Perestroika: 25 Years Later

Perestroika (перестро́йка) refers to the series of reforms widely associated with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev — an extension of Glasnost (гла́сность) — instituted during the latter half of the 1980s. Literally translated, Perestroika means “restructuring,” an allusion to Gorbachev’s attempts to restructure his country’s centralized political and economic systems. These collective reforms are said to have contributed to the dramatic events that unfolded in Eastern Europe and across the constituent republics of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991.

On 25 December, 1991, in a televised announcement, Mikhail Gorbachev tendered his resignation as President of the Soviet Union. He declared the office extinct and ceded all power to Boris Yeltsin, then President of the Russian SFSR. On the night of 25 December, at 19:32 MSK, the Red Banner of the Soviet Union was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin in Moscow. The tri-colour of the Russian Federation was raised in its place, thus marking the symbolic end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The following day, on 26 December, the upper chamber of the USSR’s Supreme Soviet voted both itself and the Soviet Union out of existence.

From 1998, Andrey Kasparov’s “Perestroika” features an orchestra that re-tunes sans order, and, before a final collapse, changes its seating. The crowd’s roar is imitated by the speech of the musicians, where words borrowed from the lexicon of political prisoners and Russian euphemisms, with usage of extended vocabulary, are vocalised. Included are musical quotations from the 1930s, La Marseillaise, and the Hymn of the USSR.


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A performance of this original work is available from Vienna Modern Masters (VMM3049), recorded in 1999 with conductor Jiri Mikula and the Moravian Philharmonic.


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