Joesph Stalin and Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1985 to 1991, was a revolutionary leader for his nation. He brought about several reforms which ended government oppression and suppression begun under Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. His first reform, known as glasnost, or openness, brought about the opening of many churches, which would have previously been disallowed because of the atheist policies of the communist party. Relations with the United States improved with the signing of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in December 1987, which ended the arms race between the two countries. Another major reform Gorbachev implemented was called perestroika, or economic restructuring. This program introduced capitalism into the Soviet economy. His most radical reform was demokratizatsiya, or democratization. This policy created democratic systems in the Soviet Union, which was strictly communist until this time, and established elections for a 2,250-member Congress of Peoples Deputies.
These reforms were intended to restore economic and social stability to the Soviet Union, but they had the opposite effect. The freedom felt by Soviet citizens sparked many conflicts between various ethnic groups, and several republics rebelled against the Soviet Union. Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, which are known as the Baltic states, declared their independence from the U.S.S.R. on March 11, 1990. This eventually led to fighting in Lithuania, and in January 1991, 15 people were killed by Soviet tanks. Gorbachevs approval rating plummeted, and he sought to rectify the situation with peace negotiations with the Baltic States. He proposed a new Union Treaty, which would divide power between the Republics and the central government. Leaders in the Communist Party, the Defense Ministry, and the KGB stood to lose power if the treaty was passed, and threatened to block negotiations. On August 18, 1991, a group of these communist hard-liners attempted a coup against Gorbachev. Holding Gorbachev prisoner, they ordered a return to the old system of government without the current reforms, and brought tanks and troops into Moscow to enforce their orders. However, the people of Russia were willing to stand up to the deteriorating communist regime in order to maintain their rights gained under the reforms. Since the army was composed of these Russian citizens, they refused to attack the reformers, led by Boris Yeltsin, and the coup failed.
Boris Yeltsin, the president of Russia, the largest member of the U.S.S.R., gained popular support as the Communist Party collapsed. The Congress of Peoples Deputies established a State Council, consisting of Gorbachev, Yeltsin and others, which granted independence to the Baltic States and began to dismantle the Soviet Union. On December 21, 1991, the U.S.S.R. was broken up into 12 independent republics, 11 of which agreed to form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gorbachev resigned on December 25, and the Soviet Parliament ceased to exist the next day. For the first time since 1917, communism was absent from the 15 republics that once made up the Soviet Union. Today, some nations of the former Soviet Union are steeped in civil unrest, but Russia and several others are striving to become peaceful democratic nations. The August Coup was an obvious turning point in world history; it ended the communist powerhouse formerly known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
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"Biography of Joesph Stalin"
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