Massive purges and the disappearance of anyone who challenged Stalin were very regular occurrences. Stalin's reign of terror had widespread negative effects on the political system of the Soviet Union and still affects Russian and Eastern European politics today. After Stalin's death in 1953, the committee that was left in charge of the Soviet Union immediately set out to reform the government and limit the influence of Stalinist policies. Khrushchev and Gorbachev were two Soviet leaders who attempted to reform the Soviet System to end authoritarianism. The policies of both were somewhat successful, but neither were able to reform the system. The Soviet Union collapsed when Gorbachev was in power. This was followed by a period of government that was free and democratic but highly corrupt and economically disastrous. In 1998 the authoritarian Vladimir Putin was elected to be the president of Russia.
In 1953 Joseph Stalin died. It has been suggested by many that he was assassinated with poison by his opponents but this has not been proven. After his death, there was some confusion as to who was in charge due to the fact that a purge that was done a short time before his death had eliminated many senior officials in the Communist Party. A committee that included the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party Nikita Khrushchev and a self appointed Premier of the Soviet Union Georgi Malenkov ended up as the leaders of the USSR. Lavrenity Beria was the First Deputy Prime minister and the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which was merged with the MGB at the time. Beria appeared to be very liberal and instituted liberal policies after Stalin's death, but he was also an official in charge of Stalin's Great Purge, and his power base was the secret police. Stalin's policies were unpopular with most people and the members of the committee promised that many reforms would be made. A large number of high-ranking officials in the Communist Party secretly opposed Stalin and his policies. There was conflict in the party ranks between those who supported Stalinist policies and the current reformist leadership. Between 1953 and 1955 Khrushchev and Malenkov ordered many liberal reforms. Prices for many goods were reduced, amnesty was given to some political prisoners in the gulag system, forced labor was abandoned and the level of restrictions on private plots was reduced.
Beria was accused of being a British agent, given a show trial, and executed in 1953.Malenkov was forced to resign due to blackmail in 1955. After this, Khrushchev became the Premier of the Soviet Union in 1958 and the undisputed leader of the USSR Khrushchev was a major reformist. In 1956, Khrushchev gave a speech to the party leaders called "On the Personality Cult and its Consequences. In this speech he formally attacked the policies of Stalin and exposed his crimes. A policy of de-Stalinization was announced. His plans were to reform the Soviet Union so that it would become a more liberal state and to change the USSR into a pure communist nation that would be economically stronger that the United States over a period of twenty years. The democratic planning ideas of the soviet economist Evsei Lieberman were highly influential in the economic policies of