What is Glasnost?

Matthew F.

Glasnost was the official Soviet governmental policy of openness and transparency implemented in the mid-1980s. It allowed for honesty in discussing the problems and shortcomings of the country, and for consultation in the governing and leadership of the U.S.S.R. Glasnost, which can mean "publicity," encouraged a dissemination of information and was initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 as a part of his emerging perestroika policy. It was used by Gorbachev to reduce corruption among the Communist leaders of the Soviet government and to curtail the censorship that was characteristic of Communist rule.

A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.
A map of the Soviet Union, with the star, sickle, and hammer that appeared on its flag.

Gorbachev, then General Secretary of the governing body of the country, and later made president in 1991, used glasnost in tandem with economic decentralization and freedom. Though the policies combined would ultimately result in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, they would result in greater freedom of the press and freedom of dissent. In bringing the people of the U.S.S.R. toward a policy of glasnost, Gorbachev hoped to phase many Communist policies out of the government and society of the country, and to bring democracy to Russia.

Glastnost paved the way for Americans to visit the space station Mir.
Glastnost paved the way for Americans to visit the space station Mir.

The glasnost policy was the centerpiece of a three-pronged program implemented by Gorbachev and was important in allowing for a public voice. Glasnost gave Russians for the first time in recent memory the ability to engage in political debate, the forum to disagree with politicians, and the power to foster change. Academic and scientific voices were for the first time allowed to debate the Communist hierarchy under glasnost, and this engagement would lead to the dissolution of Communist power.

It was through glasnost that the media was first allowed uncensored coverage of the government policies of the country. This led to the initial coverage of the perestroika programs, and the eventual Russian knowledge of the shortcomings of the program. The new freedom encouraged criticism of the failing economic programs of Gorbachev, and found revolutionaries around the Soviet Union dissenting. The satellite states of Russia began crumbling under this new political freedom in 1991, and were followed by the democratization of many other Eastern European countries throughout the 1990s.

Around the Soviet Union, glasnost made for looser restrictions in all areas of life. The resulting ties with the Western world were evident as Soviets began traveling more, introducing American and European customs, ideas, and politics, and doing business with Western entrepreneurs. Though glasnost failed in reforming the Soviet Union toward a more unified collection of states, the collapse of 1991 was not absent of the newfound democratic practices experience by millions.

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Discussion Comments


@SweetPeas - It's complicated for me too - but here goes. The Soviet Union had been under Soviet Communist rule for many years. The people had no rights. If they criticized the government, they might be sent to Siberia or killed.

In 1985, the leader,Gorbechev, began to let more people speak out about their ideas. He let the newspapers print their own stories, and as time went on, he let all citizens speak freely. He was trying to get rid of Communism and make Russia a democracy. The people were very happy to have this freedom.


Politics has always been a hard subject for me. I know that glasnost helped the country and people of the Soviet Union, but I still don't exactly understand what happened. Need help.

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