Gorbachev Reforms the Soviet Union During the 1960’s and 70’s, The Soviet Union’s Communist leadership held control over the Soviet people. Leonid Brezhnev and the Politburo, the ruling committee of the Communist Party, crushed all political disagreement. After Brezhnev’s death in 1982 however, a new power would soon be arriving to the Soviet government after Brezhnev’s successors died only a year after being put in office.
A Young Leader Arrives Despite debating over having a more conservative leader, or a more energetic leader, the Politburo chose Mikhail Gorbachev, the youngest man (54) to take power since Josef Stalin, to be the future in politics in the Soviet Union Gorbachev wanted to bring something new to the table, he had no plans to blindly follow Stalin’s policies like all the former leaders did.
Gorbachev Innovates Openness Since Stalin came into power, the Soviet Union had been known as a Totalitarian State, but when Gorbachev realized that economic and social reforms could not happen, the new Soviet leader new things had to change. In 1985, Gorbachev announced a policy called glasnost, or openness This allowed remarkable things to happen in a place which not much had changed for the past 50 or so years. Churches opened, it released dissidents from prison, and allowed publication of novels by previously banned authors.
Gorbachev Reforms Economy With a social reform at hand, Gorbachev was ready to move on to creating a new economy in the Soviet Union, in the same year he introduced glasnost, he introduced perestroika Perestroika, or economic restructuring allowed Gorbachev to give managers more authority of their businesses. Gorbachev’s goal was not to throw out communism, but to make the system more efficient and productive.
Gorbachev Changes Political Polices Gorbachev new successfully reforming the Soviet Union couldn’t happen until the Communist party loosened their grip on the Soviet Society, due to this Gorbachev made a policy called Democratization Democratization would be a new legislative branch. Allow people to vote outside the powerhouses supplied from the Communist party. With the Soviet Union reforming their economic and political systems, many developing countries began to follow the Soviets lead into bringing in
Gorbachev Change Foreign Policies Gorbachev also changed the Soviet foreign policy by supplying new thinking to society Gorbachev implemented that that the Soviet people should stress the usage of diplomacy over force. Knowing that an arms race was going on between superpowers, Gorbachev and President Ronald Regan signed the INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) which banned nuclear missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles.
Primary Source Document Is it right to still not trust the Soviets?
Reforms in Poland In 1978, Pope John Paul II, a Polish archbishop lent his support to the anti-communist movement. In 1980, workers at the Gdansk shipyard went on strike, demanding government recognition of their union called Solidarity. Eventually the government gave in to the union’s demands and the union leader Lech Walesa was supported by millions of people and became a national hero.
Solidarity Defeats Communists The year after solidarity came into practice, it was banned and declared martial law. The Communist Party realized that military rule could not revive Poland’s declining economy. In the 1980s, industrial production declined putting Poland in 40 billion dollars in debt. Because of this, public discontent worsened which caused workers to quit their jobs. In April 1989, after Solidarity was legalized again free elections were held and Lech Walesa was elected president and a communist regime was worked out peacefully.
Hungarian Communists Disband Hungarian leaders were inspire by the changes in Poland and also launched a reform program. They first stimulated economic growth by encouraging private enterprises and allowing a small stock market to operate. A new constitution permitted a multiparty system with free parliamentary elections.
Hungarian Communists Disband The pace of change grew even faster when radical leaders took over a Communist party congress in 1989. A year later, a non-Communist government won favor with the nation’s voters and was put into power. In 1994, a socialist party, heavily populated with former Communists, won a majority of the seats in Hungary’s parliament. Then the socialist party and democratic party formed a coalition, or alliance. In 1995, the government improved the economy by raising taxes and cutting back on government services.
Communism Falls in East Germany In 1989, Hungary allowed East German tourists to cross into Austria and from there they could travel to West Germany. Thousands of East Germans took this new escape route. In response to this, the East German government closed off their border entirely. Protests then broke out and people demanded the right to free travel and free elections.
