Milestones of Perestroika
The Dissolution of the USSR
A timeline of the Gorbachev era, perestroika, glasnost and the demise of the Soviet Union.
Mikhail Gorbachev becomes general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). His predecessor, Konstantin Chernenko, 73, died one day earlier after only a year in office.
Jan. 15, 1986
Gorbachev proposes decommissioning all nuclear weapons by 2000.
Feb. 25, 1986
At the 27th CPSU Congress, Gorbachev calls for the “spread of glasnost,” a term used to express freedom of speech, opinion and press.
Dec. 16, 1986
Gorbachev lifts the ban against human rights activist and nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov, who had been kept under tight surveillance in Gorky, and allows him to return to Moscow.
Jan. 27, 1987
At a Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party plenum, Gorbachev announces his perestroika program, aimed at “restructuring” Soviet economic and political policies. “We need democracy just like we need air to breathe,” he says.
July 7, 1987
During a visit with West German President Richard von Weizsäcker in Moscow, Gorbachev hints that the question of the Germany’s future is once again open for discussion. “History will determine what happens in 100 years,” Gorbachev says.
Dec. 8, 1987
Gorbachev-Reagan summit in Washington: The signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty to eliminate all mid-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
Feb. 18, 1988
Gorbachev proclaims the right for every socialist land to have the “freedom to choose” its own societal systems.
March 13, 1988
In the largest-circulation party newspaper in the Soviet Republic, Sovetskaya Rossiya, neo-Stalinist Nina Andreyeva is permitted to publish a polemic against Gorbachev’s perestroika that fills an entire page.
April 14, 1988
The Geneva Accords are signed in Switzerland and Soviet troops agree to withdraw from Afghanistan by Feb. 15, 1989.
May 7, 1988
The Democratic Union, the first anti-communist party is founded in Moscow.
The 19th CPSU Congress approves the first steps toward the introduction of parliamentary-style elements. The power held by the party apparatus is limited and the rights of Soviet voters are strengthened.
Sept. 30, 1988
The secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPSU is stripped of some of its power.
Aug. 23, 1989
Residents in the Baltic states, from Tallinn to Riga, form a 600-kilometer long (373 miles) human chain to protest against the 50th anniversary of the Hitler-Stalin Pact.
Nov. 9, 1989
The Berlin Wall falls.
Dec. 2/3, 1989
During a summit meeting between George Bush and Gorbachev in Malta, Gorbachev announces: “The Cold War has ended.”
Feb. 7, 1990
At the plenum of the Central Committee, the Communists vote to adopt a presidential system and constitution, and thus abandon the monopoly on power held by CPSU.
March 11, 1990
After a vote in parliament, Lithuania becomes the first Soviet Republic to declare independence.
June 12, 1990
The Russian Soviet Republic, the largest of all, declares its sovereignty.
July 1-11, 1990
Against the advice of his most-trusted confidants, Gorbachev allows himself to be re-elected as general secretary at the 28th and final CPSU congress.
July 15-16, 1990
Gorbachev and Kohl reach an agreement that will allow a reunited Germany to become a member of NATO.
January 13-20, 1991
Communist forces attempt to conduct a coup against democratic forces in Lithuania and Latvia.
August 18-21, 1991
Communist hardliners close to the KGB chief attempt a putsch against Gorbachev, who is vacationing in the Crimea.
Nov. 6, 1991
The Communist Party is banned in the Russian Federation.
Dec. 8, 1991
The leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus establish the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and declare the final dissolution of the USSR.
Dec. 25, 1991
Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR.