Ukraine to Soviet Union Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 4 November 2016

Ukraine to Soviet Union

The breakup of the Soviet Union was a pivotal event of the 20the century that changed significantly the political environment of the world. Million of people in Eastern Europe awakened from a bad dream as the communism collapsed. Poland and Ukraine are two of the countries that have come out of the Communist block and embarked in a transition, from the general characteristics of a Communist society (dictatorship, single-party system, state economy) to those of a capitalist society (market economy, multi-party system, active civil society). During the process of transition from communism to democracy, Poland and Ukraine faced similar problems and challenges.

First, the governments of Poland and Ukraine had to dedicate their work towards a process of state building that included creating the appropriate institutions, ensuring their functionality and their interconnectivity. Second, the economic reform toward market capitalism is a new path for both Poland and Ukraine. Third, the collective action took a new prevailing meaning and became a potential force in the process of democratization. However, the ways that Poland and Ukraine developed were significantly different, as they chose separate trajectories on their paths to transition.

My research will emphasize the state and society building processes after the fall of Communism in two countries, Poland and Ukraine, on three different levels including the construction of a political society, an economic society and a civil society. Specifically, this study seeks answers to the following question: why have different countries responded differently to liberal democracy and economic development? (There was a great transformation to democracy in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, a gradual adaptation in Russia and little impact in Ukraine and Albania.)? In my attempt to answer this question I compare two countries: Poland as a unique case in the transition pattern, “ where there was an early and decisive break with the past and a clear turn toward building democratic institutions and politics in 1989,” and Ukraine, where “the initial collapse of communism led to semiauthoritarian rule.”[1]

Despite the fact that, economically, both countries reflected a decrease in their GDP after 1989 (or 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, in the case of Ukraine), Poland was much quicker to rebound and to firmly set its course towards building a truly democratic society. The process of democratization in Poland included a vibrant civil society, increased transparency in the decision making process and an economic shock therapy that, despite the initial hardships, eventually proved the easiest way to reach a functional market economy. In Ukraine the situation was different. Lacking a fundamental knowledge of market economics, Ukrainian leadership failed to appreciate the need for meaningful economic reform and, as a consequence, did not implement the necessary reforms. The early liberalization of the economy after 1989 gave rise to small-scale entrepreneurship in Poland, something that was totally missing in Ukraine.

Also, Poland experienced the emergence of multidimensional, self-organized, active, and democratic civil society that went beyond all traditional limitation and political vision of communism.[2] In Ukraine, the level of development of civil society was extremely weak. The civil society in Ukraine did not have a tradition on the shaping of post-Communist society in Ukraine as compared to that in Poland, especially given the role it had played in the 1980s in bringing down the Communist regime. Solidarity in Poland was part of civil society. For Ukraine, the term “civil society” was totally unknown. Until these days, Ukrainians struggle with the concept of “civil society”. There is an enormous need for more collective actions in Ukrainian political life, but people don’t see the civil society as a vehicle that can have an impact and influence on the governmental decision-making proce By the end of the World War II, there were two kinds of government constitutions wildly applied throughout the globe.

One was the eastern communist party which emphasizes the power of governments and non-competitive societies, and the other was the western Democratic Party that makes decision based on the will of people as well as presents legal and political equality. The two forces had been competing with each others for a long period of time for gaining the majority of the world until the falling of the Soviet Union communist party in 1991. According to many politicians, the dissolution mainly blamed the lack of honest of the government, cold war and the Chernobyl Nucleus Plant Incident. One of the critical mistakes the soviet government made was limiting media and spreading propaganda. During the period when it raced against America to land first humans on the moon, the national space program covered up the many facts of its own space shuttle failures and accidents and even the truth (yet to be confirmed) that the American Astronauts made it. Furthermore, another cause, which had direct connections to the breakup up of the nation, was the all time pervasive propaganda spreading based on Marxism-Leninism ideology, especially during the cold war period.

Another key factor behind the dissolution is the nation-wide cold war against the United States. The two countries were allies during the World War II and their relationship after the war would have been firmly, however, since they are diplomatically opposed, they both worried about being attacked by each other. U.S. had proved its leading military position by dropping two nucleus bombs in Japan in 1945. This triggered the fear of the Soviet Union. But soon in 1949, the soviet scientists invented their own counterpart and at almost the same time, its neighbor China was taken control by the communist party. Since then, the east and the west had started weaponry, political and even astronomical competitions. The result, as reflected later on in 1991 revolution, the east was beaten completely.

A final reason that caused the breakup was the Chernobyl nuclear incident. Before the catastrophe happened in Ukraine in 1986, the city was nuclear fission powered and this particular plant could produce more than four times the power of electricity than a large scaled power station did. However, on the 26th of April 1986, the scientists failed to follow the safety rules while conducting a reactor test decompressing uranium reactants and the entire plant was detonated like a huge bomb. The consequent explosions instantly killed 54 residents and emergency workers and the hazardous radiation was spread through over 200km of surrounding areas. 200000 people were infected and quarantined, and plants and animals in the whole region were deformed and genetically modified due to the radiation.

The nearby cities were entirely abandoned until almost 15 years later. In conclusion, the dissolution of the Soviet Union marked a formal end to the largest socialist state and resulted in the independence of all fifteen republic cities between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991. This essay will give a brief introduction to communism. It will then discuss the various factors which combined to bring about the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. It will examine each of these factors and evaluate the effect of each. Finally it will attempt to assertain whether Rogers’ opinion (see above quotation) on Communism is true, that is, whether communism was truly doomed to fail from the start, or whether its collapse was a result of external influences.

Communism is based on the ideas and teachings of Karl Marx as modified by Lenin. At its most basic, the ideal of communism is a system in which everyone is seen as equal and wealth is distributed equally among the people. There is no private ownership. The state owns and controls all enterprises and property. The state is run by one leading elite. The Soviet model of communism was based on these ideals. All opposition parties were banned although parties who were sympathetic to communism and who shared the communist ideals were allowed.

All power was concentrated into the hands of the Communist party. Free press and civil liberties were suppressed. Censorship and propaganda were widely used. There was state ownership of the economy. No private enterprise was allowed. There was a collectivisation of agriculture. The Communist Party invaded and controlled every aspect of political, social, cultural and economic life. It was a totalitarian state with complete Communist control over all facets of life.

In the early years, and up until Gorbachev’s “new regime”, the use of force and terror as a means of maintaining control was widespread.

