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Gorbachev and perestroika in the USSR. Year 1986-87

Updated on August 24, 2013
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1986 in the History of the USSR

Beginning is in my previous hub Gorbachev and perestroika 1985.

In 1986 the foreign policy of Mikhail Gorbachev was known to the whole world. In 1985 and later in 1986 there were meetings of Gorbachev with Ronald Reagan. His attempts to reduce the number of nuclear war heads were welcomed both by the United States and by the Soviet Union. In this year Gorbachev declared that the policy of military counterfeit has no future. The relations with the United States certainly became warmer and some American films appeared on TV.

A new phenomenon appeared in USSR with Gorbachev – his wife Raisa Gorbacheva. Her appearance on TV caused lots of controversial rumors. She was the first wife of a soviet state leader who escorted openly her husband in all trips. More than that she had her own agenda and her visits abroad were discussed even more than those of Gorbachev. She tried to look European to wear modern closes and to act accordingly, but instead she caused irritation of people in the USSR and pretty soon we started to think that she, not Gorbachev, makes the policy and rules the country.

On the 26th of April 1986 Chernobyl exploded. That catastrophe was later called “a test for openness which was failed by the Soviet Union”. The first information about Chernobyl was published only next day; the first information about “2 people dead and some radiation outburst” was published only 3 days after it. People were evacuated only after several days and majority of people had no idea of what was happening. Panic has started after the radiation came to Kiev and was exceeding normal in 80 times. Statistic said that within first month died 28 people, 125000 died within next 10 years, 135000 were evacuated to other places while 3000000 stayed in the polluted areas in Ukraine, Byelorussia and Russia. The radiation cloud went over the Europe. You can see yourself how a dilapidated city Pripyat looks and make a virtual tour http://maps.yandex.ru/-/CBQIVX6B I was impressed even more than I wanted to.

People started to speak more openly about censorship in culture and a lot of films prohibited in the previous years appeared on the screens. New approaches in economy appeared as well. The government declared a war with illegal labor activities. If you had a greenhouse to grow up tomatoes for sale, it was considered an illegal labor activity. Greenhouses with heating were totally prohibited. People who made handmade items were accused in “receiving income which is significantly more than materials used and labor applied”. In some cases such a labor activity could bring to a sentence up to 5 years. Authorities wanted to implement a law to determine basics of self-employed business but at the same time to forbid a private property on the means of production.

In the year 1986 a program of building houses and apartments for population was adopted. This year and next couple of years became known for massive building of multistoried buildings. The Party wanted to provide each family with an own apartment in the term till 2000.

A first foreign TV soap opera was shown in the USSR. “Simply Maria” (“Simplemente Maria”) from Mexico possessed hearts of millions of peoples. An other film which shook the country was an action film “The Octopus” (La Piovra ) with Michele Placido starring. It described mafia in Italy and an honest commissar who tried to fight with it.

1987 in the Soviet history

In the previous years of Soviet history many cities and towns in the USSR were named after some significant soviet or party leaders. In 1987 they started to rename these cities returning their former names. So all cities like Brezhnev became back Naberezhnye Chelny, Stalinsk – Novokuznetsk etc.

In 1987 it was decided to legalize a self-employed business. Party committee said that a private business is “not our way” but in a sphere of service, public catering and goods production co-operatives were permitted. First joint ventures appeared but they were not numerous because of strict legislation demands. Just to create any JV one needed to get approval in a dozen of ministries including KGB. So the process of JV creation could take from 6 to 9 months. It was much easier to become a self-employed businessman. Lots of them appeared in building industry, transportation and trade. Those who started business in consumer goods production were on the wave of success. People who had a shortage of closes were ready to buy anything.

The new times required new fashions and population of the country surprisingly came to know that black, grey and white are not the only colors in the Universe.

First private cafes and restaurants appeared in Moscow. The number of produced goods grew up but their quality was still poor.

The words “Perestroika” and “glasnost” were probably known at this time to the whole world. Gorbachev became extremely popular. The basic idea which he is cherishing now is that the Socialism can not exist any longer like this, but the capitalism also has to be changed. Perestroika was supposed to create a new type of social system.

In 1987 the USSR was shocked by a small airplane that landed directly on a Red Square.


