Glasnost and the transparency within the Soviet Union

The Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union was impregnable- but one leader in particular wanted to promote it and tell the Western world

Patrick Hollis
3 min readApr 9, 2024
Mr Gorbachev did, eventually, tear down that wall (Photo: Pixabay)

Secrecy and intensive propaganda were a staple of the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin implemented much of this, inflicting misery on his people and sending millions to prison and death during his brutal rule.

Stalin’s way of ruling the Soviet Union with an iron fist led to years of hardship but his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, moved the union away from this. He released prisoners locked up by Stalin and wanted to have a more increased openness within the union. By 1986, this level of transparency took on a whole new level.

Mikhail Gorbachev had a turbulent time as leader of the Soviet Union, and he was its last. In his six years, the Chernobyl nuclear plant accident occurred, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union disbanded. In 1986, the year of Chernobyl, he adopted the policy of glasnost. It became a key component of his rule and turned the phrase into a political slogan.

For Gorbachev, Glasnost was a way of government activity and policy to be more open. The policy scaled back the USSR’s reputation of being undisclosed and tightlipped which had become a feature of it in the 20th century. This more progressive thinking also introduced a level of acceptance in media criticism of the USSR the likes of which had never been seen before.

Mikhail Gorbachev was keen on opening up the Soviet Union (Photo: ProsaClouds)

Although Gorbachev wanted to open up to the wider world more, the main intention of Glasnost was to make the inner workings of the Soviet Union more transparent. Gorbachev also used to re-examine the Stalin era with publications and literature, banned at the time, reintroduced to public readership. The atrocities of Stalin were only first properly realised at the end of the 1980s, and it was through glasnost that this was helped made possible.

When Gorbachev came to power, the Soviet Union was changing. Revolutions against the USSR would increase through his leadership, with several taking place in 1989. At the end of the year, the beginning of the end would continue for the Union. The fall of the Berlin Wall in November was the physical removal of the biggest symbol of the Cold War, and barely two years later Gorbachev and the Soviet Union were gone.

The rest of the 1990s were one of upheaval for the new republic of Russia. Boris Yeltsin had inherited an independent nation that wanted to move forward, but a high demand for goods and a lack of supply forced the country into a depression. The fortunes of Russia would only look to change once Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, and by then Glasnost would have seemed like a distant memory to many in Russia and who lived in now former members of the Soviet Union.

The policy of Glasnost gave the highest level of transparency between the people of the Soviet Union and the Western World. It helped to open up the regime before the Iron Curtain was pulled down and helped to set Russia up for a bold new future, one that hasn’t necessarily aged as well as many who watched the Berlin Wall fall might have hoped.



Patrick Hollis

I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. I’m a published author and journalist with several years experience in the industry