Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931. He went to Moscow State University where he graduated in Law. He Joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952. In 1971 he became a member of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union. On March 11 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected the new General Secretary of the Communist Party. He inherited a decaying economy and a strong bureaucracy. His first actions were to suspend the production and sale of vodka and to carry on Andropovs anticorruption campaign.
During the 27th Party Congress new programs were proposed as well as changes in the selection methods of officials. During this congress a new central committee was elected. On February 7 1990 the Soviet Communist Party voted to surrender its monopoly of power.
In 1986 Gorbachev introduced Perestroika (restructuring), Demokratizatsiya (democratization) and Glasnost (openness). Perestroika implemented economic and political measures such as quality controls, private ownership in agriculture, decentralization and multicandidate elections. During this period private business and cooperatives were encouraged, as well as the promotion of quality over quantity in industrial production. Farmers and individuals were allowed to lease land and housing from the government and keep the profits made from what was produced on private plots. People could now own business and hire workers. By 1989 all enterprises were allowed to have trade relations with foreign partners. In consequence, joint ventures were encouraged and deals were established with western companies such as PepsiCo, Occidental Petroleum, Chevron and McDonnell's.
Gorbachev also worked on integrating the Russian character; political prisoners were liberated from internal exile. A group of Soviet dissidents were allowed to form a Democratic Club, namely an open political discussion group . Censorship of the mass media was prohibited, and all political movements had access to the airwaves, with the rights to form their own television and radio stations. The communist Party no longer had a monopoly on the state-run television.
Gorbachev stated that believers have the full right to express their convictions with dignity. He was the first Soviet leader to go to the Vatican in December 1989. In one of his speeches in Rome, Gorbachev expressed: "We need spiritual values; we need a revolution of the mind... No one should interfere in matters of the individuals conscience. Christians, Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, and others live in the Soviet Union, he said. All of them have a right to satisfy their spiritual needs. This is the only way toward a new culture and new politics that can meet the challenge of our time."
With this reforms Gorbachev had open the window to the west. And during a visit to Finland in October 1989, Gorbachev declared that the Soviet Union has no moral or political right to interfere in the affairs of its East European neighbors. "They have the right to decide their own fate ". This statement opened the doors for the Eastern countries. The demolishing of the Berlin Wall symbolized the end of communism and the fall of the Soviet empire. Gorbachev himself summarized the results of all his policies. "Having embarked upon the road of radical reform, we have crossed the line beyond which there is no return to the past... Things will never be the same again in the Soviet Union or for that matter in the whole communist world" .
There were many important figures in the shaping of the history of the Soviet Union, however I believe that one of the most important was Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was general secretary of the Soviet Communist party from 1985 to 1991 as well as also becoming the president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988 till 1991. Gorbachev tried implementing reform programs like Perestroika and Glasnost in order to improve the Soviet system. However, by removing the controls that had kept the system together for decades, he brought about its demise. So Gorbachev played an important role in the series of events that had led to the transformation of the international scene in the early 1990's with the ending of the cold war and the deterioration of communism leading to the end of the Soviet empire.
Gorbachev was born on the 2nd of March 1931, and was raised on a collective farm in the Stavropol region where he worked at a machine tractor station. He studied law at Moscow University and later joined the Communist party in 1952. Gorbachev then became the party chief of the Stavropol region in 1970. A protégé of KGB chief Yuri Andropov, Gorbachev was then elected to the party=s central committee in 1971. In 1978 he was brought to Moscow as an agriculture expert. However, when Andropov was chosen to be head of the party in 1982, Gorbachev aided him in his attempts at reform. Gorbachev who had emerged as a dominant figure in the Soviet ranks was given the position of general secretary of the Soviet Communist party in March of 1985 after the deaths of Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko.
Being the new general secretary of the party, Gorbachev immediately began a program of economic and political reforms which he called Perestroika. With this he called for greater discipline in labor and productivity, and later launched a new policy of openness in the media which was called Glasnost. Gorbachev tried to impose less administration by the bureaucracy and more dependence on the market forces. However his attempts were fettered by disturbances caused by the Chernobyl plants nuclear accident in 1986 and a disastrous earthquake in Armenia in 1988, and many cases of national unrest in the republics. With all this, disruptions led by economic reform plans led to strikes and shortages of consumer goods which undermined Gorbachev=s popularity.
On the other hand Gorbachev attempted to restore relations with the West and ended the Soviet war with Afghanistan. In 1989, Gorbachev abandoned the >Brezhenev Doctrine= which had warranted the USSR=s right to intervene militarily in Warsaw Pact countries. This action by Gorbachev soon led to the breakdown of the East European Communist regimes. Gorbachev was then recognized globally for his foreign policy initiatives and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.
