Gorbachev & Soviet Union

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 28 September 2016

Gorbachev & Soviet Union

The disintegration of the Soviet Union was an inevitable matter, and neither the 1991 coup could have prevented it even if it were successful. There were other factors too that contributed to the disintegration of the Soviet. However, Gorbachev had the power to prevent the Soviet from disintegrating, had he acted in a different way than he did after the coup. The coup fails On 19th August, some of the ministers who served Gorbachev, including the minister of defense, Yazov, the minister of internal affairs, Pugo and the head of KGB (Komityet Gosudarstvjennoj Biezopasnost), proclaimed state of emergency.

They announced that Gorbachev’s health was a hindrance to his leadership duties, and that due to the poor political and economic situations in the country, a state committee had assumed economic powers. They also sent out messages that no one should disobey the orders of the committee. The leaders isolated Gorbachev in the president’s holiday villa at the Black sea. They also took over the radio and television stations, and instructed the military to roll over tanks in Moscow.

The coup was however a failure as some of its members were not confident that it would be a success. Counterargument The failure of the coup radically accelerated the disintegration of the USSR. Also, all of the major organizations and mechanisms that were holding the USSR together, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the KGB, the military, the police, and the office of the presidency, were weakened. They also could not stop the disintegration of the Union because even before the coup was organized, already there were signs of its failure.

Therefore, whether the coup happened or not, the disintegration would have occurred anyway. The failed August 1991 coup gave a sharp impetus to the process of the disintegration of the Soviet Union because by the end of the year the USSR had collapsed. Questions have been asked as to why the armed forces never intervened to stop the collapse of the USSR. The answer to this is because the coup and its aftermath increased splits in the armed forces, particularly along ethnic lines.

There was also the belief that the coup attempt would fail and that the instigators of a military putsch would be punished. (Treisman 22) What Gorbachev could have done to prevent the disintegration Had Gorbachev acted differently, had he opposed and imprisoned the radicals instead of flirting with them, the USSR might have survived. The author says that the survival of the Soviet Union hinged on the personal determination of one person- Gorbachev’s ability to take advantage of all the powers at his disposal as president of the Soviet Union.

Unlimited power as now concentrated in the hands of the general secretary/ president, who, being endowed with emergency powers could have carried out any reforms, completed perestroika, and achieved the same results within a very short time without disintegrating the Union. Gorbachev, like other leaders such as Yakovlev, or Shevardnadze, is said to have realized that the old system could not be maintained without bloodshed and institutionalized terror. The former leader was surrounded by opportunists, and narrow minded bureaucrats who couldn’t accept the end of their privileges.

He did not get rid of his subordinates who were a threat to him and the Soviet. Many people did not want the Union to disintegrate, so they hated him because of his refusal to act despotically even if the stake was the future of the Soviet. Counterargument It is argued that perestroika would have been impossible without the leadership of Gorbachev. However, I disagree with this. Gorbachev would have introduced new reforms and enforced them on people, but this too failed.

However, it is likely that the entire history of the Soviet Union would be different if someone else would have been in the position. Someone who understood what really needed to be done. Likewise, if someone outside the party leadership had suggested the sort of reforms that Gorbachev instituted, the powerful politburo would never have allowed the individual to remain in power. Because party officials recognized Gorbachev’s loyalty to the Soviet system and to socialism as a world view, they reluctantly endorsed perestroika.

As a result of what would have been seen as mistaken judgment, party officials would therefore be extremely diligent in choosing future leaders of the party and would shy away from charismatic, forward thinking leaders. Instead, they would favor reactionary hard-liners for all leadership positions. If Gorbachev had followed the pattern set by Khrushchev and initiated reforms while keeping the reins of control tightly in his own hands, neither the central government nor the republics would have been in a position to quest or resist changes that resulted from the implementation of Perestroika.

Another change that might have prevented the dissolution of the Soviet Union would have been for Gorbachev never to have introduced glasnost, which created an unfettered and critical media that in turn fostered a public ready to revolt. Without glasnost, the actions of Soviet leaders would have remained free of public reproach, and Gorbachev would have been able to force the people to comply with his reforms. An uninformed public would have trusted the Soviet government to act in their best interests.

Aware of what Gorbachev could have done differently, the hard-liners would have been determined to avoid those same mistakes. With dissidents again in exile or strictly limited in their contact with the outside world and with tightly censored media, the hardliners would have been able to control ongoing influences on public opinion. All forms of Western media would have been banned from the Soviet Union. However, since the people had been exposed to liberalizing forces, the hard-liners would have been forced to resort to Stalin-like tactics to a stamp out all dissent and terrorize the population into submission.

(Treisman 25) Conclusion In general, it could be said that Gorbachev’s strategies of leadership were unsuccessful. Although he made a difference in the history of Soviet Union, it is during his era that the soviet disintegrated. Although there were things that he could have done to prevent this, he preferred leading in his own way. His weaknesses are especially seen where the organizers of the coup were not immediately prosecuted. He was also unable to enforce the reforms that could have prevented the Soviet from disintegrating.

He would also have denied people the freedom to demonstrate and rebel against authorities. This never happened, as the soviets had become enlightened and knew demonstrations and strikes were their key to freedom. The history of the Soviet Union should be a good indicator of the reasons why we need to choose leaders we can trust to lead us wisely. Works cited 1) Treisman Daniel, The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev, Daniel Treisman, 2009


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  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 28 September 2016

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