards of living enjoyed by Americans and Western European citizens fueling disillusionment with the Soviet system.
Mikhail Gorbachev had miscalculated the forces that such liberal policies might unleash and watched as public opinion slipped beyond his control.
The introduction of Gorbachev's Soviet policies of Glasnost and Perestroika inadvertently opened the floodgates for peaceful demonstrations and protests across the Eastern bloc. People seized the opportunity to assert their independence and voice discontent with their restrictive Communist-led governments in their struggle for equality and opportunity.
A group of Crimean Tatars staged the first mass protests of the Glasnost era and 2000 marched to the Kremlin in Moscow to protest against the exile of their people.
In June 1989 free elections were held in Poland that were won by Solidarity, originally a banned trade union and Lech Walesa became the first non-communist president of Poland.
The "Revolutions of 1989" witnessed the ousting of Soviet-imposed communist regimes in central and eastern Europe in Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania. Mikhail Gorbachev significantly refused to authorize the use of the military to force in either the Soviet Union or the satellite nations of the Eastern Bloc.
Up to this time defection attempts were illegal and refusal to return home was considered treason against the state. Hungary made a radical change and began to allow people free passage to Austria which allowed them to escape to the West.
In Bulgaria demonstrations in Sofia for political reform occurred during October and November 1989. The Bulgarian leader, Todor Zhivkov, was eventually ousted by his Politburo and was succeeded by Petar Mladenov, a much more liberal Communist.
Demonstrations flared in Romania against the Romanian leader and dictator Nicolae Ceausescu as years of repressed dissatisfaction surfaced and the people protest against shortages of basic necessities such as food, fuel, energy and medicines. Ceaușescuís regime collapsed after he ordered his security forces to fire on anti-government demonstrators. Ceausescu was tried and found guilty of genocide and the illegal gathering of wealth. Nicolae Ceausescu was executed by a firing squad on December 25, 1989.
The non-violent "Velvet Revolution" broke out in Czechoslovakia culminating in 800,000 strong group of protesters in Letna Square. held 800,000 protesters. On 24 November, The entire Communist Party leadership, including the Czechoslovakian leader, Milos Jakes, resigned.
In East Germany, an unprecedented series of mass public marches and rallies led to the Glasnost on 9 November, 1989. East and West Germany were officially reunited as the Federal Republic of Germany on October 3, 1990
Hard-liners in the Communist Party attempted to remove Mikhail Gorbachev and he was briefly imprisoned as the military attempted to seize control of the Russian parliament. The military coup failed but the balance of power and popular support shifted to Boris Yeltsin.
In September 1991 the Congress of People's Deputies voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union acknowledged the independence of the former Soviet republics.
Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet president on December 25, 1991. The Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War finally came to end - refer to the Collapse of the Soviet Union. The impact of Glasnost on these momentous, historic events should never be underestimated.
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