In the Russian language the word Glasnost (//; Russian: гла́сность, IPA: [ˈɡɫasnəsʲtʲ] (listen)) has several general and specific meanings. It has been used in Russian to mean "openness and transparency" since at least the end of the eighteenth century.
In the Russian Empire of the late-19th century, the term was particularly associated with reforms of the judicial system, ensuring that the press and the public could attend court hearings and that the sentence was read out in public. In the mid-1980s, it was popularised by Mikhail Gorbachev as a political slogan for increased government transparency in the Soviet Union.
"For centuries", human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva has explained, the word glasnost has been in the Russian language: "It was in the dictionaries and lawbooks as long as there had been dictionaries and lawbooks. It was an ordinary, hardworking, non-descript word that was used to refer to a process, any process of justice or governance, being conducted in the open." In the mid-1960s, however, as Alexeyeva recounts, it acquired a new and topical importance.
On 5 December 1965, a key event in the emergence of the Soviet civil rights movement, often known as the Glasnost rally, took place in Moscow when protesters on Pushkin Square led by Alexander Yesenin-Volpin demanded access to the closed trial of Yuly Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky. They specifically asked for "glasnost", i.e. the admission of the public, independent observers and foreign journalists, to the trial, something that was required in the newly issued, but not widely available, Code of Criminal Procedure. With a few specified exceptions, Article 111 of the Code stated that judicial hearings in the USSR should be held in public.
Such protests against closed trials continued throughout the post-Stalin era. Andrei Sakharov, famously, did not travel to Oslo to receive his Nobel Peace Prize because he was standing outside a court building in Vilnius (Lithuania), demanding access to the 1976 trial of Sergei Kovalev, an editor of the Chronicle of Current Events and prominent rights activist.
Glasnost was taken to mean increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities in the Soviet Union (USSR). Glasnost apparently reflected a commitment to getting Soviet citizens to discuss publicly the problems of their system and seek solutions. Gorbachev encouraged popular scrutiny and criticism of leaders, as well as a certain level of exposure by the mass media. Some critics, especially among legal reformers and dissidents, regarded the Soviet authorities' new slogans as vague and limited alternatives to more basic liberties.
Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Defence Foundation, would define the term as follows: "Glasnost is a tortoise crawling towards Freedom of Speech".
Between 1986 and 1991, during an era of reforms in the USSR, glasnost was frequently linked with other generalised concepts such as perestroika (literally: restructuring or regrouping) and demokratizatsiya (democratisation). Gorbachev often appealed to glasnost when promoting policies aimed at reducing corruption at the top of the Communist Party and the Soviet government, and moderating the abuse of administrative power in the Central Committee.
The ambiguity of "glasnost" defines the distinctive five-year period (1986–1991) at the end of the USSR's existence. There was decreasing pre-publication and pre-broadcast censorship and greater freedom of information.
The "Era of Glasnost" saw greater contact between Soviet citizens and the Western world, particularly the United States: restrictions on travel were loosened for many, allowing increased business and cultural interchange.
Gorbachev's interpretation of "glasnost" can best be summarized, translated, and explained in English as "openness". While associated with freedom of speech, the main goal of this policy was to make the country's management transparent, and circumvent the narrow circle of bureaucrats who previously exercised complete control of the economy.
During Glasnost, Soviet history under Stalin was re-examined; censored literature in the libraries was made more widely available; and there was a greater freedom of speech for citizens and openness in the media.
Propaganda about the supposedly higher quality of consumer goods and quality of life in the United States and Western Europe began to be transmitted to the Soviet population, along with western popular culture.
The outright prohibition of censorship was enshrined in Article 29 of the new 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation. This did not end attempts by officials to restrict access to information in post-Soviet Russia or pressure by the authorities on media outlets not to publicise or discuss certain events or subjects. Monitoring of the infringement of media rights in the years from 2004 to 2013 would find that instances of censorship were the most commonly reported type of violation.
There were also periodic concerns about the extent of glasnost in court proceedings, as restrictions were placed on access to certain cases for the media and for the public.
All this degradation and hypocrisy is laid not just at the feet of Stalin but of Lenin and the Revolution that made his rule possible.
...market forces had taken over publishing...
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