March 01, 2015

Reform Begins

Today it is hard to imagine the revolutionary atmosphere that pervaded the Soviet Union in March and April of 1985. After a series of decrepit and impotent general secretaries, the youthful (by party standards) Mikhail Gorbachev had taken the Central Committee helm. That was shocking enough, but what was truly earthshaking was Gorbachev’s April speech to a Central Committee plenum, not about perestroika (a word that would not enter the political lexicon for another year or so), but about uskorenie  (“accelerating” the country’s development). If we had to accelerate, did that mean we were lagging behind? Yes, we were, Gorbachev openly admitted to television viewers across the country. We were lagging behind the West, we were lagging behind America, and serious changes were needed. Nobody, including Gorbachev himself, could have possibly anticipated just how much would change in Russia in the coming five years. Back then, it seemed that everything would be fine, everything would be great.

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