The first factor which contributed to the failure and eventual collapse of communism was the fact that the Communist party’s domination was illegitimate from the beginning. Lenin came to power after a bloody Civil War between those who supported Lenin and those who opposed the Soviet regime. To Lenin, defeat was unthinkable and he was prepared to make any and every sacrifice to win the war and save “the revolution”. The forcible requisitioning of food and supplies was approved by Lenin. This could only be achieved by enforcing strict and absolute discipline at every level of society. Terror was to become the chief instrument of power and Lenin was to assume the role of dictator. This was a phenomenon which was to become a symbol of communist regimes throughout their lifetime.

This trend was followed when Stalin came to power as leader of the Communist party and the Russian government in 1929. (2) He had achieved this through plotting and trickery and by shifting alliances. This had begun in 1924 when Stalin systematically began to remove all opposition to his claim to power. His main rival was Trotsky and he used a number of underhand measures to discredit him. For example Stalin lied to Trotsky about the date of Lenin’s funeral, thus ensuring that Trotsky could not attend and thereby blackening his name in the public eye. This Stalin versus Trotsky conflict led to Trotsky being eventually exiled from Russia and, ten years later in 1940, being assassinated by one of Stalin’s agents. (3)

Under Stalin any opposition was swiftly and brutally crushed. In no Eastern European country did the revolution have the support of more than a minority of people, yet this minority retained absolute control. The communist take-over and subsequent regime was achieved by undemocratic methods, that is, rigged elections, terror, totalitarian state, harassment and threats. In 1932 a two-hundred page document by a fellow member of the Politburo condemning the Stalinist regime and calling for change was published. (4) In response to this Stalin wreaked a terrible revenge.

In 1936 Stalin began what became known as the “purges” whose function it was to try members of the communist party who had acted treasonously. (5) The result of these was that five thousand party members were arrested and stripped of their membership. The sixteen defendants in the three Showtrials of 1936, 1937 and 1938 were found guilty and executed. In 1939 those who had conducted the purges were also executed. By 1939 the only member of Lenin’s original Politburo who remained, was Stalin himself. (6)

In relation to foreign policy, Stalin exerted his influence to ensure that all Eastern European countries (except Yugoslavia) had Soviet-imposed puppet regimes. Stalin’s domination was now total. After the war Stalin succeeded in establishing a communist buffer zone between Russia and Western Europe. Any resistance he met in establishing communist states was quickly suppressed by intimidation and terror. For example Stalin engineered a communist coup in May 1948 in Czechoslovakia in which a government minister Masaryk was killed and the president was forced to resign. (7) This served a warning to other countries against resisting the communist regime.

Therefore it can clearly be seen that from the establishment of the state that communism never had popular public support. It cannot be denied that there was a significant minority who supported communism, but these were a minority. Can an ideal and a leadership really be built on such a shallow and flimsy basis? This essay would argue that the answer to this question is no. For a leadership to lead, it must have strong support and confidence. It must be seen to work for the good of the people and not merely a vociferous minority. This, therefore, can be argued to be one of the contributing factors in the downfall of communism.

A second related factor, which had a hand in bringing about the end of communism in Eastern Europe was the fact that communism never really had the support of the people. There was constant societal opposition to communist rule in Eastern Europe. Although this was mainly in the form of a passive rumbling dissent, there were occasional violent and active shows of opposition to communist rule. The states of Eastern Europe in the post-war period had been forced to adhere to the Moscow line. After 1956 however, with Khrushchev’s new approach to Socialism and his denunciation of Stalin, there were increasing calls for independence among the communist bloc countries who had never been truly supportive of the communist regime.

In East Germany in 1953 there were a series of strikes and protests. (8) The Russians, under Stalin, used their armed forces to put down the revolt and to protect East Germany’s communist government. This shows the importance of Soviet military force in maintaining communism’s tenuous grip on power. It also shows how weak communist rule in East Germany really was.

It was this event that sealed East Germany’s fate as the USSR realised that in a united Germany, the Communists would lose control. Events eventually culminated with the building of the Berlin Wall which was the ultimate expression of Soviet and communist force and coercion in maintaining the communist regime.

Under Khrushchev, who had succeeded Stalin after his death in 1953, Poland was the first to revolt against the communist regime. Polish workers rioted and went on strike in 1956 and the Polish communist party also revolted by refusing to accept the Russian general Rokossovsky as the Polish Minister for Defence. (9) The situation was diffused by a compromise which was made on both sides, with Poland agreeing to remain in the communist Eastern bloc if the nationalist communist leader Gomulka, who had been imprisoned by Stalin, was reinstated. The fact that Khrushchev was willing to compromise illustrates again the precarious position of communist rule.

The Hungarian revolution of 1956 was borne out of the relative success of the Poles in achieving concessions for the Moscow leadership. (10) The Hungarians decided to overthrow the Stalinist regime in their country. The situation quickly deteriorated and on the 23rd of October the Hungarian troops, who had been dispatched to end the riots, joined the civilians in revolution. Soviet troops were called in and the Hungarian communist party lost the little support which they had. Again Khrushchev tried to diffuse the situation by offering a compromise, that is, the reinstatement of the moderate communist leader Nagy. When it became clear, however, that Nagy had every intention of pulling out of the Soviet communist bloc, Khrushchev resorted to force and violence to maintain the communist grip on Hungary.

He ordered the return of Soviet tanks and troops to Budapest on November 4th 1956. (11) Thousands were killed in a bloody street battle until the Soviets had re-established their control. Nagy was arrested and was executed two years later. A Soviet imposed communist regime under Janos Kadar was set up. (12) The tenuous communist grip on control is again illustrated here. Khrushchev was willing to barter, and eventually use force, to maintain Soviet control. Without this force and coercion, however, Hungary would have established its own brand of communist rule.

Khrushchev could not risk the domino effect that this action would have had on the Eastern bloc. This societal opposition can, therefore, be taken to be another contributing factor in the downfall of communist rule in the Eastern bloc. If those in the alliance cannot cooperate and work together, the alliance and the ideal cannot hope to survive.

Another important factor which this essay will discuss is that of the influence of the West on the Eastern bloc. The Eastern bloc was already aware of Western capitalist success as they were allies during the war.

Many of the Eastern countries, for example Hungary under Nagy or Czechoslovakia under Dubcek, were in favour of a communist system with some elements of capitalism, that is, a mixed economy or market socialism and more elements of democracy. There had been a breakdown in relations between the East and West due to tensions after WWII. After the war Russia wanted to create a sphere of influence in the East over which the West would have no say or control. This was not acceptable to the West who wanted to see democracy installed in the East and who wanted to have a continued input into the doings of the East. This conflict eventually led to the Cold War.

