Gorbachev’s Reforms Between 1985- 1991

Subject: History
Pages: 5
Words: 1502
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD

The Soviet Union was in a state of turmoil during the period between 1985 and 1991. The elevation of Gorbachev to the position of secretary-general saw the turning point of communism in Russia (Reynolds, p. 19). However, there are underlying factors that made the Soviets decline slowly and finally collapse in 1991. For instance, the union was already performing poorly as early as the 1970s due to a lack of strategic plan in scaling the nuclear arms race which strained the economy adversely (Reynolds, p. 23). Moreover, the union engaged itself with the western world in invading their rivals causing tensions and misuse of useful resources that could have been used in development. Additionally, prolonged problems from previous decades made it impossible for Gorbachev’s reforms to redeem the State from political and economic decline (Reynolds, p. 49). For instance, the autocratic and brutal nature of the Soviet Union led to problems that plagued the Soviet Union from the early 1920s until its collapse in 1961. Earlier on, there was a lack of political idealism that would stand in place and reform the weaknesses of the union (English, p. 90). The rampant rate of corruption in the state ruined the economy. Political icons in the union such as Brezhnev made corruption a normal way to enhance luxurious life without responding to citizens’ and state affairs. Moreover, party officials became a threat to communist ideology in support of their privileges. Indifference among officials on the grounds of reformation resulted in vandalism, inefficiency, and other moral vices in the state (English, p. 93). This paper offers a succinct overview of Gorbachev’s reform agenda and argues that it partly failed due to the political ideology of communism.

Having been aware of the social, political, and economic upheavals in the Soviet Union, Gorbachev opted to reform the state’s economy. However, there was a dramatic configuration in leadership which eventually attributed to the weakening of the dominant communist party hence the collapse of the Soviet Union later in 1991 (Brown, p. 5). To say the least, Gorbachev relentlessly tried to reconstruct the political, social, and economic structure of the Soviet Union amid political turmoil that was evident during his reign (Brown, p. 45). It is imperative to note that most countries of the world were equally experiencing technological failure. For this reason, Gorbachev employed liberalism and democracy to improve the technological, political, social, and economic welfare of Soviet citizens. Communist reforms made by Gorbachev caused Russia to rise as a superpower against its rivals. His reforms gained thrust until he could no longer control Soviet power from a central point. Thereafter, socialists began to criticize Gorbachev’s ideologies until he could not wrestle with them (Brown, p. 76). Besides, the structural system of the state posed a challenge and caused failure on reforms that were being constituted by Gorbachev.

Initially, Gorbachev had motives and objectives which stirred him up to reform the Soviet Union. He endeavored to implement new ideologies in the political, economic, and social sectors in Russia which he hoped would improve living and working conditions. Previously, leaders like Stalin and Lenin attempted to reform the union although the economy kept waning. Due to poor living and working conditions among the Soviets, Gorbachev decided to give it a try (English, p. 43). In his reforms, he embraced communism as the only way out to improve economic performance from its previous state.

However, he was trapped in a dilemma that his reforms would undermine communism. His predecessors employed totalitarianism and communism and they emphasized that no reforms would succeed without difficulties. Though their reforms did not save the union from collapsing, Gorbachev found no need to use their ideologies. In line with this, he was afraid that the use of force like his predecessors might ruin communism and make his reforms unsuccessful. Instead, he adopted liberal reforms against totalitarianism to have a technical change in the dominant part. To enhance his reforms, he felt that absolute freedom to the people would be a threat to this political ideology. For this reason, he opted to become a radical communist, unlike the former leaders. He boosted international relations to promote foreign trade and formed an external body to coordinate external communist activities on behalf of Russia (English, p. 44). There before; Stalin made Russia emerge as a super-power. The Soviet Union was perceived as a threat to world peace and this triggered conflict (Reynolds, p. 107). With this information in mind, Gorbachev opted never to follow the legacy of Lenin and Stalin. In his case, he was determined to act differently to liberate the Soviets from internal imprisonment of poverty, dictatorship and corruption (Acton, p. 44).

