Perestroika and glasnost

​Two initiatives of the Soviet head of state Mikhail Gorbachev to reform the country in the second half of the 1980s, which finally led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By the mid-1980s it was no longer possible for the Soviet Union to be the world superpower. Reforms in economic, foreign and domestic policy and elsewhere were urgently needed. Mikhail Gorbachev, elected as the leader of the USSR in 1985, began carrying out these reforms. His innovative policies relied on two initiatives, perestroika and glasnost.

Perestroika (restructuring) meant reforms in the political and economic system. Elections now had several candidates, centralisation of the state apparatus was somewhat diminished, and lower levels (including the fifteen union republics) were allowed more decision-making powers. Centralised management was reduced in the economy as well; it was possible to establish cooperatives (small businesses) and enterprises with foreign investors.

Glasnost (transparency) meant more public information, for example about topical issues, backgrounds to political decisions, and mistakes made in the past.

These initiatives provided the people with (initially limited) freedom of expression and the right to participate in politics, which finally became uncontrollable by the Soviet regime and led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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