Until Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet bloc, there had been no significant contact between the two blocs. Those inside of the Soviet bloc were completely cut off from the Western ideals. When Khrushchev came to power, however, there as renewed hope in the West that there might be a “thaw” in relations between the two blocs. Relations between the two blocs did improve with Khrushchev attending a number of conferences and meetings.

For example a twelve-day visit to the US in 1959, a UN General Assembly, also in 1959 and a later UN General Assembly meeting in 1960 in the US.

(13) Although then relations began to break down again due to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the Eastern bloc became cut off once more, western ideas had already managed to penetrate the East. (14) The information that the capitalist West was thriving while the Communist Eastern bloc was stagnating and underdeveloped, made communism and Soviet control even more unpopular.

In 1963 there again was an easing of tensions between the two blocs when Russia and the US signed a test ban treaty which allowed the West’s influence to again creep into the East. (15) In 1964 Khrushchev was ousted from power and Brezhnev with Kosygin took over from him. (16) In 1966 the US and USSR agreed to a direct air service between Moscow and New York. In 1967 they, along with 60 other countries, signed the first international treaty providing for the peaceful exploration of outer space. (17)

In the 1970’s a period of Détente began. In 1970 West Germany and Poland signed a treaty rejecting the use of force. West Germany and Russia ratified a similar treaty in 1972. (18) In 1972 Nixon and Brezhnev signed the SALT I treaty which was to limit the production of US and Russian nuclear weapons. In 1973 East and West Germany joined the UN. (19) Throughout this period the West had more and more access to the Eastern bloc and the people of the communist countries were influenced by these ideas. This was a further blow to communist rule and another factor in the downfall of communism.

The next contributing factor to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe was that of its economic failure. During the years of war communism from 1918-1921, Soviet labourers worked for pittance wages. At the same time the Bolshevik confiscated virtually all harvests. This brought the country to the brink of economic collapse. The net result of war communism under Lenin was that from 1914 the countryside was neglected and destroyed and in 1920 there was a severe drought. (20)

In 1921 the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced. This was in effect a limited capitalism. Peasants were allowed to keep their surpluses after taxes were paid. Bonuses, extra rations and better housing were offered as incentives. Still there was widespread opposition to the communist policy with the beginnings of a “peasant war” against Stalin’s’ proposed collectivisation policy in 1928. (21) Although agricultural production increased, the standard of living was lowered and hardship was widespread. Forcible collectivisation was pursued until 1935.

This again shows the people’s general opposition to communist policies.

Collectivisation failed to meet agricultural requirements during WWII. The human cost of the policy was staggering. If the people are suffering under a particular regime they will not support it, how then can this regime hope to survive?

When Khrushchev came to power, he too failed to salvage the economy.

Although some of the policies which he introduced in the 1950’s had an initial success, they soon collapsed with disastrous effects. Figures for meat in 1958 were artificially high but collapsed soon after. In 1962 there were sharp increases in the prices of butter and meat. (22) Food riots were forcibly quelled by the shooting of seventy unarmed demonstrators in 1962.

(23) Industry was not faring any better and by 1963 production levels had declined sharply in every branch of industry. As Khrushchev himself said of communism in 1958:- “If, after forty years of communism, a person cannot have a glass of milk and a pair of shoes, he will not believe that communism is a good thing” (24)

Under Brezhnev the economic state of the USSR continued to decline. Support for communism was falling and due to improved relations with the West, the people could see how disadvantaged they were. Under Andropov who succeeded Brezhnev in 1982 the situation did not improve. Change began only when Gorbachev came to power in 1985. (25) The major problems in the economy which Gorbachev had to deal with were, the wasteful use of resources, the lack of innovation, a poor division of labour, too many costly products being produced, ineffective use of resources and low productivity. There was a resistance to technological innovation due to a lack of incentives.

Wages were low and the mechanisms involved in introducing a new idea or practice were time-consuming and complicated. There was a general inflexibility in the enterprise network which also stifled innovation.

There was also a lack of investment in new ideas and industry. Gorbachev’s solution to these problems was a “Perestroika” of the economy.

The challenge of Perestroika was to move to more intensive methods of production and more effective use of inputs. His economic polices began with the promise of a revival of some of the practices of NEP. His aim was to cause output to double by the year 2000 and for production and productivity to rise substantially. It was not until 1987, however, that these ideas were put into a concrete plan. (26) A vigorous anti-alcohol campaign was initiated. Vineyards were destroyed and beer production was cut-back.

By 1988, however, they had to admit that this policy was a complete failure and it was abandoned in 1990. (27) By 1985 the USSR had a budget deficit of R37 billion. (28) Due to miscalculations in relation to the extent of the budget deficit, Gorbachev authorised spending in social and investment sectors while maintaining the spending in the military sector. This was a gross mistake which resulted in the budget deficit in 1989 having increased to R100 billion or 11% of the Gross National Product (GNP) and was predicted to rise to R120 billion. Therefore, under Gorbachev, the budget deficit rose from 3% in 1985 to 14% in 1989. (29)

Inflation increased to over 5%. (30) Prices failed to reflect the high cost of production and many companies were working at a loss. This economic failure of communism meant that support for the system fell and that it was becoming increasingly more difficult for the communist party to convince the people that this indeed was the way forward, and a better solution than capitalism.

Gorbachev therefore aimed to tie salaries into achieved results and to remove subsidies on some goods and services. He did not act immediately, however, with his price reform package as he hoped to first achieve a balance between supply and demand. This merely worsened matters and wages continued to rise faster than output and productivity. The main failure of Perestroika is that it didn’t remove the old price system. Instead, it allowed the old price system, which was based on scarcity, to continue, and this merely exacerbated shortages. Ironically, it was the mass organisations of people, who had emerged to defend living standards, who actually hampered the struggle against inflation and the budget deficit.

This situation was partly created by the fact that the governing party had no popular support and hadn’t been popularly elected. The economic situation continued to decline. There was a zero growth rate. Shops were calculated to be lacking 243 out 276 basic consumer items and there was a chronic shortage of 1000 items out of 1200 which would be on a model shopping list. There was a static farm output and high levels of inflation.

(31) Therefore it can be seen that communism was an economic disaster.

Khrushchev’s remark again can be used to illustrate the effect which this had on the support for communism. (see ref 24).

As previously mentioned, communism never had majority support or a legitimate political basis. Force and coercion were regularly used to ensure that the communist party remained in power. Therefore one can maintain that the fact that communism was a political failure was also a contributing factor to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. If a party has not got the support of a majority, then it has a weak political basis.

