What Is Perestroika?

Perestroika has been blamed for the collapse of the Soviet Union’s economy. While many believe that the Soviet Union would have eventually suffered the same fate that it had with perestroika due to the nation’s economic and social problems, others criticize this reform as being the cause of the Soviet collapse. What is perestroika?

Perestroika was Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s plan for reconstruction of the Soviet economy. What perestroika means is reconstruction. The reconstruction plan was designed to encourage a move to a free market economy. The idea was to eliminate monopolies and open the Soviet Republic to foreign trade. Gorbachev outlines his reformation policies and how they would solve the nation’s problems in his book, “Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World.”

The characteristics of perestroika were defined by Premier Mikhail Gorbachev as a mass initiative. The policy featured a new focus on scientifically-proven solutions, creative endeavors, social justice, and the welfare of the people of the Soviet Union. It was an effort to unite socialism with democracy. Gorbachev blamed the economic problems of the Soviet Union for the citizens’ loss of morale and increased use of alcohol and drugs. The crime rate also appeared to reflect the public hardship and discontent.

Glasnost was a policy of reform that was implemented alongside of perestroika. “Glasnost” means openness. Glasnost was a call for changes including freedom of expression, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. These were drastic changes to the previous tightly censored media. Glasnost received part of the blame for the collapse of the Soviet Union since it allowed for the revelation of the deeply rooted problems in the financial and social aspects of the USSR and its government.

The Soviet Union had a deeply troubled economy for decades prior to the introduction of perestroika. The problems that the government faced in restructuring the economy were rising inflation, black-market profiteering, rationing, and some severe shortages of consumer goods.

Perestroika and glasnost were extremely different policies than the policies and practices of leaders prior to Gorbachev. The experts seem to be divided on whether elements of perestroika were to blame or if the problems were just too great to be overcome in one radical move. In addition to the overwhelming problems in the economy, the perestroika policies caused discontent and division among the nation’s leaders. The Soviet Republic fell a few years after the perestroika policies were implemented.

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