In his reforms, he first employed perestroika which was meant to restructure and foster quality control and private ownership of land and other goods. This marked the emergence of a modern world in Russia. This ideology allowed multicandidate election as well decentralization of power. This was done to counter stagnating economy and reduce military spending in Russia. Needless to say, the policy empowered people to openly express their views hence took the initiative to criticize the policy. Besides this, he aimed at implementing freedom of speech and expression though this was only a radical change (English, p. 23). Through this target, he ensured that conservatives who opposed his reforms were pressured to support him through debates and participation in open forums. In his mission to establish close relations with other western countries, he aimed at improving trade activities to improve the Soviet’s economy. This offered him a chance to establish joint ventures with overseas companies. Needless to say, he aimed at integrating Soviet nature by liberating it from political imprisonment. He saw the previous political government as an internal exile that discouraged open politics (English, p. 24). This is attributed to harmonized cultural diversity and religion.

Nevertheless, irrespective of these efforts, several factors made Gorbachev’s reforms fail. For instance, it reached a point that Gorbachev was no longer in a position to control the economy and even satisfy the inspirations of citizens. Additionally, the Soviet economy was stifled in a complex and vast bureaucratic system that discouraged innovation, economic development and encouraged corruption. The rise of Aristotelian communists who satisfied their own interests made the economy dysfunctional. This made the centralized and bureaucratic economy fail. Counter-reformers like Brezhnev made it impossible for Gorbachev’s reforms to be achieved. Evidently, this was reflected by problems that face agriculture to an extent that it became unproductive to satisfy consumers’ demands. Besides this, military spending became enormous due to a large number of officers employed in the workforce (English, p. 37). This incurred loss to the soviet economy due to the huge finances drained into the military forces rather than using them in other areas. It is vivid that, the Soviet Union engaged in protracted and costly wear against its arch-rivals. For instance, the Afghanistan and Vietnam wars stirred anger among the Muslim workers hence it limited the Soviet ability to reform its weaknesses in controlling its military power.

It is imperative to note that; there also existed some structural problems that accelerated the failure of Gorbachev’s reforms. One of the daunting problems that made the reforms impossible is the previous system of administration which resulted in the decline of the Soviet Union for decades before he took over power (Acton, p. 44). For this reason, Gorbachev wanted to restructure the ancient system with a more efficient system that would improve both the social and economic state of the Soviets. In the process to reform the system, it proved expensive due to a serious shortage of basic resources (English, p. 67). Moreover, by transforming the communist union into socialist democracy, he aimed at empowering people. Although this system apparently redeemed the soviets out of political disorder and economic decline, the state got into a profound state of havoc. As a result, the Soviets used the same power to negatively criticize reforms hence they failed to work. Besides, the military structure of the Soviet Union made it impossible for the reforms to work (Reynolds, p. 114). The communist’s over-centralized power on military forces. This increased military expenditure as opposed to the reform goals of limiting state spending to improve on the sluggish economy. Moreover, the Soviet Union was in a state of hostility with its arch-rivals that posed threat to them (English, p. 13). The military system spent its resources during the Cold War’s arm intensification initiative. Additionally, the economic structure of the state was not profit-oriented since it did not produce extra stock for reserve.

To recap it all, Gorbachev emerged as an exceptional and vibrant leader though he faced so many challenges in his reign. However, I agree with the fact that his reforms were not drastic enough to transform and revitalize the country’s economy. Though his reforms such as perestroika and glasnost led to technological and economic advancement, they never bore fruits due to critics by conservatisms and poor political structure. Moreover, prolonged complications in the military force and excessive power threatened the legitimacy of his reforms hence the Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991.

Works Cited

  1. Acton, Edward. Russia: The tsarist and Soviet legacy. London: Longman, 1995. Print
  2. Brown, Archly. The rise and fall of communism.Toronto: Doubleday, 2009. Print. English, Robert. Russia and the Idea of the West: Gorbachev, Intellectuals and the End of the Cold War. Columbia: Columbia University Press. 2000. Print
  3. Grachev, Andrei. Final Days: The Inside Story of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. New York: West view Press. 1995. Print.
  4. Reynolds, Edward. One world divisible: A global history since 1945. New York: Penguin Press, Inc. 2001. Print.