What was the Glasnost?

Glasnost was a political reform applied in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Its objective was to generate internal, free and open discussions among citizens on political and social issues.

The Russian word Glasnost translates as “openness” or “transparency.” The Glasnost was a political proposal made by the political leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s of the 20th century, and put into action between 1986 and 1991.

Glasnost, together with perestroika (set of economic policies), was part of the process of reforms and reorganization that the Soviet Union experienced.

These reforms were characterized by allowing greater freedom of expression and freedom of the press around political and social events. It also promoted the dissemination of information and the right to dissent on various matters of the State.

Among the most prominent consequences of glasnost are the strong social criticism of the reality of the Soviets and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Historical context of the Glasnost

Glasnost is part of the Russian political terms used, around the 18th century, to refer to the transparency of government affairs.

The term was taken up by Mikhail Gorvachev in 1985 when he was Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. At that time, he proposed a set of political and economic reforms that generated a stir among politicians and citizens.

His intention with the Glasnost, went beyond giving greater openness to information and revealing numerous hidden truths. It also sought to reduce the control of the state and counteract the secrecy characteristic of the Soviet Union, supported by the conservatives of the Communist Party.

The glasnost was an attempt to preserve the Soviet Union by restructuring the political, economic and social system. It also included technological restructuring that ran the risk of becoming obsolete and bankrupt for the time.

The Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe on April 26, 1986, was a world-wide impact event that exposed the flaws in the Soviet nuclear program. The radioactive cloud generated by the nuclear reactor explosion spread across Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Belarus, Finland, Sweden, Norway and France.

The lack of information transparency made it difficult for the State to plan more efficient and faster strategies. This revealed how extremely important information was withheld from the State, Soviet society and the international community in general.

Consequences of Glasnost

  • Institutional reform: there were reforms of the political system that made it possible to introduce the office of president in the Soviet Union and hold free elections. In March 1990 Gorbachev was elected as the first president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a position he held until 1991.
  • Greater information transparency: the Communist Party lost much of the political control it exercised over the media. This made it possible to publicize the reality of the social and economic problems that the Soviets were experiencing, the Stalinist policies that were unknown to many were published and it was clear that not everyone was aligned with this policy when the Chernobyl nuclear explosion occurred on April 26. 1986.
  • Greater access to new technologies: greater access to technology development was promoted.
  • Release of political prisoners: it was possible to release several political prisoners detained for various reasons.
  • Access to more information: the international communication signal was allowed and opened.
  • International political relationship: a better international political relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States began.
  • Disintegration of the Soviet Union: the application of glasnost, together with perestroika, were policies that generated widespread discontent because they evidenced the conditions and difficulties faced by citizens, consequently, in 1991 the USSR was dissolved.

Glasnost and Perestroika

Perestroika was a reform established by Gorvachev in order to restructure the economic policies of the Soviet Union, since the state had control of trade. The term translates into Spanish as “restructuring”.

With perestroika, it was sought to get out of the economic decline and generate greater commercial independence, freedom in the handling of currencies, freedom of prices, among others.

A short time later, Gorvachev promulgated the glasnost in order to allow space for internal debate on social issues.

Both reforms were intended to create a new and better structure for the Soviet Union. However, among its consequences, in addition to the general discontent due to the economic and social crisis, was the end of the Soviet Union.