Why was he so popular?
Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991.
He was a young and dynamic soviet leader who wanted to reform the communist regime along the lines of democratic principles by giving freedom to citizens.
Gorbachev is credited with bringing the Cold War to an end, which resulted in the dissolution of the USSR into separate countries.
The cold war was the term introduced in international politics to explain the nature of the relationship between the USA and USSR since the end of world war 2. It means that it started in the 1940s and lasted until 1991.
It was a war between two ideas and ways of ruling – communism (the East) and capitalism (the West). They were hostile to each other that it was termed as war.
His Policies/Contributions that made gave him a name in history:
1. His domestic policies
- Policy of glasnost, or openness or freedom of speech, allowing people to criticize the government in a way that had been previously curtailed.
- Perestroika, or Restructuring, was an economic reform program that was necessary as the Soviet economy was suffering from both hidden inflation and supply shortages.
What happened with these reforms?
Glasnost means openness, meaning democratic reforms. It weakened the control of the central government over the soviet republics. It gave freedom to media and speech and brought corruption, exploitation, and insensitiveness of the government into the limelight. USSR suffered from Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The way Chernobyl nuclear disaster was managed by the Soviet government came to be known, and it further ruined USSR’s soft power.
Perestroika was economic restructuring. The Soviet economy was a centralized command economy. In the absence of competition, it was neither innovative nor productive. Certain persons in the communist party have amassed wealth. This group took advantage of opening up the economy.
Also, consumer goods were scarce. Privatization proved to be a shock for the people who were not prepared. There was high inflation and even scarcity of food items. USSR also suffered from famine. These reforms were further impacted by events like the decline in oil prices.
2. His Foreign policies
SINATRA doctrine ending BREZHNEV doctrine
Brezhnev doctrine was to maintain control over countries of eastern Europe. Gorbachev understood that it was no more possible to sustain the Soviets’ control militarily. He relied on soft power rather than hard power.
Sinatra doctrine gave freedom to live according to their choice. Once freedom was given, communism started collapsing. First in Poland under Lake Walesa’s solidarity party/movement. Under the leadership of Vaclav Havel, the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.
Gradually, the third wave of democracy spread to other East European countries except for Romania, where the dictator resisted the attempts, and transformations took place peacefully.
Seen as an architect of reform who created the conditions for the end of the Cold War in 1991.
3. Reduced party control: He launched radical reforms to reduce party control of the government apparatus.
4. Cultural freedoms were granted to the press and the artistic community during his time.
5. Nuclear disarmament agreement with the then United States President Ronald Reagan, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize. The agreement eliminated, for the first time, an entire class of nuclear weapons.
1. Simultaneous political and economic reforms: He attempted simultaneous political and economic reforms on an overly ambitious scale, unleashing forces he couldn’t control.
2. Nationalist feelings: He failed to anticipate the strength of nationalist sentiments. Initially in the Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, spreading to others like Georgia and Ukraine.
3. Defeated in Afghanistan: Between May 1988 and February 1989, Gorbachev pulled the Red Army out of Afghanistan.
4. Gorbachev is considered as a factor that disintegrated USSR
- Falling further and further behind: Some historians believe Gorbachev was correct from the start to conclude that the system he inherited was falling further and further behind the West and that only bold reform could save it.
- Critics: “The seed of his downfall was that essentially he didn’t really understand the Soviet Union, Soviet society, and how it worked,” said Alexander Titov.
- Reforms: He thought removing some of the essential elements of the Soviet system, such as repression, fear, the command economy, and so forth, would still preserve the system. But they turned out to be the actual essential elements of the Soviet system, and when they were removed, the system collapsed.
- Vladimir Putin: According to Putin, the Soviet fall was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Gorbachev factor often described as the disintegration of the USSR is considered by the present government of Russia as the biggest geopolitical blunder. However, Gorbachev’s aim was not disintegration but rather reformation. He believed that only through such reforms USSR could be saved.