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To what extent was Gorbachev the main cause of the end of the cold war ?

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Essay: To what extent was Gorbachev the main cause of the end of the cold war ?

The Cold War is generally regarded as a quest for global hegemony, an ideological confrontation and a massive military arms race between two powerful countries with opposing political systems. As world war 2 ended the cold war began and continued until 1989. Surprisingly it did not end with a bang but with a whimper. Although the end of the cold war could be attributed to the growing awareness of the failing of communism and the development in other parts of the world, the main cause was Mikhail Gorbachev. It is Gorbachev’s policies that ended communism and his attitude that helped end arms race.

Essentially the cold war came to an end due to many reasons first of was the growing awareness of the failing of communism. The growth of transnational communications and contacts helped spread liberal ideas, and the demonstration effect of Western economic success gave the communist people additional appeal. Khrushchev in 1955 foreshadowed the end of communism by saying, “ if after 40 years of communism a person cannot have a glass of milk and a pair of shoes, he will not believe communism is a good thing.” This shows us that the communists will stop believing in communism if the see that the other non-communist countries have what they don't. Two decades of detente (1962-1979) coupled with communication technology, revealed to a new generation. The communist people found out about the other non communist countries and their lifestyles, a lifestyle where human rights were considered and where people had food and shelter. This discovery of people's rights and freedom helped the communist people gain courage and reconsider if communism was the best political regime .

In addition the Soviet collapse was also due to the decline of communist ideology as well as the failure of the Soviet economy. In the early Cold War, communism and the Soviet Union had a good deal of soft power. Many communists had led the resistance against fascism in Europe, and many people believed that communism was the wave of the future. But Soviet soft power was undercut by the de-Stalinization in 1956 that exposed his crimes, by the repressions in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 1968( prague spring ) and in Poland in 1981, and by the growing transnational communication of liberal ideas. Although in theory communism aimed to instill a system of class justice, Lenin’s heirs maintained domestic power through a brutal state security system involving lethal purges, gulags, broad censorship, and the use of informants. The net effect of these repressive measures was a general loss of faith in the system. Along with this , there was also the decline in the Soviet economy, reflecting the diminished ability of the Soviet central planning system to respond to change in the global economy. Stalin had created a system of centralized economic direction that emphasized heavy metal and smokestack industries. At the end of the twentieth century, the major technological change of the third industrial revolution was the growing role of information as the scarcest resource in an economy. The Soviet system was particularly inept at handling information. The deep secrecy of its political system meant that the flow of information was slow and cumbersome.

Nevertheless the people under communism were still full of fear and the growing awareness and the developpement in other countries did not help them get the courage to go against communism. It was Gorbachev’s policies that allowed the people to have freedom of speech hence stopping the people’s from being scared of going against communist ideologies. When Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union as the General Secretary of the Communist party in 1985, he changed the face of the world. The Soviet Union was going through a torrid phase at the time, owing to several different reasons, and the dissenting voices against the very costly arms race and the rule of the Communist party were growing strongly. Gorbachev took a new approach toward addressing these problems: He introduced a reform program that embodied two overarching concepts. Perestroika, his restructuring concept, started with an overhaul of the top members of the Communist Party. It also focused on economic issues, replacing the centralized government planning that had been a hallmark of the Soviet system with a greater reliance on market forces. The accompanying concept of glasnost sought to ease the strict social controls imposed by the government. Gorbachev gave greater freedom to the media


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