Gorbachev resigned because his economic policies had failed. Explain why you agree or disagree with this view.


Gorbachev oversaw a period of dramatic structural political, social and economic reform between the middle of the 1980s to 1991. His limited attempts to liberalise the Soviet Union’s economy led to significant inflationary pressure and market failures, and meant that that the underpinning tenets of the command economy were not abandoned, fuelling calls for his resignation. However, it is important to explore the link between these economic policies and the democratisation of the Soviet Union’s political system, whereby Gorbachev’s attempts at constitutional reform undermined the nomenklatura system and led to a heightened sense of criticism against him. Moreover, it is necessary to consider how increasing dissent from various constituent republics of the Soviet Union were met with unsuccessful attempts by Gorbachev to reaffirm the authority of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and how he failed to adequately respond to the Chernobyl crisis. These failings of Gorbachev were capitalised on through the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, whose command of popular support is vital in contextualising Gorbachev’s resignation.
Gorbachev’s resignation was due to the intersection of an unprecedented programme of economic and political liberalisation through the CPSU, and further demand for reform from citizens of the Soviet Union. These demands could not be contained by Gorbachev or the CPSU, but were eventually manifested through Boris Yeltsin’s political leadership. Gorbachev had provided an increasingly open platform for political criticism and dissent from citizens of the Soviet Union. Criticisms were raised regarding his suppression of calls for greater political autonomy from Soviet republics, his handling of Chernobyl, and his inability to satisfy the demands of those who wanted the liberalising processes of Glasnost and Perestroika to be hastened and deepened. By the time the limited scope of Gorbachev’s flawed political and economic reforms across the Soviet Union became clear, Boris Yeltsin was eventually able to utilise popular dissent against Gorbachev during the 1991 coup. Yeltsin’s political capital deriving from the coup and his mobilisation of supporters, underpinned by constitutional reforms which affirmed Yeltsin’s role as Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, ultimately meant Gorbachev was left with no capacity to exert change upon the Soviet Union’s increasingly fragmented political and economic system, forcing him to resign.

Patrick G.

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is an online History tutor with MyTutor studying at Edinburgh University

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