30 years since Gorbachev’s ascension

30 years ago today, the last of the old guard of Soviet secretary-generals, Konstantin Chernenko, passed away. The youngest of the Politburo members, the 53-year-old Mikhail Gorbachev was named chairman of the Burial Commission, an early sign that he might be the anointed one. A day or two later, the central committee elected him secretary-general. His age alone inspired hope, after a decade of being ruled by senile and/or very sick men. Already in April 1985, Gorbachev used a new term, “acceleration,” implying that the economy had been growing too slowly and something needed to be done about it. This acknowledgement was strikingly unusual coming from number one: the official line had always been, “everything’s fine and getting better in the USSR.” Times had begun to change.

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