Originally rendered as “restructuring” to convey the meaning of the word in Russian, the term “perestroika” was eventually adopted into the English language. Perestroika, put forth at the 27th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1986, formed the central plank of Mikhail Gorbachev’s multivariate reform policy of the late 1980s. The original goal of Gorbachev’s restructuring was to introduce “acceleration” (uskoreniie>), efficiency in production and management, mass initiative, and entrepreneurialism into the Soviet economy, which was stagnating after the drop of oil prices in the early 1980s.
   Hoping to catch up with (or overcome) the West, Gorbachev introduced reforms that were meant to move the Soviet economy away from its overreliance on heavy industry and military spending, and toward light industry, information, and finance. Gorbachev used Leninist framing to market the plan to the masses, calling perestroika the uniting of socialism with democracy. However, such a massive transformation required significant political change and the removal of corruption within the quasi-totalitarian state. Realizing that perestroika was doomed to fail without self-criticism and new voices, the comparatively young Gorbachev eventually introduced two other policies, glasnost and democratization, which proved highly controversial with the CPSU old guard.
   In 1988, Gorbachev emerged victorious in a power struggle with the entrenched nomenklatura> and antireform contingent, allowing him to deepen and broaden perestroika. Perestroika attacked the commandandcontrol system of state capitalism, which had been the bedrock of the Soviet economy since the time of Joseph Stalin. Limited forms of private ownership were introduced through the Law on the Cooperatives in 1987, and foreign trade and foreign investment were courted. Gorbachev took his campaign directly to the Soviet people that same year with his book Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World. The reforms ultimately resulted in chaos, however, as tax revenues decreased (particularly during the anti-alcoholism campaign) as the government tried to maintain price controls.
   The situation was made worse by the fact that the Soviet Union suffered from a shortage economy during the 1980s, which resulted in rationing and a brisk trade in black market goods, particularly in the consumer sector. However, by the end of the 1980s, the situation extended to foodstuffs as well. Furthermore, Soviet media played a crucial role by publishing truthful materials about the atrocities of the Soviet regime. Overall, perestroika was viewed as a historical necessity for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR); however, many historians have compared the situation to China’s late-1970s economic reforms, suggesting that the combination of unpredictable economic and political reforms ultimately led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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