The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

HOW FIRM IS GORBACHEV'S WAR ON DECEIT? MARCH 1986

This snapshot reveals the deceptively simple nature of many of Gorbachev's
reforms. In this case, Gorbachev's push for glasnost begins to look less like
a simple policy change and more like a revolution able to shake the system
to its very foundation. Careful observers will note the brief appearance by
Boris Yeltsin, as well as the description of his relationship to Gorbachev.
Yeltsin's prominence will change drastically in later snapshots, as will his
position vis-à-vis the General Secretary.

After taking office a year ago and surveying the legacy left by Leonid Brezhnev, Gorbachev apparently decided that the Soviet Union could not progress unless he eliminated, or at least significantly decreased, the deceit that now touches every facet of Soviet life.

Although some observers questioned Gorbachev's dedication to battling the lies ubiquitous to Soviet society, Gorbachev's speech at the 25th Party Congress in February convinced skeptics of his commitment to greater glasnost, or openness. By all accounts, Gorbachev appears ready to embrace Alexander Solzhenitsyn's famous appeal to the Russians to "stop living by the lie."

Gorbachev's offensive has gained momentum since the Party Congress. A few weeks ago, for example, Pravda attacked the party committee in Pskov for confiscating an issue of its own newspaper and forcing the editors to rewrite an article denouncing "a Potemkin village" built by local party officials. In an unprecedented action, Pravda reprinted both the initial critical article and the second article, from which all negative references to local bosses had vanished.

In another remarkable development, Boris Yeltsin, the first secretary of the Moscow Party Committee and one of Gorbachev's most zealous lieutenants, appeared at a meeting of propagandists and broke from the practice of having aides select only politically unembarrassing questions for him to answer. For more than six hours he responded to over 600 questions, avoiding none.

Still, Gorbachev's most amazing action by far has been his decision to enlist the intellectual community, particularly writers, in his campaign against "the lie." In December, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Kremlin's champion in the anti-lie crusade, called on his colleagues to honestly address the past and the present.

The intellectual community was quick to respond. Nearly simultaneously,

____________________
This article originally appeared in The Christian Science Monitor on March 8, 1986.

-14-

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