Gorbachev’s Reforms – Perestroika & Openness
29 September, 2011
Gorbachev’s Reforms – Perestroika & Openness

Gorbachev called on the Soviet people to speak up and express what was hurting them, what was in there way to feel happier and how they wanted things to be. He even traveled all over the Soviet Union to encourage people to openly express their thoughts and opinions. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.
GJ – To escape the overwhelming crisis, the new Soviet leader Gorbachev decided to drastically redirect the development of the Soviet Union. Capitalism was the only available

alternative, but that meant the negation of what the Soviet Union had been imposing on the rest of the world – at times even by force – in the duration of 70 years of its existence. The Soviet people were of course under even heavier burden of the same propaganda.
SM – That is exactly why it was decided to stage minor economic experiments all over the country before the process of introducing the capitalism had started. For example, the Soviet government instigated an artificial economic crisis in the country. The liquor prices went up and liquor share in the market went down immediately. I happened to be in Moscow right at that time, and I was surprised at the size of lines in front of liquor stores. Even the Lenin mausoleum on the Red Square had never known lines like that. The public discontent and fury became rampant and ubiquitous in Russia for this reason. The prohibition had not reached Georgia in full swing. It just stopped at the level of the so called Komsomol (nonalcoholic) wedding parties. That was the time when the famous Georgian movie director Tengiz Abuladze finished shooting of his opus ‘Repentance’.
GJ – It was truly the unprecedented event in the history of the soviet cinematography, wasn’t it?
SM – I think it was! This was practically the first film, which had directly voiced the monstrosity and ugliness of soviet reality. That was the exposure of the way the soviet commissars and KGB staff members were treating people. A huge sense of protest was brewing in the depressed people’s minds. Gorbachev did not limit himself with talking about the public discontent; he also introduced the notion of ‘glasnost’ – openness. 
GJ – What did he mean by ‘glasnost’ in particular?
SM – Gorbachev called on the Soviet people to speak up and express what was hurting them, what was in there way to feel happier and how they wanted things to be. He even traveled all over the Soviet Union to encourage people to openly express their thoughts and opinions. The soviet people reacted vigorously and they started speaking up. Only the hardship, anguish and discontent of people came up to the surface. And the feelings were unanimous and ubiquitous. ‘Aha, you feel that bad, right? You can’t tolerate that privation and destitution any more, can you? So let’s do something about it! Let’s change things, shall we?’ And Gorbachev introduced one more new notion and term, called ‘Perestroika’ – the restructuring. That’s when the new semi-capitalist enterprises started popping up. Something was truly changing in the Soviet country. People were at a loss. The feeling was that the Soviet giant was going to collapse completely, and that could happen real soon. The secession of soviet republics was not excluded – all of them might want to become independent. What a chance! Finally! Perestroika and Glasnost were real helpers here. So to keep the republics from escaping the once monolithic USSR, the Kremlin thought of a ruse – they resorted to some of the painful national themes that were in hibernation for a long time. For example, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh was pushed to surface again to plant the seeds of adversity between Azerbaijan and Armenia, which indeed strained the relations between them. Soon the triggered conflict turned into human massacre on both sides. In Georgia for instance, the construction of the Roki Tunnel was finalized – the national themes were touched upon very sensitively here as well. The Soviet government was still nursing the idea of keeping the USSR untouched. The mischief was brewing and the chaos in the country of soviets was on its way.

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