Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The death of glasnost: How Russia's attempt at openness failed

Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, right, talks with his brother and co-defendant Oleg inside a defendants' cage during a court hearing in Moscow on December 30, 2014. (Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin)
By Ann Cooper, Committee to Protect Journalists

Before Maidan, before Tahrir Square, before the "color revolutions" that overthrew entrenched autocrats, there was the Soviet revolution of the late 1980s.

Perhaps it should be called the Stealth Revolution. This revolution unfolded over years, not weeks or months, and not through angry demonstrations but in newspapers and on TV, where journalists uncovered mountains of information long kept secret by the Soviet Communist Party.

The catalyst for the revolution was the party leader himself, Mikhail Gorbachev. He was no human rights activist; his calls for freer speech never invoked the grand promises of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

For Gorbachev, glasnost--as he called his policy of greater openness--was realpolitik. He had inherited a system encumbered by corruption and in danger of economic collapse. The country needed changes, badly. But to build support and pressure for those changes, Gorbachev would have to let people see some of the problems that his Communist Party had so zealously hidden from public view.

(More here.)


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