The fact that undemocratic means were used to ensure that the communists came to, and then maintained, power shows that communism was a political failure. Throughout the history of communism in Russia, never once did the party gain a majority support or truly succeed in suppressing public demonstrations of antipathy towards communism. It can therefore be argued that a political leadership with no political basis or support could ever hope to survive.

Another important factor to note is communism’s utter failure in relation to society and culture. Soviet society under Communist rule was socially and culturally underdeveloped. The state had a say in every aspect of societal life. In response to low birth rates, large numbers of orphans and the failure of 37/100 marriages in 1934 alone, the communist leadership compelled the media to promote stable family life. (32)

Propaganda was used to coerce the people into believing in the positive virtues of marriage and children. Divorce was made more difficult and abortion was prohibited. Thus the people’s right to choose and exert control over their own personal and familial decisions was removed. In schools, the teaching of the social sciences was curtailed and Marxist and Leninist theories were expounded. In the late thirties fees were reintroduced for the three upper forms of secondary school. This effectively meant that only those who could afford to pay these fees could send their children on to further academic training as these were the forms which prepared children for higher education. (33) Under Stalin topographical, economic and political information and affairs were a state secret. Maps were inaccurate and details about past disasters and history were omitted or embellished.

Propaganda and brainwashing was used to ensure that the virtues of communism were extolled and a cult following was created around Lenin and Stalin. “A Short Course on the History of the CPSU” became the staple intellectual diet of all schoolchildren. (34) This was a propagandistic book based on an idealistic view of communism and its leaders. The mass arrests, the truth of the purges and the labour camps were not allowed to be discussed in the media. State monopoly of information and mass communications deployed in this way, and backed by the use of coercion and force and the military, degraded the nation’s intellectual and cultural life. People were simply not allowed to form an opinion contrary to that of the communist state. People were also not allowed to choose their own religion or follow their own personal religious beliefs. The state outlawed and censored religious “propaganda” and publications.

The Soviet state actively and brutally persecuted the churches. A large number of these were desecrated or destroyed. More than half of all monasteries were forced to close and in 1921 twenty-eight bishops were arrested or died in violent clashes with the Soviet military. (35) Attempts were also made to split the church from the inside. By 1939 only 12 bishops, out of the 163 who had been active in 1930, remained. (36) These repressive measures, as a whole, meant that the growth of Soviet culture and society was stunted and stagnating. The secrecy and lies undermined efficiency, isolated individuals and eroded the morale of society. This was compounded by the fact that, due to Western influences, the public in the communist countries were beginning to realise their predicament and their backwardness. These measures continued until Gorbachev came to power.

This point leads onto the most important factor which contributed to the eventual collapse of communism in the East, that is, Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev it is doubtful that the disintegration of the communist regime would have occurred so soon. Gorbachev can be seen as a reform communist.

He introduced a number of revolutionary reforms like Perestroika and Glasnost. The combined effect of these policies, and his general attitude to reform, communism and the USSR, had the effect of causing the culmination of all opposition to communism and collapsing the system.

Glasnost proved to be a great relief valve which allowed the people to voice their long-standing discontent about communism and the communist regime as a whole. The positive elements of Glasnost had the effect of bringing national tensions to the surface of political and social life and, in a sense, exacerbating the national problem. Liberalisation made people less afraid of retribution when they spoke out against the injustices of the system and the atrocities which had occurred. The ripple effect of Gorbachev’s radical Perestroika and Glasnost weakened the authority of the communist governments – economically, socially and ideologically. Above all the failure of communism lay in the failure of Gorbachev’s Perestroika.

If the economy had improved then so too would the people’s well-being and they may have considered maintaining the communist regime.

The fundamental problem with Perestroika was how to change a system which had been built to withstand change. It was increasingly fractured. It had originally been based on inaccurate figures about the well-being of the economy and the national debt. Life under Perestroika became even harder for the majority of Soviet people. There were no state-employed social groups or skilled workers who stood to gain from Perestroika in the short term. Economic reform involved hard work and higher prices and therefore Perestroika was short on support. As the economic situation worsened, so too did the people’s support for communism fall. This time there was a difference however. Due to Glasnost the people and the media were now free to criticise the policy.

Glasnost had the effect of ensuring that the previous reign of terror which the communist leadership had held, was brought to an end. Gorbachev employed a policy of “Glasnost”, that is, openness and the right to criticise and express an opinion. Up until then Soviet society was closed.

No criticism or freedom of speech was allowed. The major feature of Glasnost is that of the lifting of most of the restrictions which had been imposed on the circulation of information since communism began. The blank pages in history were about to be filled in. Gorbachev realised that the former policy of absolute secrecy was a major force holding back the development of society. Censorship was relaxed. This had the adverse effect of allowing the public criticism of a regime which previously could not be criticised.

Gorbachev also allowed increasing independence to the Eastern bloc states.

He had come to the conclusion that compelling an unwilling population to live under a system they detested was not ensuring the USSR’s security, but on the contrary, jeopardising it. He indicated by omission, rather than by direct statement, that he would not obstruct a change which would result in these states achieving a measure of independence.

In Czechoslovakia on the 18th of January 1989 there was a decision taken to legalise Solidarity. (37) On the 10th of February the Hungarian communists agreed to a multi-party system and there was no opposition to this on the part of the Soviets. On 29th March Moscow told the Hungarians that they would not interfere in East European affairs. (38) In Poland on January 18th, Solidarity had been legalised after a string of protests and riots in Hungary. (39) This led to an agreement between the communist government and Solidarity, the main focus of which was the holding of the first relatively free elections since the 1940’s in Poland. The elections were devastating to the communists. They were swept out of the Senate and did not have any representatives elected to the Sejm until the second round of counting. (40)

This had a domino effect and hastened events elsewhere. Far from Gorbachev’s original hope that allowing the Eastern states more freedom would bring the union closer together, it was tearing the union apart.

Kadar was ousted from Hungary and the communists were swept aside by the Hungarian Democratic Forum. On September 11th Hungary opened its borders with Austria and allowed thousands of East Germans to cross to the west.