Fall of the Berlin Wall After Erich Honecker lost his authority a new East German leader was appointed named Egon Krenz. His main goal was to allow people to leave East Germany. So, he broke open the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. Thousands of East Germans poured out into West Berlin screaming, “The wall is gone! The wall is gone!”
Germany is Reunified With the fall of the Communist party, many people in East Germany began to speak of reunification-the merging of two Germanys. However many thought that a united Germany would again try to dominate Europe. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl assured people that Germany had learned from their past and persuaded other European nations that they were committed to human rights and democracy. On October 3, 1990, Germany was officialy reunited after forty-five years in its defeat in World War II.
Germany Challenges The newly united Germany faced serious problems after 40 years of Communist rule in eastern Germany. The problems were: - Germany’s railroads, highways, and telephone system had not been modernized since World War II. -Many East German industries produced shoddy goods that could not compete with the global market. -Germany’s economy was bankrupt. To pay the costs of Germany’s bankrupt economy, Kohl raised taxes. As taxpayers tightened the belts, workers in eastern Germany faced another problem of unemployment. Because of the unemployment, inefficient factories closed down and millions lost their jobs.
Germany’s Challenges In 1998, Kohl was turned out of office and a new chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was elected. He was as member of the Socialist Democratic Party (SPD). A central’s Europe’s largest country, Germany took on important global responsibilities. Because of this, Germany argued that they should be elected as a member seat in the Security Council. But, this did not happen.
Czechoslovakia Reforms The conservative Czech government was led by Milos Jakes and did not wish to make any changes due to the breakdown against government reforms in 1968. The people wanted an end to the communist rule and on October,25,1989, 10,000 people came together in Wenceslas square to demand their freedom but instead hundreds were arrested. Two weeks later 25,000 students gathered for the same reason but this time the police (under orders from the gov.) attacked the students and many were injured. At this point the Czech people were enraged by the way the government handled the situation Over the next eight days, hundreds of thousands of people crowded the same place and this forced Milos Jakes and his Politburo to resign. Vaclav Havel was later elected president of Czechoslovakia.
Overthrow in Romania Romania seemed to be untouched by the changes in government around them. This was because of Nicolae Ceausescu (chow-shes-koo) and his incredibly ruthless communist dictatorship and his secret police force. The people were well aware of the reforms and other countries even though their government was lying to them. In December,1989, they decided to do something about it. Many people were killed or injured by the army in the city of Timisoara. (Tee-mee-shwa-rah) This Massacre would start a huge uprising and it didn’t take long at all for even the army to join the rebellion against Ceausescu. He tried to flee but was captured, tried, and killed on Christmas day in 1989. In the next couple years (1990-1992 ) Romania held its own elections and introduced new economic reforms as well as parts of capitalism.
Quiz 1.After the death of Brezhnev and his successor, who came into power? 2.Why did Gorbachev announce a new policy known as Glasnost? 3.Which East Germany leader tore down the Berlin Wall? 4.What is reunification in the eyes of Germany? 5.What were some of the challenges that Germany faced after its reunification? 6.Why did Germany argue about a spot in the Security Council? 7.After the reforms in East Germany, what two countries were the next to reform? 8.Why was reforming Romania harder than the reformation of Czechoslovakia?
Quiz Answers 1.Mikhail Gorbachev 2.He realized that economic and social reforms could not occur without a free flow of ideas and information. 3.Egon Krenz 4.Reuniting West Germany with East Germany. 5.Germany railroads, highways, and telephone system had not been modernized since World War II. Many East German industries produced shoddy goods that could not compete with the global market. Germany’s economy was bankrupt 6.Germanys responsibilities were growing and they were the Central power of Central Europe. 7.Romania and Czechoslovakia. 8.Unlike Czechoslovakia, Romania ruthless dictator maintained a firm grip on his power and had his secret police crack down on anyone that was not listening.
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