Perestroika and Glasnost 1985–1987
Following Mikhail Gorbachev’s succession to power in March 1985 after Chernenko’s death, speculations began to circulate among Western observers as to the likely direction of the Soviet Union under the new leader. As with previous changes in the Soviet leadership, widely differing opinions were offered in the West, each commentator attempting to unravel the intricacies of the Soviet political system and at the same time trying to predict how the new leader would tackle the economic problems that have accumulated since Brezhnev and his successors. Initially, Western analysts saw the new leader in the same light as they saw Yuri Andropov when he won the top job in the Kremlin. After Gorbachev made his inaugural speech, most Western observers agreed that his priority would be a drastic transformation of the Soviet economy — an almost identical assessment made about Andropov when he became leader. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council chief predicted at the time that Andropov would try to reform the Soviet economic system, not through drastic decentralisation but by an effort to stimulate technological innovations and improvements in efficiency. Although Andropov did not launch an attack on central planning, he made a few attempts to decentralise economic decisions by legislating workers participation in factory management.
KeywordsForeign Trade Central Committee Price Determination Wholesale Trade Soviet Economy
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