– Former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. He was the 8th and last leader of the Soviet Union.
He had two policies glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”). Some consider his actions and thoughts to be very contributing towards the end of the cold war.
Perestroika refers to the reconstruction of the political and economic system established by the Communist Party. Politically, contested elections were introduced to reflect the democratic practices of Western society and allow citizens to have a slight say in government. Economically, Perestroika called for de-monopolization and some semi-private businesses to function, ending the price controls established by the government for the past seven decades. The goal was to create a semi-free market system, reflecting successful capitalist practices in the economies of Germany, Japan, and the United States. Unfortunately, such an economy took time to thrive, and people found themselves stuck in a worn-out economy, which led to long-lines, strikes, and civil unrest.
The term “Glasnost” means “openness” and was the name for the social and political reforms to bestow more rights and freedoms upon the Soviet people. Its goals were to include more people in the political process through freedom of expression. This led to a decreased censoring of the media, which in effect allowed writers and journalists to expose news of government corruption and the depressed condition of the Soviet people. Glasnost also permitted criticism of government officials, encouraging more social freedoms like those that Western societies had already provided. Yet, the totalitarian state present since 1917 was difficult to dismantle, and when it fell apart, citizens were not accustomed to the lack of regulation and command. The outburst of information about escalating crime and crimes by the government caused panic in the people. This caused an increase in social protests in a nation used to living under the strictest government control, and went against the goals of Gorbachev.