The initial response to glasnost was cautious and controlled. Initially, it was confined to debates over Soviet history and intellectual discourse on a range of themes from immediate economic reform to literature and was conducted in journals and newspapers which were easily subjected to containment through close central control. We have seen in the previous two chapters how, from tentative and nervous beginnings, different groups in society gradually engaged themselves in more and more open protest. But glasnost did not mean that freedom of speech and political activity was installed overnight. Such liberties were, after all, unheard of in over 1000 years of Russian history, with brief exceptions in the revolutionary years of 1905 and 1917. The KGB and MVD kept up their surveillance and harassment of dissidents. The party nomenklatura system ensured, until democracy took over, that political careers could be abruptly halted for anyone who stepped out of line, and Gorbachev in the early years of his rule did not hesitate to use his powers of appointment to stifle political opponents. Even as late as 1988 just attempting to set up a political party was a cause for arrest.
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