(41) The people of East Germany were demanding Glasnost and Perestroika. On October 9th a mass demonstration of 70,000 people occurred in Leipzig. (42)

Thousands of Germans were escaping to the west through Hungary and the GDR was powerless to stop them. Honecker, the East German leader, buckled under the pressure and resigned. The net effect of which was that his successors allowed the opening of the Berlin Wall on 8th November 1989 after the East German government and communist leadership resigned. (43)

On the 24th of November the Czechoslovak Communist Party resigned after mass demonstrations in Prague of up to 800,000 people. On the 7th of December the communist government in Czechoslovakia collapsed entirely and a new non-communist government was formed. (44)

Gorbachevs’s reforms were wreaking havoc on the communist system. Its base, already weak and fragile, began to crumble away under the massive wave of anti-communist feeling which had finally come to the fore after years of suppression. On the 11th of December Bulgarian communists were forced to agree to a multi-party system and on the 25th, the Rumanian leader Ceausescu and his wife were tried and executed. (45) All of this was borne out of Gorbachev’s reforms.

The communist regime had been built on force and coercion, terror and undemocratic methods. This regime could therefore not be expected to survive under such an onslaught. In refusing the Eastern bloc communist parties aid to suppress the revolts within, Gorbachev effectively sealed their fate. The communist parties in those countries had always relied on Soviet force for support in maintaining control of the countries, now that his support had been removed the regimes crumbled.

Therefore the significance of the Gorbachev factor cannot be denied when discussing the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe. If Gorbachev had not introduced his reforms or had not refused aid to the other Eastern bloc communist parties, the communist regime may have still stood today.

Gorbachev may not have been the cause of the downfall, but he was certainly the trigger. The situation was like a fuse, Gorbachev merely provided the matches and refused to stop the fire.

The final factor which this essay will examine, is that of the loss of elite party confidence. With his reforms Gorbachev had undermined the morale and confidence of the party elite. It had become clear that the communist cause had exhausted itself and was a failure. Their utopian hopes had been torn apart one by one throughout the years and Gorbachev had made them face this fact. This had a paralysing effect on them and led to their apathy about the ending of communism. If they had believed that there was something left to fight for they may have used physical force to overthrow Gorbachev and suppress the revolts, but they did not. Gorbachev had launched a step-by-step dismantling of the party and the nomenklatura under Perestroika. He separated and neutralised his most militant opponents among the conservative members of the party elite.

At the 28th Congress the party elite was divided between those who would monitor the development of Glasnost and perestroika, and the Presidency who would champion the fight against the unreformable members of the nomenklatura. (46) Until the 28th Congress membership of the nomenklatura had been a ticket to wealth and power, after the conference it became a mere shell. Membership fell off and loyalties faded. A form of local government control was implemented by Gorbachev to further diminish the role of the Politburo. Piece by piece Gorbachev was chipping away at the old elite’s confidence and beliefs. The fact that Gorbachev was gaining support both from the public at home and abroad, further eroded their confidence.

When the USSR began to collapse, however, certain voices in the party refused to allow Gorbachev dismantle more of their dreams. Yelstin was emerging at this time as an opponent to Gorbachev’s rule. In response Gorbachev banned a pro-Yelstin rally in Moscow in 1991. (47) Alarmed at a series of political strikes and a growing support for Yelstin, Gorbachev negotiated a compromise which stipulated that in return for an end to political strikes, Gorbachev would negotiate a new Union treaty which would give power to the republics.

The day before this treaty was to be signed, however, its opponents moved to forestall it. Pugo announced that he was assuming presidential control as Gorbachev was ill and declared a state of emergency. (48) Gorbachev refused to concur with this announcement. Yelstin called for a general strike and said that the emergency government was “unconstitutional”. (49) Some workers went on strike, more did not. Battle lines were being drawn and the complete collapse of communism was not far behind. The leaders of the coup were arrested by Gorbachev’s men and Gorbachev returned to Moscow.

The failed coup ironically however, had precipitated the process it had been trying to prevent, that is, the break up of the USSR and the demise of the communist party. In the Russian parliament Yelstin signed a decree suspending the communist party pending an investigation of the coup.

Gorbachev had triumphed over the plotters but now had to capitulate to Yelstin. After a vain attempt at protest, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of the CPSU and recommended that the General Committee should disband itself. In June 1991 Yelstin was elected president of Russia. (50) After the failure of the coup most of the Soviet republics declared their independence and sovereignty. Gorbachev tried unsuccessfully to revive the Union treaty for several months afterwards, but to no avail. The chain of events had been set in motion and could not be stopped now.

On the 8th of December 1991 Yelstin, along with the Beloruissian and Ukraine leaders issued a statement which declared the end of the USSR. They offered a “Commonwealth of Independent States” in return and invited other countries to join. (51) Gorbachev protested at first but then bowed to the inevitable. Communism in Eastern Europe had collapsed. On the 25th of December 1991, he tendered his resignation as president of the USSR and the communist flag was lowered from the Kremlin dome to be replaced by the Russian tricolour. (52)

Communism in Eastern Europe, therefore, collapsed for a number of reasons.

It had no political basis or popular support. It was riddled with economic problems and, in comparison to capitalism, was a complete failure. Finally the Gorbachev factor and the loss of elitist party confidence fanned the flames and destroyed communism. Communism broke down because of fatal weaknesses built into the system from its inception. It is in a human’s nature to aim for success and prosperity. Communism denies the competitive trait which is inherent in all humans. Communism was rejected because it is not as good as alternative systems of satisfying humans material wants.

Communism also is at odds with the other most basic instinct which a human has, that is, the desire for freedom. Communism, in practice, denied the expression of civil liberties, opinions and thought. It was also a forced rule which was only enforced by terror, not acceptance or majority ruling.

Such a regime could only hope to last for a certain period, never indefinitely. Gorbachev’s reforms were merely the catalyst for this failure. Gorbachev wished to reform the system, not destroy it, but the situation rapidly went out of control as years of pent-up frustration and antipathy toward the communist regime was finally given expression.

Can we therefore validate the quotation by Rogers which was made at the start of this essay? This essay would argue yes. A regime which is inherently against human nature can never hope to succeed. It is human to want what we cannot have and to be denied it, as with prohibition, makes us all the more determined and curious to achieve that which is forbidden. The same can be said to be true for communism. Therefore this essay would conclude that although there were a number of external contributory influence to the collapse of communism, communism as an ideal cannot hope to survive for long in anything more than a theoretical sense, as it is inherently contrary to the basic drives of human nature.


(1) Various Inputs, Chronicle of the 20th Century Quotations (Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1996) page 36

(2) Various Inputs, World Book Ency

Modernization Reforms in the countries of the former “socialist camp”, were accompanied with cardinal institutional transformation, directed on creation of mechanisms of market economy and democratic legal statehood. At the analysis of the general tendencies of social and economic and political development of all Post-Soviet societies, it is necessary to allocate the basic directions and stages of transients: – In political sphere transients occur in direction from the centralized political system completely supervised by the state to more decentralized and democratic form of the government. – In institutional sphere transition is carried out from institutional centralized planning systems to market economy institutes. – In economy the transition period was characterized by decomposition of uniform economic space of the former Soviet Union and SEV, led to infringement trading and financial communications and communications between the labor markets.

