One of the major policies of the Russian premier was to bring Western style liberalism to the Soviet Union. The idea of bringing more of a transparency to government, willing to criticize institutional corruption, and the expansion of rights of speech might be seen as critical reforms that Gorbachev brough to the Soviet Union. It's quite groundbreaking. At a point where the two superpowers were immersed in the escalation of tension and military prowess, Gorbachev flipped the script and brought liberal thoughts to Russia. While there will be those who would argue that he was responding to the conditions that dictated that an America of the 1980s economic prosperity and investment into defense initiatives would invariably spell the doom of the Soviet Union that could not compete with such material wealth, Gorbachev was wise enough to understand the globalization was present and his steps were the first in that process that is now taken for granted by virtue of its widespread presence.
One of the policies that Mikhail Gorbachev introduced was Perestroika. It was, in part, an attempt to accelerate social and economic progress. According to Gorbachev, Perestroika was the:
"conference of development of democracy, socialist self-government, encouragement of initiative and creative endeavor, improved order and disciple, more glasnost, criticism and self-criticism in all spheres of our society. It is utmost respect for the individual and consideration for personal dignity."
Glasnost was something else introduced by Gorbachev. This basically offered people more freedoms, which included speech. The media was less controlled and many political prisoners were set free.