Gorbachev: What were his Aims?

Gorbachev was a reformer without question, but to what end? What were the aims of his reform attempting to achieve?  Gorbachev was not a Stalinist era child, he was a Khrushchev child.  Khrushchev was the first General Secretary to introduce new reforms to the Soviet Union since the reign of Stalin.  All of his policies were centered around forgetting Stalin and his dark era.  Gorbachev saw this as a child and learned that Khrushchev would be remembered as the “Great Reformer” by many.  Others would see him in another way as simply a bad Communist and a weak leader.  When it was Gorbachev’s turn to take the office of General Secretary, he would attempt to re-emulate his policies in his “Glasnost”, “Perestroika”, and other general policy shifts.  The time for the Soviet Union to reach modernity was now in the mindset of Gorbachev, he felt that in order to achieve this his country must have a sense of free speech and purpose.  Less spending on the military as well as withdrawing troops from Afghanistan and more open trade in the international market meant more profit and capital for the people of the USSR.  These were a few of Gorbachev’s aims  and goals during his office as a social reformer.

The integration debate in Germany

This news described the series of problems Germany faces during the increasing number of immigrants. It brings ideas that immigrants especially those with Muslim and Turkey background are forming a parallel society with German mian stream. With the increasing culture and religion conflicts between immigrants and native some people start to doubt whether the multiculturalism is work for Germany. “with the country’s population shrinking overall, immigrants and the underclass are having too many children, well-educated native Germans too few. Biologically, culturally and professionally Germany is dumbing down(Sarrazin)”. Also some people believe that immigrants had already been part of Germany, so their culture should be acceptable.”But Mrs Merkel does not really do populism. While bashing multiculturalism she also admitted that Islam is “part of Germany.””

In the comment of this news, a large number of people including native and immigrants showed the willing to embrace the difference and accept different cultures.

Flocking to Success – Immigration

For me, this essay brings up an enduring question throughout much of history: “What to do with immigrants or newcomers?” It also leads to the follow up question: “Who should be doing these actions?” The fact is that when a country starts becoming successful, like Germany in the late twentieth century and like the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century, people will flock to that nation. For them, it represents the possibility of opportunity or escape from a potentially bad homeland (refugee). The same thing will happen domestically: if a city starts to boom, and create more job opportunity, people will generally flock to that city. According to this article, Germany is having to face these questions now. As the nation furthers itself as an economic powerhouse, more will want to join in on the bandwagon. In some cases, a newly booming economy needs this flocking in order to keep the momentum going. Germany is not too far from Eastern Europe, and therefore, a large percentage of mixed ethnic populations. For a nation with such a troubled racial past, it can be challenging for them to determine what to do. In the not too distant future, leaders in Germany will have to decide whether they want to assimilate immigrants, allow immigrants to stay but retain their culture, or simply disallow immigration into Germany. The difficult thing is, all answers to the question have their merits; it’s a moral dilemma.

It was a problem for nineteenth-century U.S., and now it is a problem for Germany. Are there any other parts in history that may experience this problem? Perhaps Irish immigration into Britain? Or perhaps North African immigration into Spain?

Gorbachev’s Naiveté?

Was Gorbachev either incredibly trusting or naive? Even though both Kohl and Baker verbally and somewhat transparently agreed that NATO would not extend its border east if the Germanies rejoined, it seems unreasonable to believe that these two things could happen simultaneously. How could one-half of a country belong to NATO and the other half not? Comparatively this is like saying that any state west of the Mississippi River is not to belong to NATO. A situation of further divide is unlikely terms for any forming nation. It poses too many challenges and restricts the ability to protect half of their citizens if an uprising should happen. Before further negotiations, Gorbachev should have demanded that written correspondence record this understanding.