The choice of priority directions of reforming, and also way of realization of reforms has appeared one of the factors which have defined depth of processes of transformation. Within the limits of the general orientation of transients, the former republics USSR realized various concepts of this transition: from simultaneous and sharp reforming of all spheres in combination to weakening of positions the states (“shock therapy”), before the gradual slowed down stage-by-stage transition with preservation of the state control in full volume (evolutionary way of development). Number of the states (Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Russia, Kyrgyzstan) adhered to strategy of the fast reforming which characteristic features were: “shock therapy” methods in economy and the social sphere, the accelerated liquidation of old administrative structures and the forced creation of market institutes.

At the same time Belarus, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan have gone by the way of evolutionary transformations, in a greater degree saving state regulation methods in economic and social spheres. The major factor defining laws of social transformation of society is degree of the state intervention in economy sphere, and also strategy by state policy in social sphere.

The postsocialist states, carrying out partial (sometimes rather considerable) property privatization, confirming equality of all kinds of the property and market mechanism of regulation of social production certain positions in the economy, necessary for maintenance of social development, nevertheless, save. However scales of privatization of sphere of economy and social policy in the countries with various strategy of reforming essentially differed that is obvious, for example, from the analysis of dynamics of increase in share of private sector in economy (fig. 1 see).

Fig. 1. Dynamics of increase in a share of a private sector (in % to total of the enterprises), 1991-2004

The choice of way of realization of reforms defines distinctions in regulation mechanisms of transformation processes in each concrete state (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus) and distinctions in the maintenance of transients. Distinction between “shock- modernization” and the evolutionary approach to policy of transformations concerns: – character of relations between the state and the market,

– degrees of admissibility of global influences on policy of transformations. Supporters of shock therapy (examples on the post-Soviet territory Russia and Kazakhstan are), postulating the contradiction between requirements to the state, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, its limited ability to answer adequately on made demands, oppose the state to the market (in economy). Necessity of realization of radical liberalization of economy, as means of creation of necessary conditions for investments, accumulation of the capital and economic growth From this follows. Fast change in balance of the power and society at realization “shock- modernization” development ways, should be provided by means of increase in share of private sector, as has occurred in Russia and Kazakhstan.

The way of development by “shock- modernization”, which are carried out by Russia and Kazakhstan, has appeared is fraught with underestimation of market functions of the social institutes defining the basic standards of market economy. Attempt of creation of market economy without the basic social and economic institutes conducts, as has shown experiment of these states, to economic libertarianism and sharp decrease in level and quality of life of great bulk of the population. The evolutionary way of development which are carried out by other countries (most vivid example – Belarus), creates conditions for steady, irreversible character of economic growth and provides inertia of movement which gives time and additional possibilities for correction of adverse situations.

At the same time, the evolutionary way of development generates the social problems connected with slowed down formation of market infrastructure and complicating transition from extensive to intensive economy of market type. Feature of transformation of the Belarus society is preservation of the command system possessing such lines as: state ownership on resources, planned regulation of manufacture, distribution of resources and incomes, the state paternalism, autarchy. In the literature it is noticed , that experience of each new independent state should be considered by working out of the concept of market reforms and the transition theory. And experience of two of 26 countries with transitive economy – Uzbekistan and Belarus is ‘call to standard paradigm of transition, the certificate ‘revaluations of macroeconomic and underestimation of the evolutionary political economic analysis”.

The general orientation of economic reforms in the Post-Soviet countries, them orientirovannost on the statement of market institutes have predetermined formation in Post-Soviet societies of specific type of economic relations, as a matter of fact, capitalism being special model. Specificity of the developed type of economic relations was defined by that in Post-Soviet societies transition to market economy is made not from traditional commodity, and from planned economy. Absence of the developed theory of transition period was one of the inconsistency reasons in carrying out of policy of the economic reforms, insufficient validity of some accepted decisions. The economic crisis which the Post-Soviet states have faced all without exception, carried not cyclic, but structural character and has been caused by transition contradictions. The poverty problem has appeared one of the sharpest social problems in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, thus distinctive feature of the present stage of development of all Post-Soviet societies is growth of economic poverty when efficient citizens can’t provide to themselves socially comprehensible standard of well-being because of low wages or delays with its payment.

Thus the factors generating economic poverty, are that in itself reception of work by able-bodied population cannot be a source of well-being owing to low level of is standard established wage. As a result, the considerable part of the population lives below the poverty line, even having job. Thereupon the poverty observed in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, it is possible to define, first of all, in terms “economic” or «market poverty» – that is the poverty connected with place of certain categories of economically active population on labour market. Social polarization of society on “very rich” and “very poor”, reached in the countries which have selected way of “shock therapy” of critical scales became other consequence of reforms. In Russia and Kazakhstan for first half rupture in incomes of the poorest and the richest has increased with 4,5 till 14-16 time, but even these indicators of the state statistics consider the majority of independent researchers underestimated.

Last years the Gini coefficient in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan is in limits 0,512-0,514. The modern situation both in Russia and in Kazakhstan can be characterized as stratification situation on “very rich” and “very poor”. In the developed countries the Gini coefficient on the average it is equal 0,25-0,35 that is considered optimum indicator. The major sociopolitical problem of Russia is growth of social inequality, occurrence, as a matter of fact, two-layer society. One layer representing its top, superficial part, and another – reflecting its real inwardness. The first layer – rich Russia, concerns it approximately 15 % of the population. These people receive 57 % of monetary incomes, 92 % of incomes of the property and 85 % of all savings stored in banks own. The second layer – poor Russia.

These are 85 % of the population of the country which receives only 8 % of incomes of the property and 15 % of all savings have. The problem of sharp social differentiation is, first, problem economic, problem of reproduction of qualitative labour potential, secondly, – formations of base of mass business, thirdly, – stimulations of mass demand as important engine of domestic economy, fourthly, – problem of reproduction of savings of the population as source of investments. It is impossible to disagree and with opinion that the arisen precipice between the poor majority and rich minority generates difficultly tractable problems and outside of economy, can generate signs of accruing social break. In the countries which have chosen evolutionary way of development, processes of social polarisation of society aren’t so appreciable.

