"What would you call it when the country is being ruled by old men who keep dropping dead, and the country is left without normal leadership?"
In only three years, the Soviet Union lost three leaders: Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko. One after another, the men chosen as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR fell dead, and one of the world's two super powers looked lost and rudderless, mired in a hopeless war in Afghanistan, locked in a ruinous arms race with the United States, occupying half of Europe but unable to supply the basic needs of its own people.
A new leader, the youngest man to lead the Soviet Union since the 1920s, promised change. The stated principles of Mikhail Gorbachev's administration were "glasnost" and "perestroika," or openness and restructuring, words which became known throughout the world. Gorbachev allowed a freedom of expression Russia and many other states of the Soviet Union had not known in their long history.
The rise of democracy in Russia and the end of the Cold War division of Europe are the direct result of Mikhail Gorbachev's extraordinary term of office as leader of the Soviet Union.