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The Gorbachev Factor

Archie Brown

Published in print August 1997 | ISBN: 9780192880529
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598876 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0192880527.001.0001
The Gorbachev Factor

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This is an analysis of how fundamental change came about in the Soviet Union and of the part played by political leadership. In its most general aspect, it is a contribution to the literature on democratization and transitions from authoritarian rule. More specifically, it examines the evolution of Mikhail Gorbachev as a reformist politician and his major role in the political transformation of the Soviet Union and in ending the Cold War. The failures as well as the successes of perestroika are examined – economic reform that left the system in limbo and the break‐up of the Soviet state that Gorbachev had attempted to hold together on the basis of a new and voluntary federation or looser confederation. The institutional power of the General Secretary was such that only a reformer in that office could undertake peaceful systemic change in such a long‐established, post‐totalitarian authoritarian regime as the USSR, with its sophisticated instruments of control and coercion. In embracing the pluralization of the Soviet political system and thereby removing the monopoly of power of the Communist Party, Gorbachev undermined his own power base. His embrace of new ideas, amounting to a conceptual revolution, combined with his power of appointment, made possible, however, what Gorbachev himself described as revolutionary change by evolutionary means. Mikhail Gorbachev's lasting merit lies in the fact that he presided over, and facilitated, the introduction of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, religious freedom, and freedom of movement, and left Russia a freer country than it had been in its long history.

Keywords: Authoritarianism; Cold War; democratization; evolution; freedom; Mikhail Gorbachev; perestroika; pluralization; Russia; USSR

Book.  426 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Politics

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Table of Contents

Introduction in The Gorbachev Factor

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In the Portals of Power in The Gorbachev Factor

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Gorbachev and Economic Reform in The Gorbachev Factor

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Gorbachev and Foreign Policy in The Gorbachev Factor

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Conclusions in The Gorbachev Factor

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