In Belarus having the lowest share of private sector in gross national product among the postsocialist countries, the Gini coefficient hasn’t changed almost since 1992 and, according to the report of the Viennese institute of the international researches, made in 2001 0,34, (that much more low, than was at that point in time in Russia – 0,52), and factor of differentiation of monetary incomes of the population – 6,1, and on manufacture of total internal product Belarus in 2003 has exceeded level of pre-crisis 1990 on 4 %

Research has shown that in the Russian, Kazakhstan and Belarus societies there are opposite processes: along with increase of well-being of society at the expense of gross national product increase, in Russia and Kazakhstan the tendency of increase in height of economic pyramid, that is, increase in social differentiation, owing to difference in monetary incomes of various social groups is observed; and in Belarus – the tendency of reduction of this height (in the course of alignment of monetary incomes of different social groups of the population) (fig. 2 see). Fig. 2

Comparison of heights of an economic pyramid in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (on factor of differentiation of average money incomes of the population)

The analysis of height of economic pyramid and profile of economic stratification allows to draw conclusions concerning balance of social and economic components of transformation. Finally both the situation of polarisation and situation of general equalising in the status of “poor” is fraught for transformed societies with social collapse. The excessive pulling of this pyramid, i.e. increase in social distance between poles of differentiation of social strata, conducts to strengthening of social intensity in society, its disorganisation, social shocks.

Excessive flatting of this pyramid also can have negative social consequences as equalising in incomes, properties, the authorities, status positions deprive of the individual of stimulus to action and blocks development innovative economic, institutional environments. There is danger of that the similar levelling policy can be fraught further flatting of economic pyramid in society during alignment average monetary incomes of different levels of population.

In practice of the countries with the developed market economy the mechanisms developed for regulation of social inequality are the socially-focused policy of the state and institutes of the civil society accumulating the most actual interests and inquiries of various public groups in public sphere. However in the Post-Soviet countries formation of civil society occurs in the conditions of severe shortage of trust both to institutes of the state, and to formed institutes of civil society. Complexity of transformations consists in the Post-Soviet countries, first of all, that mass poverty fatally influences political and civil activity of the population. There, where the superfluous social inequality accepts the scales interfering participation in political life of the big weights of the population, there is phenomenon of “political poverty» which essence consists in discharge of citizens from effective participation in democratic process, and transition of function of acceptance of the most important political and economic decisions from under the society control to narrow circle of ruling elite .

«Political poverty»deduces citizens from public sphere. As a result in public life two various tendencies of sociopolitical development are generated: 1) authoritarianism (in long-term prospect of the country with high level of inequality gravitate to authoritarianism); 2) astable “pendular” inconsistent course external and the state internal policy, caused by absence of wide social base of the power, antagonism of elite. In both cases there is delay of development of economy, its transition to innovative stage is blocked, the social soil for populist authoritarianism and extremism is created. In the conditions of poor development of civil society social orientation of state policy serve as the precondition of stability, well-being and safety of society, and social policy acts as the tool of system transformation, and the high rates of economic and social changes peculiar to transition period, make rigid demands to social and economic state policy, compelling the Post-Soviet states to develop constantly new mechanisms of indemnification of social costs of transformation.

In conformity with public long-term interests the great value has special state interventionism – the state policy directed on modernization of economy and overcoming of barriers of development of society. Thus, the major factor defining laws of system transformation of Post-Soviet societies is degree of the state intervention in economy sphere, and also state policy strategy in social sphere. Essential feature of social policy of the Post-Soviet states is search of the models most adequate to changed conditions. As initial parcel of development of social sphere of the Post-Soviet states principles of social policy of the Soviet period have served, the paternalism was the leading which tendency. One of displays of reforming of social sphere consists in attempt of cardinal change of one model of the social state on another, that is sharp transition from total, redistributive social policy to completely liberalized, individualized social policy.

In social policy of all reformed states there was transition from paternalism to subsidiarism, characterized by gradual refusal of simple one-dimensional decisions in favour of difficult, and is the fullest considering multidimensionality of developing new social structure of Post-Soviet societies. In Kazakhstan spent social policy as a whole was component of the general course of liberalization of political system, and liberally-conservative models became its theoretical base. The social security system in Republic has been privatized already at the first stage of reforming in 1992-1993, then the state has substantially removed from itself social responsibility before the population, having shifted these obligations on possibilities and the initiative of citizens. Obviously, has what is it grown out as inefficiency of former socialist system of social policy discrediting, and consequence of reforming of all other branches of economy connected with this sphere.

Thus, in sphere of social policy Kazakhstan initially carried out strategy to which Russia tries to pass now: at its realization the state removes from itself social responsibility before citizens. Other model – intermediate (Belarus, partly Russia) is characterised by state attempts to save conservative continuity in social sphere. The Russian model of social policy borrowed from practice of regulation of social sphere of Soviet Union, has been directed on coverage by social protection of almost all population, and also non-admission of mass lay-offs. Social policy in this case originally has been focused mainly on escalating of relative density of social expenses in cumulative expenses of the state while the efforts directed on increase of efficiency of social programs, paled into insignificance.

Substantial growth of number of privileges, on the one hand, and with another – growing excess of social obligations of the state over possibilities of their financing became consequence of this strategy of development, belong to paternalistiam inherently. For example, in Russia by the end of 90th years, the share of the population having the right to reception of social guarantees, privileges and the payments established by acts, has made 70 %; on share of households with the average income below living wage 25 % of total sum of privileges realised by all households and grants while the others of 75 % were a share households with the average income above living wage were necessary only. The inefficiency of social assignments has put in the late nineties of the XX century Russia before necessity of transition to new (subsidiarian) social policy model.

In Russia in these purposes taxes have been lowered, reform on monetization of social benefits is carried out and number of other measures is undertaken. The principle of granting of the social help has been put in basis of reforms in sphere of social support of the population mainly in the address form and only to those households which actual consumption is at level below living wage. In Byelorussia there was other, in comparison with Russia and Kazakhstan, model of reforming of social sphere.

For it following signs are characteristic. – First, the government economy, as conscious influence of the state on economic processes (their regulation) – and, first of all, direct management of economy public sector; planning and forecasting of social and economic development of the country. – Secondly, two-sector, mixed economy (on the one hand it is optimum combined market and not market sectors, and with another – state in certain parity state and not state sectors). Privatization in Belarus didn’t become end in itself as it was in Russia, and is considered as means of attraction of strategic investors and production efficiency increase. – Thirdly, economic paternalism. The help of the state to the enterprises is various: granting of privileges on customs and tax payments, tariffs for power resources; re-structuring of debts against the budget; it is right independently orders means of innovative funds etc. – Fourthly, social paternalism of the state.

