Gorbachev Moves Toward
Modern World History
Setting the Stage
After WWII, the Soviet Union and the US
engaged in a Cold War. They tried to increase
their influence worldwide, with the Soviets
extending their power over most of Eastern
Europe. By the 1960’s it appeared that
Communism was here to stay…
or was it??
Who will be the new Communist
• Leonid Brezhnev and the
Politburo- the ruling
committee of the Communist
party, crushed all political
disagreement. The Communist
party restricted rights; freedom
of speech, and worship.
Brezhnev died in 1982.
• Mikhail Gorbachev- youthful,
energetic, great political skills.
Became new Communist
leader, had many ideas for
• Glasnost Promotes Openness
– Under past Communist rulers Soviet society
– Gorbachev realized that economic and social
reforms could not occur without a free flow
– 1985: Glasnost; openness. He encouraged
Soviet citizens to discuss ways to improve
society. This was never allowed in the past.
– Glasnost brought changes: churches were
opened, dissidents were released from
prison, books were published by banned
authors. Reporters were allowed to
investigate and openly criticize the
Perestroika Reforms the Economy
• Since people could now complain
publicly about economic problems
Gorbachev noticed the inefficient
system of central planning.
• Under central farming, party officials
told farmers how much to produce and
wages to pay.
• Because individuals could not increase
their pay by producing more there was
little incentive to improve efficiency.
• Gorbachev introduced Perestroika-
economic restructuring. He made
changes to revive the Soviet economy.
• Farmers gained more authority over
their own farms and factories. People
were allowed to open small private
Democratization Opens the Political
• 1987: Democratization- a gradual
opening of the political system. An
election of a new legislative body.
Gorbachev’s third new policy.
• Voters could now choose from a
list of candidates for each office.
• Voters even elected outspoken
reformers instead of party leaders.
• Gorbachev realized the Soviets
could no longer afford the costly
arms race, arms control would
become one of his top priorities.
Democratization Opens the Political
• 1987: Gorbachev & President Reagan signed
the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
(INF), banned nuclear missiles with ranges of
300 to 3400 miles.
• Gorbachev urged other Eastern European
countries to do the same and open up their
• In the past the Soviet Union kept the Eastern
nations in check, now they could make their
own choices on democracy or communism.
“Each people determines the future of its own
country and chooses its own form of society.”
Reforms in Poland and Hungary
• Poland and Hungary were the
first to embrace the spirit of
• Reforms were occurring in
Poland long before Gorbachev
came to power, Pope John Paul
II lent his support to the anti-
• 1980: shipyard workers went on
strike. Demanding the gov’t
recognize their union, Solidarity.
• The gov’t gave in to the
demands and union leader Lech
Walesa became a national hero.
Hungarian Communists Disband
• Inspired by the work done in
Poland, Hungarian leaders
launched a sweeping reform
• Reformers encouraged private
enterprise and a small stock market
• A new constitution permitted a
multi-party system with free
• Finally a European Communist
party voted itself out of existence.
1990: finally a non-Communist
government in Hungary.
Communism Falls in East Germany
• While Poland and Hungary changed their political outlook
Germany remained stubborn.
• Vacationing Eastern Germans escaped to Western Germany
through Austria, something that was never allowed before.
• Erich Honecker closed the German borders allowing no one
to cross, he was forced to resign in October 1989.
• The new East German leader Egon Krenz argued that he
could restore stability by allowing people to leave East
• November 9, 1989 he opened the Berlin Wall.
• Thousands of East Germans poured into West Berlin
erupting into celebration.
“The wall is gone! The wall is gone!”
Germany is Reunified
• Reunification- the merging of the two
• Many people feared that a united Germany
would again try to dominate Europe.
• Germany assured leaders that Germany had
learned from the past and was now on a path
to Democracy and human rights.
• Germany was officially reunited on October 3,
• Czechoslovakia reforms; Czechs
inspired by the fall of the Berlin wall
demanded the resignation of
Communist leaders and an end to
• November 24, 1989: 500,000
protesters crowded into downtown
• Within hours Milos Jakes and his
entire Politburo resigned.
• One month later, a new parliament
elected Vaclav Havel President of
Overthrow in Romania
• Romanians were aware of what was going on
throughout the rest of Eastern Europe, however
Nicolae Ceausescu maintained a firm grasp.
• The Romanians began a protest of their own
• The army along side the common people
worked to defeat the secret police and their
• Ceausescu and his wife attempted to flee, they
were captured and killed Christmas Day 1989.
• Romania held elections in 1990 and 1992, and
made economic reforms to introduce