Saying all of this, I empathize will Gorbachev for the substantial and pressing issues that his country was enduring. The Berlin Wall falling was a surprise to everyone. While President Reagan had made speeches stating that the wall must fall, it was a general assumption that it would not happen. I was 10 years old, when it was broadcast on the nightly news. My father called me into the living room demanding me to watch the TV. He fully acknowledged that I would not understand what was happening, but that in time I would. It was important to watch this historic event transpire. Many around the world watched their televisions, watching in amazement as this remarkable event transpired.

Relations with the US and Russia had made tremendous progress during Reagan’s presidency. Unfortunately, the termination of this relationship spawned from shifting and unwritten communications.

“Is multi-kulti Dead?”

This news article, written in 2010, focuses on the rising number of immigrants in Germany. However, a large number of these immigrants are unable to integrate into mainstream society, and there is a growing anti-immigration trend. Economist Sarrazin published a book criticizing the influx of immigrants and the number of non-German children being born in Germany. He claims that the influx of immigrants is causing Germany to become less advanced biologically, culturally, and professionally. Recent polls found that many Germans favor heavy restrictions on Muslim religious practices, and “a third [of the population] think the country is overrun with foreigners.” Many of the immigrants are not integrated into German society, and Germany could benefit from their professional skills.There are individuals who recognize that Germany is becoming an immigration state, and they are advocating for immigrant integration into German society. Rather than force assimilation or limit immigration, Germany needs to integrate immigrants into their society to reap maximum economic benefits. It is alarming that anti-immigrant feelings are becoming so strong in Germany, particularly because of German’s historical views on German supremacy. Sarrazin paints non-Germans as unintelligent and draining the resources of the German people, which is a dangerous precedent. Racial and ethnic hierarchies create civil unrest and discontent, which is far more destructive than immigrants.

Human Rights Violated

The Humans Rights Watch wrote an article on the infringements of rights on the non-governmental groups. One group the article focused on was the LGBT community. In 2013 parliament adopted a law “ banning propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships”, so children would not learn that type of lifestyle was acceptable. Parliament made it illegal for same sex couples to adopt, and homophobic groups were not punished for acts of violence against people of the LGBT community.

There were also restrictions on freedom of expression. In 2013 President Vladimir Putin singed a law giving three-year prison sentences to those who insult religion, with out giving a clear definition of what they meant by “insulting”. Those who spoke out defending human rights, like people involved in the Pussy Riot, and government critics, were harassed and arrested by the government.

The government passed laws limiting treatment and medication for ill patients. Terminally ill patients were even denied pain medication to help them have easier deaths. The life of the disabled was extremely difficult in Russia. Some of the issues they faced were due to problems that could easily be fixed. These included a lack of ramps and elevators, employers unwilling to hire the disabled, and a lack of accommodations for the seeing impaired, especially on public transportation. In 2013 Moscow police began detaining migrants based on non-Slavic appearances. Some of the detainees were expelled and others were put in camps under extremely brutal conditions.


Human Rights Violations in Russia

Russia has a sad history of human rights abuses, spanning issues from the 2013 law banning “propaganda of nontraditional relationships” to the imprisonment of Pussy Riot in 2012 for an act of free speech. After researching Pussy Riot, I am aware that they performed in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, and chose the location in part because of their outrage in the church leaders’ support of Putin in his election. Members of Pussy Riot were arrested for “hooliganism” as well as for acts of religious hatred. Would their 2-year imprisonment have been enforced as harshly in the Soviet Union, when the government was more anti-religious? How does the political atmosphere affect the state of human rights?

How is Putin able to commit these abuses of human rights and still maintain his high popularity ratings? Does opposition by groups, such as Amnesty International, make any impact in Russia? How does the majority of the Russian population, particularly in cities like Moscow, view the arrests and disappearances of human rights activists?

In the preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, more than 2,000 families were apparently forced to resettle to make room for Olympic venues, and were not given fair compensation. Fair compensations was also reportedly not given to workers who built Olympic venues. In light of these human rights abuses, does it not send a poor message that Western countries which claim to uphold and defend human rights, such as the United States, still attended and competed in the Olympic Games? What can the United States do differently to preserve a firm stance against human rights abuses?