The state choice in favor of the socially-focused market economy, carried out in republic Belarus, along with obvious advantages, generates also number of problems, main of which – problem of balance of social and economic components as the costs accompanying introduction of not economic values, assume loss of economic efficiency of manufacture.

The Socially-focused market economy as result of the state social policy, really provides positive economic process of improvement of financial position of the poorest levels of population and reduces share of this striations in society. But, according to the analysis, there is it both at the expense of some increase of wages, and at the expense of redistribution of incomes various strates, for the purpose of alignment of their financial position. Preservation of excessive number occupied and rather low price of work in Belarus is at the bottom of relative poverty of the basic part of the population of republic, and consequently, backwardness of the consumer market.

The Belarus (evolutionary) model of development shows variety of advantages: high rates of increase of economy (occurring without «raw feed», as in Russia and Kazakhstan); almost full employment of economically active population; one of the lowest indicators of social polarization. At the same time, necessity of radical changes for managing system has come to light. The reached stabilization puts in the forefront expediency of deepening market and institutional transformations, innovative way of development. Carrying out of economic policy without essential changes creates real threats to social and economic development of the country that is shown in increase of number of the unprofitable enterprises, growth of non-payments, decrease in volumes of investments, falling of competitiveness of economy. It is obvious that economy reforming at the present stage should have consecutive and system character and to be directed on liberalization, privatization, removal of barriers in enterprise activity.

The researches which have been carried out in 2007 by uniform technique in three countries, have shown that the subjective perception of social problems substantially differs with the population of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. By results of the sociological monitoring spent by group of authors it was clearly designated two opposite weeding with the representations about fears and threats, with appreciable differentiation in estimations of base indicators of satisfaction life, social state of health, financial position and social optimism, and also the relation to the authorities. On the one hand is Kazakhstan (to which the population of Belarus comes nearer) where in population value judgment positive moods prevail, on the other hand is Russia where many negative indicators of satisfaction life, are present constant expectations of negative changes (or absence of any hopes of life improvement). More the appreciation stated by the Kazakhstan respondents, concerns almost all spheres of life of society.

And on the contrary practically on all parameters the Russian respondents the estimation of state of affairs in the country the Russian respondents has negative character. For example, the analysis of perception the economic and social situation population in the country shows actually two opposite situations. About third of respondents in Belarus and Kazakhstan estimate economic and social situation as good, unlike Russians, about 40 which % estimate economic and social situation in the country as bad, and only 5 % state positive estimation. More than 50 % interrogated during inspections in Russia mark presence of social intensity in society, at that time when in Belarus only 9 % of respondents have answered in the affirmative on this question.

In Kazakhstan opinions were divided (31 % interrogated more likely agree with presence of social intensity in society and 28 % – don’t agree) more likely. Interrogations also have shown that in Russia economic development of the country practically isn’t connected with level of financial position of the population. Means that in all three countries, and the given statistic confirm it, there is economic growth, but economic growth in Belarus and Kazakhstan correlates with financial position level. That is the above growth, the is more population incomes, and in Russia people of it don’t feel.

At objective level the factor explaining considerable differentiation of subjective opinions of citizens of the various countries is the difference in choice of strategy of the social policy realized by Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. The most inconsistent, in the light of the comparative analysis, “the pendular” model of modernization of the social sphere embodied in social policy of Russia, taking intermediate place between Post-Soviet paternalism of the Belarus model, and liberally-conservative course of reforming of social sphere of Kazakhstan is represented. The Dissolution of The Soviet Union

In December of 1991, as the world watched in amazement, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries. Its collapse was hailed by the west as a victory for freedom, a triumph of democracy over totalitarianism, and evidence of the superiority of capitalism over socialism. The United States rejoiced as its formidable enemy was brought to its knees, thereby ending the Cold War which had hovered over these two superpowers since the end of World War II. Indeed, the breakup of the Soviet Union transformed the entire world political situation, leading to a complete reformulation of political, economic and military alliances all over the globe.

What led to this monumental historical event? In fact, the answer is a very complex one, and can only be arrived at with an understanding of the peculiar composition and history of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was built on approximately the same territory as the Russian Empire which it succeeded. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the newly-formed government developed a philosophy of socialism with the eventual and gradual transition to Communism. The state which the Bolsheviks created was intended to overcome national differences, and rather to create one monolithic state based on a centralized economical and political system. This state, which was built on a Communist ideology, was eventually transformed into a totalitarian state, in which the Communist leadership had complete control over the country.

By the time of the 1985 rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, the country was in a situation of severe stagnation, with deep economic and political problems which sorely needed to be addressed and overcome. Recognizing this, Gorbachev introduced a two-tiered policy of reform. On one level, he initiated a policy of glasnost, or freedom of speech. On the other level, he began a program of economic reform known as perestroika, or rebuilding. What Gorbachev did not realize was that by giving people complete freedom of expression, he was unwittingly unleashing emotions and political feelings that had been pent up for decades, and which proved to be extremely powerful when brought out into the open. Moreover, his policy of economic reform did not have the immediate results he had hoped for and had publicly predicted. The Soviet people consequently used their newly allotted freedom of speech to criticize Gorbachev for his failure to improve the economy.

On Dec. 8, 1991, the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine declared the
death of the Soviet Union and formed a Commonwealth of Independent States.

The three leaders, Boris Yeltsin of Russia, Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus, met secretly for two days in a hunting lodge 50 miles north of Brest, Belarus. At the conclusion of the meeting, they released a statement proclaiming the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).–3-Soviet-Republics-Form-a-Commonwealth.html

On August 23, 1991 Boris Eltsin, as President of the RSFSR, decreed the suspension of the Russian Communist Party on the grounds that it had lent its support to the coup attempt and had otherwise violated Soviet and Russian laws. Gorbachev, who upon returning to Moscow after the coup had tried to absolve the party of any blame and announced his intention of continuing his efforts to reform the party, was left with little choice but to resign as General Secretary of the entire (All-Union) party, which he did two days later.

Seeking to counter the further erosion of central authority, Gorbachev persuaded a majority in the Congress of People’s Deputies in early September to dissolve that body in favor of a State Council which would consist of republic leaders and Gorbachev and act in a temporary capacity until a new bicameral legislature could be elected. Aside from approving independence for the three Baltic republics, the State Council accomplished nothing and was largely ignored by republic governments. Eltsin, swelled with new powers granted by the Russian parliament, meanwhile accelerated the transfer of central institutions to Russian authority.

1. Armenia
2. Azerbaijan
3. Belarus
4. Estonia
5. Georgia
6. Kazakhstan
7. