During the great transformation between 1989 and 1991, the majority of American journalists were completely surprised by the transformations of 1989 in Eastern Europe and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, since it contradicted their stereotypes so profoundly. Several developments within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe turned out to be signposts for those with the eyes to see. Literary figures and philosophers circulating their thinking in samizdat form, or through the emergence of dissenting movements, pointed to the disillusionment with the grand socialist promises. Solzhenitsyn had already drawn attention in his Nobel speech to the power of truth in a climate where everyone was expected to live the lie. Czech playwright Vaclav Havel wrote an essay on the Power of the Powerless, also using Christian imagery to call for a societal moral recovery. That the economies of the Soviet Union and many of the East European socialist states were slipping, rather than growing, was a spreading anxiety among the newer elite of the nomenklatura, including within the planning levels of the military. With the emergence of Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary after a series of old and tired Party rulers, his speeches and writing inspired ‘new thinking’, as did his close adviser Alexander Yakovlev, who had been a Russian diplomat in Canada for a decade. These new leaders called for a restructuring of the Soviet Union, for new thinking, for greater attention to values and for the spiritual, instead of crass materialism.



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