The Collapse Of The Soviet Union Essay

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The Collapse Of The Soviet Union Essay, Research Paper In 1985, MIKHAIL SERGEYEVICH GORBACHEV took over. Unlike Brezhnev, who need tanks of oxygen at his side, Gorbachev had good health and relative youth on his side. At 54 years of age, Gorbachev represented a generation which had begun their political and party careers after 1953. So although they were born and raised in the Stalin years, Stalin was gone by the time they begun their political lives. A self-confident and energetic man, Gorbachev talked freely to people from all walks of life. He was keenly aware of the problems facing the Soviet Union and knew that the Party had stagnated over time. Much of this stagnation as well as inefficiency was made readily apparent in April of 1986 when a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl

exploded and sent radiation 300 times normal levels into the atmosphere. The Soviet government denied any such accident and denounced it as a creation of the western media. Seventeen days after the fact, Gorbachev appeared on Soviet television and gave a speech that was wholly uncharacteristic of Soviet leadership and presented a sharp break with the way the Kremlin had always handled such issues. Instead of propaganda, he delivered a serious admission of the facts of the accident. “For our internal progress,” Gorbachev wrote in 1987, “we need normal international relations.” The Soviets had to catch up to the rising prosperity and high technology of the Europe and North America. The Soviet Union had to concentrate on domestic development and promote international peace

whenever possible. However, it could only accomplish such a goal by giving up any global ambitions. So Gorbachev abandoned the traditional Soviet anti-western orientation. He wanted to integrate the Soviet Union into the main currents of modern life and that meant democracy, free enterprise and a market economy. Time magazine went on the vote “Gorby” Man of the Year and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher pronounced that Gorbachev was “a man with whom we can do business.” Gorbachev gave the Soviet Union and the World two slogans: perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). PERESTROIKA held out the promise of reorganizing the State and society. For instance, individual initiative would be revived and there would be more technology and a higher standard of

living. Soviet citizens were to become more involved at the grass roots level and participate in national affairs. Glasnost was the corrective held up to Stalinist excesses. Openness would permit the open discussion of the nation’s problems and it would rid public thinking of propaganda and lies. Both perestroika and glasnost, as Gorbachev understood them, would transform Soviet society into a true democracy. Academics, writers, intellectuals and artists responded enthusiastically, as did most western politicians. Sakharov rose to political prominence and Solzhenitsyn was invited home. Soviet fiction that was produced and subsequently banned in the 1920s and 30s was now published for the first time. George Orwell’s novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were now

published by Soviet printing houses. Some new novels not only told the truth about the past, but also tried to explain it. In many cases this amounted to speculation about Stalin’s real nature and motivation, as in Anatoli Rybakov’s celebrated novel, Children of the Arbat. Rybakov, who had won a Stalin Prize in 1951, tried to get the book published in the 1960s but failed. It was finally published in Russian in 1987. Meanwhile, historians who depended on archives had always had a more difficult time in telling the truth. Nevertheless, after a slow start, new histories began to appear and new light was shed on the recent past. In some cases, surviving participants of the Stalinist purges were interviewed, and in other cases, long-suppressed documents were published for the