Why was Gorbachev unpopular in the U.S.S.R.?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gorbachev's lack of domestic popularity  was a result of seeking to liberalize a nation that had been steeped in centralized rule for decades.  Given that there was no infrastructure within which to support the liberal changes he advocated, internal chaos within the Soviet Union resulted.  Essentially, "freedom" and "openness" brought with it a lack of control and new problems that were unforeseen. The same spirit of life and vitality that the West praised caused Russian citizens to feel threatened and challenged.  The encouragement of a decreasing military presence in Europe resulted in formerly controlled republics declaring independence and breaking away.  At the same time, Gorbachev's encouragement for labor reform led to strikes and disagreements with labor unions, as seen in Soviet coal miners' strike of 1989.  

The reality of an underdeveloped and impoverished Russian nation that had been shrouded in Communist propaganda for so long became evident to the world and to Russian citizens.  Gorbachev had broken through this wall of silence. When confronted with such challenges, they proved to be too difficult for him to control.  His lack of popularity stemmed from his inability to address the realistic conditions of freedom that he himself encouraged.