Mikhail Gorbachev – the First President of the USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev became the last leader of the former superpower, the Soviet Union. Russia became the successor of the Soviet Union. In the world there are opposite views on Gorbachev – a positive one, and the other one which is a radical rejection. Let us try to understand these views further.

Positive Point of View

Perestroika was a political movement to destruct the Soviet political and economic system in the 1980s. Gorbachev attempted to reform the Soviet Union. He tried to make the Constitution of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) into a reality, instead of just being an artifact on paper. He wanted to implement the freedom of speech and freedom of elections. USSR was a socialist state that existed between 1922 and 1991 ruled by a single political party, the Communist party in Moscow – its capital.

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Mikhail Gorbachev (1987) / Vladimir Vyatkin / RIA Novosti / CC BY-SA 3.0

Prohibition in the USSR. Alcohol prohibition resulted in a national ban on the sale, production, and transportation of alcohol. Some graphs show the Prohibition in the USSR saved at least a million lives. Life expectancy increased, too. The number of crimes because of the consumption of alcohol decreased.

The End of the Cold War. The whole world greeted the fateful meeting of the President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev and the U.S. President Ronald Reagan. These negotiations ended the Cold War.

Negative Point of View

Perestroika. Freedom of speech and democratic elections for undeveloped democracy led to the nationalist power, this fact was one of the reasons of the dissolution of the USSR. Furthermore, freedom of speech was one-sided. For example, meetings of socialism supporters were banned, and their members were called “the enemies of perestroika.”

Alcohol prohibition. The sharp decline in vodka taxes caused a significant hole in the budget of the USSR. After the repeal of Prohibition the “pendulum” swung back – and the situation changed from bad to worse: the consumption of alcohol in the Soviet Union became much higher, and the average life expectancy was drastically reduced again.

The End of the Cold War. The Military industry in the USSR was suddenly not needed any more. The highest scientific and technologically advanced military equipmentand military industry began to be used for making of … pots and pans. Having said this, it should also be noted that the USSR military industry did provide global leadership for many high-tech industries.

Peace initiatives which were initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev (for example, the Soviet Union unilaterally stopped testing nuclear weapons) were considered by the United States as weakness. As a result, the concluded US-Soviet disarmament agreements infringed the interests of the Soviet Union.

Also, the economic policy associated with the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev failed. Some of its aspects led to mass unemployment, hyperinflation and the disappearance of goods from stores and shops.

Basically,today people blame Gorbachev for the fact that Perestroika was the cause of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. But Gorbachev himself does not agree with that. He visited Russia in 2013. He is already an old man and he couldn’t contain emotions during his interviews: “[There was] a new union contract prepared and it was going to be signed on the 20th of August. There was no reason for Gorbachev himself [the First President of the USSR] to destroy all this.”

It is possible that it is true and Gorbachev wanted positive changes and just could not control what was happening.

So who was Gorbachev in really? A peace envoy or a messenger of misery to the largest country in the world? Apparently, people should take more time to make a final assessment. You can make your own choice.

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To discover Russia with Alexey Gureev

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