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Breakdown of Soviet Union – Burning Issues – Free PDF Download

Breakdown of Soviet Union

  • The Soviet political and economic structure was very closed and totalitarian at the time of Cold War.
  • The Soviet rulers ruled largely by the iron hand and exercised total control not only over the country but also in its constituent states, including the countries of the Eastern Europe.
  • This closeness and secrecy brought in elements of corruption and poor efficiency within the political structure.
  • This was coupled with the huge expenses on maintaining the military infrastructure as well as the massive aid and intervention program which the Soviet Union used to run across the countries of the world for promoting the communist ideology as well as for containing the capitalist influence.
  • Further the invasion of Afghanistan and the decade long war there, had taken a huge toll over the military and financial strength of the Soviet Union.
  • In this background, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected general secretary by the Politburo on March 11, 1985.
  • At the age of 54, he was the youngest member of the politburo.
  • His initial goal as general secretary was to revive the Soviet economy, and he realized that doing so would require reforming underlying political and social structures.
  • Under the Gorbachev leadership, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1989 introduce the limited competitive elections to a new central legislature.
  • He discouraged alcohol on a massive scale which resulted in a huge shortfall in state revenues.
  • He promoted ‘Perestroika'( restructuring) and ‘Glasnost'( openness) restructure the political and economic system to bring in more reforms and transparency in all institutions of polity and governance.
  • This liberalization, however, fostered nationalist movements and ethnic disputes within the Soviet Union.
  • It also led indirectly to the revolutions of 1989, in which Soviet- imposed socialist regimes of the Warsaw pact were toppled, almost all of them peacefully, which in turn increased pressure on Gorbachev to introduce greater democracy and autonomy for the Soviet union’s constituent republics.
  • In 1988 Gorbachev started to lose control of two regions of the Soviet Union, as the Baltic republics were now leaning towards independence, and the Caucasus descended into violence and civil war.
  • In July, 1988, Gorbachev won the backing of the tired delegates for his last minute proposal to create a new Supreme legislative body called the Congress of People’s Deputies.
  • Frustrated by the Old Guard’s resistance, Gorbachev embarked on a set of constitutional changes to try to separate party and state, and thereby isolate his conservative party opponents.
  • The Supreme Soviet, during its November session, implemented amendments to the 1977 Soviet constitution, enacted a law on electoral reform, and set the date of the election for March 26, 1989.
  • On November 29, 1988, The Soviet Union seized to jam all foreign radio stations, allowing Soviet citizens for the first time to have unrestricted access to new sources beyond Communist Party control.
  • Spring 1989 so the people of the Soviet Union exercising a Democratic choice, albeit limited, for the first time since 1917, when they elected the new Congress of People’s Deputies.
  • Just as important was the uncensored live TV coverage of the legislature’s deliberations, where people witnessed the previously feared communist leadership being questioned and held accountable.
  • This example fueled a limited experiment with democracy in Poland, which quickly led to the toppling of the communist government in Warsaw that summer- which in turn sparked uprisings that overthrew communism in the other five Warsaw Pact countries before the end of 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell.
  • These events showed that the people of Eastern Europe and the Soviet union did not support Gorbachev’s drive to modernize communism; rather, they preferred to abandon it altogether.
  • The wave of regime change, then spread to the Baltic States and finally to the Soviet republics.
  • In February, 1990, the central committee of the CPSU accepted Gorbachev’s recommendation that the party gave up its monopoly on political power.
  • In 1990, all 15 constituent republics of the USSR held their first competitive elections, with reformers and ethnic nationalists winning many seats.
  • The CPSU lost the elections in six republics, Lithuania, Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, armania and Georgia.
  • The constituent republics began to declare their national sovereignity and began a “war of laws” with the Moscow central government; they rejected union-wide legislation that conflicted with local laws, asserted control over their local economy and refused to pay taxes.
  • Lithuania also exempted Lithuanian men from mandatory service in the Soviet armed forces.
  • This conflict caused economic dislocation as supply lines were disrupted, and caused The Soviet economy to decline further.
  • Faced with growing separatism, Gorbachev sought to restructure the Soviet Union into a less centralized state that would have converted the Soviet Union into a Federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy and military.
  • It was strongly supported by the Central Asian republics, which needed the economic advantages of a common market to prosper.
  • However, it would have meant some degree of continued Communist Party control over economic and social life.
  • More radical reformists, however, were increasingly convinced that a rapid transition to a market economy was required, even if the eventual outcome meant the disintegration of the Soviet Union into several independent states.
  • However, some elements, including the old communist were opposed to the weakening of the Soviet Union, who launched a coup under Gennady Yanayev who overtook power, but the coup was failed within two days and after a series of demonstrations when thousands of muscovites took to the streets in support of the reforms, Boris Yeltsin managed to reinstate Gorbachev as president, although his power was much depleted.
  • The Soviet Union collapsed with dramatic speed in the last quarter of 1991.
  • Between August and December, 10 republics declared their independence, largely out of fear of another coup.
  • By the end of September, Gorbachev no longer had the authority to influence events outside of Moscow.
  • He was challenged even there by Yelstin, who had begun taking over what remained of the Soviet government, including the Kremlin.
  • On the night of December 25, after Gorbachev left the Kremlin, the Soviet flag was lowered for the last time, and the Russian tricolor was raised in its place at 11:40 PM, symbolically marking the end of the Soviet Union.
  • In his parting words, he defended his record on domestic reform and détente, but conceded, “The old system collapsed before a new one had time to start working.”
  • On that same day, the president of the United States George HW Bush held a brief televised speech officially recognizing the independence of the 11 remaining republics.

Consequences of the Collapse of the USSR:

  • The breakdown of economic ties that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union led to a severe economic crisis and catastrophic fall in living standards in post Soviet States and the former eastern bloc, which was even worse than the Great Depression.
  • Poverty and economic inequality surged, between 1988/ 1989 and 1993/ 1995, the Gini ratio increased by an average of nine points for all former socialist countries.
  • Even before Russia’s financial crisis in 1998, Russia’s GDP was half of what it had been in the early 1990s.
  • In a letter dated December 24, 1991, Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Federation, informed the United Nations Secretary-General that the membership of the Soviet Union in the Security Council and all other UN organs was being continued by the Russian Federation with the support of the 11 member countries of the Commonwealth of independent states.
  • The breakdown of the Soviet Union marked the end of the Cold War as with the collapse of Soviet Union and the emergence of Russia, the agenda of communism no longer existed.
  • Since newly formed Russian Federation was a Democratic country itself, the threat of communism, which defined the world order during the Cold War had vanished.
  • With the demise of the Soviet Union, now the influence of the socialist ideology had been watered down in several countries around the world, but instead of resting in peace, communism acquired new forms and structures prominently visible in the Chinese model which emerged as a major military and economic force particularly after the end of the Cold War by embracing the market model within the contours of communism.
  • In its other forms, the socialist ideology has sought to define itself within the Democratic structure by embracing the multiparty system as in India and seeking to make its contribution for the empowerment of the downtrodden and the have nots.
  • This new avatar of communism ensures that the capitalist model does not become too exploitative and the Democratic system does not become elitist.

 

 

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