Although the date of the collapse of the Soviet Union is clear, its much less clear if the weaknesses of the Soviet Union as a whole or the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I would have to argue that the Soviet Union didn’t collapse just because of Mikhail Gorbachev’s leadership from 1985 to 1991.The instability of both the agency and structure before his leadership, along with Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika plan lead to the overall failure of the Soviet Union. In readings from the class, some authors argued that if he wasn’t the leader, the Soviet Union would have persevered longer without the leadership of Gorbachev, but would inevitably fail in the scheme of things. The perpetual structural factors are key to forecast the collapse, meanwhile the short term factors stem from Gorbachev’s optimistic reforms. Gorbachev had to restore structure through his agency, not that Gorbachev’s agency alone, led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. These long term factors in need of reform include an economic overhaul, a political type of legitimization, and a fight against corruption. He had to initially pick up the pieces of the failing structure.
Under the leadership of Brezhnev there was a type of stagnation, where the agency wasn’t providing a growing structure to keep up with society. A prime example would be the weakened economic structure of the Soviet Union, in the 1970’s particularly. Gorbachev’s perestroika called for a more open market, for example foreign trade became more accessible to companies. With all these failing structural factors that occurred under the agency of Brezhnev, Gorbachev as an agency had to pick up the pieces. In a slightly abstract analogy, one could say Gorbachev’s leadership resembles Obama’s in the way that Obama is attempting to restore a system previously convoluted by previous presidential leaderships. Therefore, the blame of the collapse of the Soviet Union can’t be entirely blamed on Gorbachev’s leadership.
When Gorbachev took to office, his main initiatives were aimed to renovate the party and the political system through perestroika. A main factor that contributes to my argument is how society skeptically started to view the ever weakening Soviet Union structure. The regime promised their structure of society, socialism, was superior to western structures. External impact of western cultures under previous leaderships made soviet society question the legitimacy of soviet socialism. Gorbachev attempted to restore this with new political plans aiming at democratization on a low scale. For example, he added multi-candidate elections and a new “Congress of Peoples Deputies”.
I am not arguing that Gorbachev’s leadership didn’t have any fault in the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was a reformer, and with that came risks to his plans, but maybe the system wasn’t reform able? Perestroika and Glasnost were an honest attempt to restore legitimacy of the state that was being questioned. Past leaderships left the structure of the Soviet Union in a crisis and Gorbachev’s plans weren’t able to restore the state.