When will the Soviet Union reform itself?

Despised in Russia, revered in Germany Mikhail Gorbachev: a politician of the century

Party secretary in the province: close to the people

Gorbachev had graduated with honors and wanted to become a public prosecutor in Moscow. But it was rejected. But there was a job for him in Stavropol. However, he quickly realized that working in the prosecutor's office was not for him. Instead, he decided to switch to politics. Initially, Gorbachev, who had already entered the CPSU at the age of 18, worked as a department head of the regional committee, and from 1968 onwards as the head of the Communist Party of Stavropol. He was an utterly unusual party secretary. Gorbachev often traveled in his region and talked to workers and farmers about their worries and needs. When no company car was available, the party leader also traveled in the back of trucks or walked. There had never been anything like it. And people appreciated Gorbachev for that.

Gorbachev is brought to Moscow

Gradually the party leadership in Moscow became aware of the unconventional district prince, who was "not a master strategist, but a brilliant tactician" (William Taubman). Gorbachev was appointed to the Central Committee of the CPSU, one of the highest bodies in the maht structure of the Soviet Union. The KGB chief and later Brezhnev successor Yuri Andropov became his mentor. Gorbachev initially fitted himself into the world of the aged functionaries. But it was already perfectly clear to him that changes in the party and state were urgently needed, because the continuing decline of the USSR could not be overlooked.

Glasnost and Perestroika

In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the CPSU. The new party leader called his political course "perestroika" (transformation). The main reason for the restructuring: the disastrous economic situation in the Soviet Union. Hardly anything worked in the gigantic communist empire. Gorbachev was of course clear: In order to win the population over to the restructuring and to encourage them to be more motivated, the all-powerful party must give the people more say and freedom:

The transformation itself is only possible through democracy and thanks to democracy.

Mikhail Gorbachev Perestroika speech on January 27, 1987

In addition to "perestroika", "glasnost" (openness) therefore became a defining term in his political visions. Gorbachev relaxed travel regulations, allowed more freedom of expression and the press, restricted state influence over companies and allowed foreign investors to participate in Soviet companies.