Suppression of Human Rights Unlikely to Change

Lack of human rights is a common theme to dictatorship like governments. It is interesting to look at the various institutions Russia considers to be a threat. Each of the organizations is singled out for very specific reasons. The idea of classifying organizations as “foreign agents” is useful because most countries view the involvement of outside players as unacceptable. The same happens in the US when discussing elections and money from foreign players to influence it. Putin has used this to his advantage, it limits the influence of those that speak or say anything contrary to his views.

Putin worries about Western thinking and the possibility it may influence the general populace to adopt ideas that go against traditional Russian values. This is the reason for his harsh stance on LGBQT. It goes contrary to Russian values and what the ideal Russian family should look like.

I find particularly disturbing his views on foreign agents as troubling. Russia has used this as a premise for religious persecution within Russia. Groups that at onetime had legal recognition have lost their standing because they promote ideas that may not coincide with Russian thinking.

Unfortunately, the key factors for a rights revolution currently do not exist in Russia. These include true democracy and a bill of rights. Even though Russia has a so-called bill of rights it is so vague that other laws can easily supersede it. Without these key elements a rights revolution is unlikely to gain any firm footing in Russia. Until a drastic change in the current political climate takes place Russian looks doomed to suppressing human rights amongst its citizens.

The State of Human Rights in Russia

The 2014 World Report: Russia from the Human Rights Watch organization highlights the various threats to human rights in Russia by category. Among those addressed are rights of the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression, the treatment of government critics and human rights defenders, the religious extremists of the North Caucasus, and migrant’s rights. However, included among the list of transgressions the Russian government and, at times, its people conducted against Russian and non-Russian citizens in the country are a few positive outcomes. These include the a court’s successful efforts to reject a petition from the Prosecutor’s Office to ban a book calling for an investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity that occurred during the two wars in Chechnya. Granted, the existence of such a proposed ban is unsettling, but the court’s decision illustrates that not all of Russia’s government and judicial system are corrupt.

Reading the Human Rights Watch report from 2014 is disconcerting. From the injustices included in the report, it would appear that Putin’s government is starting to revert back to the policies of Stalin, in terms of freedom of expression and its treatment of government opponents. What would cause this to happen? I understand that Gorbachev’s attempts to implement a more open environment for discussing Russia’s problems was not successful in the minds of many. Are the restrictions in place now a response to this? Also, what role does religion play in the government’s policies and in the protest efforts? What is the state of religion in Russia now?


In the book, 1989, Mary Elise Sarotte used her book to look at the final days of the Soviet Union and the events that helped cause the collapse of the Soviet Union.  She argued that the events in China did not “transfer to Europe”, the easing of tensions by the Americans first and then the Soviets, the East Germans demanding a change in “the status quo”, “self confidence increase”, and “television transforms reality at a crucial moment.” ((Mary Elise Sarotte. 1989: The Struggle To Create Post-Cold War Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 16.))

One of the more crucial points and one of the more striking things to me, that Mary Sarotte made was the impact the media, particularly television, had on the end of the Soviet Union.  During this section, using the example of the Berlin Wall, she wrote how the media scrambled to get to the wall to capture images of East and West Berliners tearing down the wall.   She discussed how the media not only observed the events but they had also publicized and personalized the events going on.  In particular, she noted two people in East Berlin, “reporter Georg Mascolo and his cameraman Rainer Marz of Spiegel-Tv” who not only took pictures but also filmed the events going on in the East. ((Mary Elise Sarotte. 1989: The Struggle To Create Post-Cold War Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. 43.)) During and after the events of the Berlin Wall, photos and footage of the events showed up in Western Media as well as in Eastern German media.  This was significant to the downfall of the Soviet Union because it not only showed the west how ugly events were getting, but it also spurred on more Eastern Germans to take part in separating themselves from the Soviet Union.