Prior to the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Mikhail Gorbachev, seeing a country falling behind its Western rival and a people increasingly clamoring for change, addressed the growing internal unrest in the summer of 1987 by introducing a series of reforms known as perestroika (literally, restructuring). In Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, Mikhail Gorbachev discussed his analysis of the problems facing the USSR and his plans to solve them.
Perhaps the most pressing and visible problem facing the USSR in the last 1980s came in the form of the country’s consistently mediocre economic performance, despite its vast natural resource wealth and large labor force. Gorbachev flatly admitted that economic failures were increasing and current policies were failing to offer a sustainable remedy. Failing to take advantage of the numerous scientific and technological advancements available, the USSR relied on inefficient and outdated business models. As a result, Gorbachev said, "in the last fifteen years the national income growth rates had declined by more than a half and by the beginning of the eighties had fallen to a level close to economic stagnation." With business executives focused on using more resources (in order to employ more people) instead of becoming more efficient, the country produced poor quality products unable to compete in a global economy. Further, this inefficiency led to shortages: "the Soviet Union, the world’s biggest producer of steel, raw materials, fuel and energy, has shortfalls in them due to wasteful or inefficient use."
The decrepit economy engendered social unrest and woe that only compounded economic difficulties and societal misery. Gorbachev wrote of "a gradual erosion of the ideological and moral values of our people" and noted the considerable growth in "alcoholism, drug addiction and crime." Accentuating these difficulties, the Communist government often ignored the needs of the average citizen, causing distrust and resentment. Perhaps the most destructive element of the social unraveling and inadequate government response was the mediocre education system. Gorbachev said, "Creative thinking was driven out from the social sciences, and superfluous and voluntarist assessments and judgments were declared indisputable truths."
Although Gorbachev also opined about the growing public disbelief in the content of the immense government propaganda campaigns, the extent to which economic underdevelopment and social deviance gripped Soviet culture made the collapse of the USSR virtually inevitable in the minds of many observers. When combined with glasnost (literally, openness), Gorbachev’s plan that allowed greater transparency, perestroika actually served to hasten the collapse of the USSR. Contrary to its purpose, perestroika ensured that the fall of the USSR would occur sooner rather than later. Only a few years after Gorbachev implemented changes that would have been unthinkable and antithetical to the philosophy of previous leaders like Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev, the USSR fell.
Common Information Question: 1/7
Which of the following best describes the primary objective of the passage?
Argue that the implementation of perestroika caused the fall of the Soviet Union
Explain perestroika along with its roots and consequences
Analyse the pros and cons of Mikhail Gorbachev's decision to implement perestroika
Explain the short-falls of a communist system and offer remedies
Discuss the role of Mikhail Gorbachev in propelling the USSR towards ceasing to exist
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