The gradual democratic change that was taking place under Gorbachev had led to the rise of social and nationalist movements which threatened the breakup of the Soviet federation. Because of this Gorbachev was forced to negotiate Moscow=s relations with the other Soviet republics, most of which had declared themselves either sovereign or independent in 1990. Nine of the fifteen republics had agreed to sign a new union treaty between themselves, however, before they could do so, some right-wing Communists that were in the KGB or the army attempted to remove Gorbachev by staging a revolt in August of 1991, where Gorbachev was held prisoner. The revolt was then suppressed by Boris Yeltsin and his allies who was president of the Russian Republic.
The Communist party was then defamed for the unsuccessful revolt which then led to its collapse. However it heightened the power and image of Yeltsin and gave way for the republics to declare themselves independent. Because of these series of events, Gorbachev=s power was diminishing, which led him to resign on December 25th of 1991. At this point most of the other former republics had united in creating the Commonwealth of Independent States.
So as one can see, Gorbachev's actions as the last leader of the Soviet Union rendered great changes to the region and its republics and also gave way to its break down which makes him an important person to that matter. His role in history changed world perspectives and ended up reducing the role of communism from a large force in world affairs to its demise in Eastern Europe.
Mikhail Gorbachev's career failed due to the totalitarian government that Lenin established with the Bolshevik Revolution and was later built upon by Stalin. The Bolshevik Revolution was betrayed by both Marxist Leninism and the phenomenon of Stalin. The goal of these two soviet theories was to establish a socialist state, but instead created a totalitarian dictatorship.
The Bolsheviks under Lenin's rule wanted workers to have power so that it would lead to "a dictatorship of the proletariat" which in turn would lead to socialism, by speeding through capitalism. The Bolsheviks supported the workers in everything so long as they were the ones ruling them. They did not follow Marxist ideals because the Bolshevik state was not a democracy but a one-party dictatorship. Lenin created and enforced a one-party dictatorship using the secret police to control every aspect of life in the new "socialist world". Stalin added to this a centralized economy and expanded the secret police to carry out his "reign of terror" and to ensure his dictatorial rule. He industrialized the country through abominable terror that annihilated most of the Soviet population.
His collectivization plan uprooted peasants from their home and pushed them into collective farms. He liquidated the Kulak class and any other class which he thought to be a threat to his absolute power. His extreme exploitation of the peasantry was the only thing that kept industrialization in agriculture progressing. He also had complete control over culture and history which were changed to suit his needs.
Under Stalin and his "reign of terror", a totalitarian society emerged. The State had unlimited power and it excercised it through terror and corruption. These institutions created under Lenin and later reinforced by Stalin, became part of the same structure which collapsed under the era of Gorbachev and his reforms. Gorbachev was determined to reform as well as maintain the Soviet System. He wanted to purge it of "Stalinist perversions of Leninism" and go back to the Leninist ideals. However, instead of reforming the system, he was the final drop that tipped the glass over destroying the Soviet System altogether.
He was an outstanding leader because of his experimentation of new policies despite the great opposition he faced and the possible failure of these untested policies. He wanted the party to catch up to the social change that had evolved from his reforms. The first of these was Perestroika, "restructuring", which was a way to reduce central planning and give more freedom of initiative to the factories and farms for more possible productivity increase. He also established Glasnost, which opened up the availability of information, the limits of personal and artistic expression, and genuine public debate in the Soviet Union.
There was a drastic reduction in censorship. He also developed Demokratizatsia, "democratization", which allowed some choice in the Soviet System, in factories, in elections of government bodies and party elections. This new freedom however, was not like the freedom in the West.
These reforms gave the population a taste of freedom which could not be taken back. Gorbachev was wedged between the pushy and impatient radicals who pressed for mayor reforms and a complete change of the system, and the stubborn conservatives who wanted everything to stay the same. He tilted away from the radicals, but not soon enough to save the quick crumbling of the Soviet empire.
Gorbachev failed because of the totalitarian nature of the Soviet society created by Lenin and later reinforced by Stalin; it failed by the overall betrayal of the Bolshevik revolution and its leaders who were obsessed with absolute power. Instead of becoming a socialist state, it went back to a state similar to the old Tsarist order. The communist party ran a Soviet state that collapsed under the pressure of change that was taking root under Gorbachev's reforms. Although he was unable to break with the old Soviet system, Gorbachev laid the groundwork for others to do so. It was unrealistic to change an ideal which was a way of life that had been engraved in Russian society for centuries in just a matter of decades.
**** Reference used:
The Soviet Colossus. Michael Kort, 1993.