Soviet Society under Gorbachev: Current Trends and the Prospects for Reform

Soviet Society under Gorbachev: Current Trends and the Prospects for Reform

Soviet Society under Gorbachev: Current Trends and the Prospects for Reform

Soviet Society under Gorbachev: Current Trends and the Prospects for Reform

Synopsis

The essays in this volume assess key aspects of Soviet society and social policy under Gorbachev. It provides a survey of Soviet family problems and demographic change, economic and labour policy, the alcohol problem, nationality policy, and trends in culture and communications.

Excerpt

Not since Nikita S. Khrushchev's advent to power over thirty years ago has a change in Soviet leadership given rise to as many great expectations as has Mikhail S. Gorbachev's accession to the helm of state. To be sure, there are parallels that suggest themselves at once. Both men succeeded the two longest-ruling leaders in Soviet history, and both promptly promised rather radical changes, if not a clear break with the past. True, the moderately repressive two decades of Brezhnev's reign (and the brief tenures of Andropov and Chernenko) lack the drama of Stalin's terror-filled era, and Gorbachev, however charismatic, lacks the flamboyancy of Khrushchev. Even had he been so inclined, Gorbachev could not produce a denunciation of his predecessor's bloody crimes that could remotely rival Khrushchev's stirring oration at the 1956 Communist Party Congress. Whatever the differences imposed by history and individual leadership styles (Brezhnev did not lead the nation during the travail of a world war, and he lacked Stalin's tyrannical instincts), both Stalin and Brezhnev bequeathed to their successors an economy that was a shambles and a society ravaged by a host of ills. They also left it militarily strong and diplomatically on the offensive.

Both Khrushchev and Gorbachev immediately proposed to address a wide variety of domestic problems. Surely, the lessons of Khrushchev's experiments with a variety of economic stratagems and his lackadaisical attempts at greater permissiveness and tolerance after decades of Stalin's police and prisons have not been lost on Gorbachev. Khrushchev's successes and failures--to say nothing of his ultimate fate, his

Maurice Friedberg is head of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at
the University of Illinois.

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