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Gorbachev’s programme of reform that followed the death of Chernenko in 1985 resulted In the dissolution of the USSR within six years. A committed communist, Gorbachev’s intentions were never to bring down the Soviet Union, but he believed that democracy and communism could coexist.

Gorbachev sacked most of the Brezhnevite Politburo, appointed a brand-new generation of reformers and made public his policy of glasnost (openness) to a delighted Soviet public.



The shock of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986 fuelled the drive towards political restructure. It had taken a very un-glasnost-like 18 days to admit the (underplayed) extent of the disaster to the West, even longer to the neighbouring Warsaw Pact countries. It is worth noting that a now unclassified KGB document, commissioned and signed by Yuri Andropov on 21 February 1979, predicted the disaster more than seven years before it occurred.

It was becoming clear that no leader who relied on the Party could survive as a reformer. Perestroika (restructuring) became the new cry. This meant limited private enterprise and private property, not unlike Lenin’s New Economic Policy, and further efforts to push lowards decentralisation.
The forces unleashed by Gorbachev’s laudable but awkwardly instituted reforms precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union. The reduced threat of repression spurred a growing clamour for independence: first in the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe, then followed by the Baltic republics, Moldova and the Caucasian republics. The floodgates, once opened, were impossible to close, despite occasional shows of force.

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