A young men from Germany Mathias Rust landed his small Cessna in the very heart of the capital of the USSR. The main reason of his successful flight was the fact that in 1983 Soviet air defense system shot Korean passenger liner over the Far East and 269 people were killed. Even now the situation around that liner is still not clear. So none wanted to take responsibility and to order to shoot Mathias. Mathias was lucky; he was not even sentenced to any term. He was sent back to Germany and still lives a normal life. He said he just wanted to talk with Gorbachev about perestroika.

Continued in hub Gorbachev and Perestroika. Year 1988.

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    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      That point of view could actually appear taking into account the consequences of his presidential term. Interesting, we never thought of him that way.

    • MG Singh profile image

      MG Singh 

      6 years ago from Singapore

      Many fellow officers with me in the IAF were convinced that Gorbachov was a CIA agent who broke up the Soviet Union with his perestroika. Interesting post though.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you ! Reading comments like yours make me to think about the next year of perestroika in the USSR which I did not describe yet :-)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Just read this again Pavlo. And I like it even better the scond time. Great personal and national history. haring. :)

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      I lost my inspiration with Gorbachev. At least for a while. I wrote a hub devoted to WWII. It is actually a letter of real person which I found. For me the value of this letter is in fact that not all German people were nazi (like we were told in the USSR). MAy be you like it as well.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thank you Ian! I know your history is also rich and also had well-known (locally) people which are totally unknown to us.

    • alian346 profile image

      alian346 

      6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Thanks again, Pavlo, for your insights. It's SO like being there at the time. I'm dying to hear the next installment.

      What you're writing here is necessary for people in the 'West' to read.

      When in the 'West' Gorbachev was hailed as a big star - much more than a politician - and as I said before he has an incredible charisma - one of the most important politicians of the last century even though things didn't work out for him inevitably. Of course here in the UK there was the important role a certain Mrs Thatcher played in bringing G and R together.

      We were all so happy that the threat of nuclear annihilation had been drastically reduced after all the propaganda we had been fed over the years.

      Thanks again, Pavlo - keep em coming.....

      Ian.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      to aethelthryth: Thank you again. Your comments are always up to the point and you have a great ability to read between the lines of the text. Good luck to you as well!

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 

      6 years ago from American Southwest

      The way you are going, that could come from this too. I think these are quality articles, on important subjects, and as far as I know there aren't a whole lot of Ukrainians with good writing skills and fairly good English.

      I think these will get attention, especially if you study tips on good SEO in articles. But time is a big factor. My friend who got me started on HubPages earns $250-300 per month (which maybe goes a bit further in Kiev) with only 70 Hubs, but they are good ones and she has been a member for 3 years.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      well, i actually was going to write about home gardening instead of the USSR. :-) What MADE me write about it was smbs comment to a hub relating to some aspects of soviet history. I saw a certain misunderstanding or better to say a gap in peoples mind. Now i feel myself a dentist filling cavities in minds of readers LOL. The only thing i miss is their salary for work.

    • aethelthryth profile image

      aethelthryth 

      6 years ago from American Southwest

      Analysis of history is helpful, but should never be confused with experience of history. It was a big deal in my life when one day I started wondering why I was reading books by people I didn't know, about what World War II was like, when I had my grandparents to ask - they lived through those times!

      I can't believe you didn't think people outside the ex-USSR wouldn't be interested. It is so fascinating to get an inside picture of events on the other side of the world that affected us when I was growing up. Even where I was following the news closely at the time, you provide a lot of details I didn't know.

    • Pavlo Badovskyy profile imageAUTHOR

      Pavlo Badovskyi 

      6 years ago from Kyiv, Ukraine

      Thanks to all for warm words and comments!

      TO phdast7: History books are written by people who analyse events of the past basing on the analyses of other people. So from the point of analyses they are much better than my hubs :-)

      to UnnamedHarald: The cold was a part of our history, but now i am glad it is over. Probably Gorbachev was that person who initiated warming up of our relations

      TO Kathleen Cochran: Thank you for a comment! To tell the truth i did not expect that this topic can be of interest to people outside of the ex USSR.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I don't think I've ever read a first-person account of life in the Soviet Union. Looking forward to more. The details of everyday life make your work very readable.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I echo phdast7's comment. I forget which city it was (New York), but I remember Gorbachev walking and waving to the people. That was quite a moment in America. It seemed there was real hope for a thaw in the Cold War. Thanks, Pavlo.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Pavlo- An excellent and interesting hub. There is so much that many of us do not know about developments and life inside the Soviet Union. History books and scholarly essays are helpful, but there is nothing like first hand reports and explanations from someone who was there. I am looking forward to reading more of your essays. :) Sharing.

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