Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, born 2 March 1931, is a former Soviet statesman. He was the eighth and last leader of the Soviet Union, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991. He was the only general secretary in the history of the Soviet Union to have been born after the October Revolution.
Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) and his reorientation of Soviet strategic aims contributed to the end of the Cold War. He removed the constitutional role of the Communist Party in governing the state, and inadvertently led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. He was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in 1989, the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and the Harvey Prize in 1992, as well as honorary doctorates from various universities.
The problems facing Mikhail Gorbachev.
A new expensive arms race was the product of the collapse of détente in the late 1970s. The recent deployment of the Strategic defence initiative worth 17 Billion USD that aimed to use satellites to unleash nuclear and laser-armed missiles, was a very frightening prospect for the USSR who concluded that the SDI was a ruse to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the USSR. Besides that, the USSR was also suffering from ‘global over-stretch’. Afghanistan, Angola, and the Horn of Africa became dependent on USSR aid (aid that the USSR can’t afford). Technology in the East were far behind the West by the year 1975. This affected production of goods (both quality and quantity).
Gorbachev aimed to revive the stagnant Soviet economy after its years of drift and low growth during Brezhnev’s tenure in power especially in GDR. He also aimed to fight widespread Alcoholism in the Soviet Union to increase productivity of workers. Abolish old directives that aimed to produce more weapons and replace them with new directives that produced domestic goods. He also aimed to restore ‘true communism’. He also wanted more freedom for the common man whilst pulling out of Afghanistan.
Anti Alcohol campaign – During 1985-1987 Gorbachev carried out an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition, colloquially known as the “dry law”. Prices of vodka, wine and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted in amount and time of day. People who were caught drunk at work or in public were prosecuted.
However, economically it was a serious blow to the state budget (a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles to the exchequer according to Alexander Yakovlev) after alcohol production migrated to the black market economy.
Uskoreniye – Uskoreniye (acceleration) was a slogan and a policy announced by Gorbachev on 20 April 1985 at a Soviet Party Plenum, aimed at the acceleration of social and economic development of the Soviet Union. It was the first slogan of a set of reforms that also included perestroika (restructuring), glasnost (transparency), and democratisation.
Perestroika – was a political movement for reformation within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and involved restructuring the economy.
Glasnost – Soviet policy of open discussion of political and social issues. It was instituted by Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s and began the democratization of the Soviet Union as well as the relaxing of censorship.