Personal Security Government Deforestation Conflict Resolution Human trafficking Nuclear Non-Proliferation Modern Slavery Freedom of Expression Migrant Labor Religion Free Elections Justice Political Participation Microcredit Bonded Labor Forced Labor Individual Integrity Dialogue Segregation Refugee Non-violent Activism Decision making Access and Equity Civil rights Needs and wants Parliamentarians Lawsuit Agribusiness Racism Police misconduct Civic values Economic systems Factory Farm Cycle of Violence Discrimination Non-violence Freedom from Violence Government Accountability Quality of LIfe Choice laogai Childhood rights freedom from discrimination Citizenship Indigenous Rights Identity Power Genocide Labor Sex slavery Fair Trade Environmentalist Activism Police Brutality Farmworker Equal protection Political Freedom Reform Degradation Advocacy Global citizenship
Free Expression, Free Elections, and Democratic Reforms
Born to Russian peasants in 1931, Mikhail Gorbachev quickly ascended the ladder of power in the Soviet Union. In his youth, Gorbachev joined the Komsomol or “Youth Communist League” and drove a combine harvester at a state-run farm in his hometown. Local party officials recognized his promise and sent him to law school at Moscow State University. At university, Gorbachev was an active Communist Party member and, by 1970, first secretary of the regional party committee. Only ten years later, Gorbachev had risen to the youngest full member of the Politburo, which was the highest executive committee in the Soviet Union.
In 1985, after two general secretaries of the Politburo died within a year of each other, the Party was looking for younger leadership. On March 11, 1985, the Politburo elected Mikhail Gorbachev general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. After his election, Gorbachev set about installing bold reforms. Domestically, he pushed the Soviet bureaucracy to be more efficient, to increase worker production and to rapidly modernize. When his reforms yielded few results, Gorbachev instituted more far-reaching reforms including glasnost, or “openness,” to encourage free expression and information, and perestroika, or “restructuring,” that encouraged democratic processes and free-market ideas to take hold in Soviet economic and political life. He also worked for warmer relations and new trade partners abroad.
In 1987, he and U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed an agreement calling for both sides to destroy all of their intermediate-range nuclear-tipped missiles. In 1989, he openly supported reformist groups in Eastern European Soviet-bloc countries and informed their communist leaders that in the event of a revolution, he would not intervene. As a result, reformist groups overthrew the communist regimes and Gorbachev began withdrawing Soviet troops. By the summer of 1990, he even agreed to a reunification of East and West Germany. As power quickly shifted to new political parties, Gorbachev dismantled large swaths of the political structure throughout the Soviet Union. On December 25, 1991, the day he resigned, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In 1990, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leading role in the peace process.