Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev who is also known as a Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader in the Soviet Union. He was born on March 2, 1931. He was the first Soviet leader who born after this country existed. He also one of the promising Soviet Leader at that time because when he rose to power in 1986, he was still 55 years old compared to other Soviet leaders. He also well known for his reform acts such as Glasnost and Perestroika.
Pesestroika and Glasnost
Soviet Union in 1980s, this superpower country faced a stagnation period especially in economic condition. Thus an action should be taken. It was initiated by the Yuri Andropov but later on continued by Gorbachev, Perestroika or Reconstruction is the policy to overcome the economic stagnation by creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress. in 1988, he also introduced Glasnost to Soviet People which allow Soviet people to have a greater freedom of speech which is a radical change, as control of speech and suppression of government criticism had previously been a central part of the Soviet system.
Gorbachev’s Foreign Policy
Compare to others Soviet leaders, Gorbachev is relatively friendly with the western nations. He would like to reduce the tension of the cold war which has escalated after the World War II ended. He opened the relationship with several western nations such as Germany, UK, and even Soviet mortal enemy United States.
On 8 April 1985, he announced the suspension of the deployment of SS-20s, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, in Europe as a move towards resolving intermediate-range nuclear weapons (INF) issues.
January 1986 would see Gorbachev make his boldest international move so far, when he announced his proposal for the elimination of intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe and his strategy for eliminating all nuclear weapons by the year 2000 (often referred to as the ‘January Proposal’). He also began the process of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and Mongolia on 28 July.
In February, 1988, Gorbachev announced the full withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The withdrawal was completed the following year, although the civil war continued as the Mujahedin pushed to overthrow the pro-Soviet Najibullah government. An estimated 28,000 Soviets were killed between 1979 and 1989 as a result of the Afghanistan War.
Also during 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine, and allow the Eastern bloc nations to freely determine their own internal affairs. Moscow’s abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine allowed the rise of popular upheavals in Eastern Europe throughout 1989, in which Communism was overthrown. By the end of 1989, revolts had spread from one Eastern European capital to another, ousting the regimes built in Eastern Europe after World War II. With the exception of Romania, the popular upheavals against the pro-Soviet Communist regimes were all peaceful ones. The Pro-Soviet Leader in Romania, Nicolae Ceausescu was killed by the army after he was addressing a speech in Bucharest with his wife. The loosening of Soviet hegemony over Eastern Europe effectively ended the Cold War, and for this, Gorbachev was awarded the Otto Hahn Peace Medal in Gold in 1989 and the Nobel Peace Prize on 15 October 1990.
On 9 November, people in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, GDR) were suddenly allowed to cross through the Berlin Wall into West Berlin, following a peaceful protest against the country’s dictatorial administration, including a demonstration by some one million people in East Berlin on 4 November.
Unlike earlier riots which were ended by military force with the help of USSR, Gorbachev, who came to be lovingly called “Gorby” in West Germany, now decided not to interfere with the process in Germany. He stated that German reunification was an internal German matter.
The Collapse of The Union
By the end of the 1980s, severe shortages of basic food supplies (meat, sugar) led to the reintroduction of the war-time system of distribution using food cards that limited each citizen to a certain amount of product per month. Compared to 1985, the state deficit grew from 0 to 109 billion. Violence erupted in almost all Soviet States like Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Baltic States. Gorbachev began to lose his power. There was an attempt to remove him from the office by the Soviet Hardliners who want to restore the order in all Soviet States on August 1991. Between 20 August and 22 September, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan declared their intention to leave the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, Boris Yeltsin ordered the CPSU to suspend its activities on the territory of Russia and closed the Central Committee building at Staraya Ploschad. The Russian flag now flew beside the Soviet flag at the Kremlin.
With the country in a rapid state of deterioration, the final blow to Gorbachev’s vision was effectively dealt by a Ukrainian referendum on 1 December, where the Ukrainian people voted for independence. The presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus met in Belovezh Forest, near Brest, Belarus, on 8 December, founding the Commonwealth of Independent States and declaring the end of the Soviet Union in the Belavezha Accords. Gorbachev was presented and reluctantly agreed with Boris Yeltsin, on 17 December, to dissolve the Soviet Union. However, for four more days a Soviet Federal Government continued to exist, and Mikhail Gorbachev continued to hold control over the Kremlin as President of the Soviet Union. This ended in the early hours of December 25, 1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union and turned control of the Kremlin and the remaining powers of his office over to the office of the president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, thus accepting termination of the Soviet Federal Government and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev’s televised resignation speech and the subsequent lowering of the flag of the Soviet Union and hoisting of the flag of Russia on the flagpole in front of the Kremlin was a historic event broadcast around the world.
Have You Ever Thought How Does It Feel To Become Gorbachev?
After the whole story that I took from so many resources above, have you ever tried to feel what Gorbachev feels at that time? He took office in 1985 but then he stepped down from his office in 25 December 1991 and his resignation is the sign that Soviet Union officially collapsed. Could you imagine, when Gorbachev went to bed in 25 December 1991 he still slept in Soviet Union, but when he woke up in 26 December 1991 he woke up in Russian Federation. A country that he would try to save with his reform acts finally torn apart into 15 pieces. This is the burden that he always bring on his shoulder for the rest of his life. He will always be remembered as the person who mainly responsible for the collapsing of the Soviet Union. After 17 years living in Russia, he then realizes that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a mistake. But now it’s already too late. Even Russian second president Vladimir Putin who has an intention to restore the Russian power as it used to be reluctant to restore the old soviet government and economic style. Russia is so capitalistic right now filled with so many conglomerates even the number of rich people who lived in Moscow is higher than in any other big city in the world like London or New York.
Yes, perhaps it was a wrong decision, but look at how Russia today. The number of middle class in Russia is increasing and Russian people now have a freedom of speech. This is almost like what Gorbachev’s dream about Soviet people when the first time took office in 1985. He dreamed that Soviet people will reach the prosperity by the year of 2017 or 100 years after socialist revolution. It’s still six years to go before 2017 and Gorbachev almost gains what had he dreamed of.
So how about you? There is no right and wrong in making and executing decision. Every Decision has a risk. There is a tip in doing the decision making, pick the decision which has the smallest risk. But I think by taking the example from Gorbachev, I think in making a decision to make the Soviet people become prosperous, he is taking the hardest way. Even though it wasn’t according to his plan but some of his goals are achieved. So, what is your toughest decision?