In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was promoting glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”) in an attempt to overcome the Soviet Union’s economic stagnation and stunted growth. These initiatives promised the “utmost respect for the individual citizen and favorable consideration for protecting one’s personal dignity.” By creating a dependable and effective mechanism for accelerating economic and social progress, Gorbachev hoped to encourage initiative and creative endeavor.
As General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 and as that country’s de-facto head of state from 1988 until 1991, Gorbachov gained authority to create joint-stock companies out of state enterprises. The shares became available on stock exchanges. Gorbachev was instrumental in diminishing the role of the Communist Party in governing the state. The party’s official role was ultimately removed from the constitution, in a way that enraged some and inadvertently led to crisis-level political instability with a surge of regional nationalist and anti-communist activism. A failed coup attempt in August of 1991 was followed by an acute food shortage. On December 26, the Soviet Union was dissolved.