Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Glasnost

An integral piece of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's political and economic reform agenda of the late 1980s. The term glasnost is best translated as "openness in public and political affairs." It was part of Mikhail Gorbachev's 1985 perestroika program to reform the Soviet political system and Soviet society. His conceptualization of glasnost was restricted to signify a more democratic and open society and not the endangerment or abandonment of the fundamentals of Soviet communism.

In December 1986 Gorbachev personally asked the internationally known Soviet dissident-in-exile Andrei Sakharov to return to Moscow. Then, in February 1987, Gorbachev called upon the Soviet press to fill in the blind spots in Soviet history. This liberalization prompted the flowering of many new newspapers and journals that reported on previous political repressions, corruption in the Communist Party, and the failures of the Soviet economy. Furthermore, long-suppressed national movements in the Soviet Union's constituent republics used glasnost to advance their independence agendas.

Some conservative Communist Party members warned Gorbachev of the potential repercussions of glasnost, including the dissolution of the USSR. In fact, with Russian reform leader Boris Yeltsin's rise to power in 1987, Gorbachev was forced to choose between the demands of conservatives and the radical reformers' demands under Yeltsin. Glasnost spun out of control in the late 1980s, catching Gorbachev off guard. Instead of reforming the Soviet system by creating a gradual and smooth transition to a system that blended socialism, social democracy, and capitalism, glasnost went far beyond Gorbachev's intended aims and accelerated the demise of the Soviet Union.

Frank Beyersdorf


Further Reading
Gibbs, Joseph. Gorbachev's Glasnost: The Soviet Media in the First Phase of Perestroika. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
 

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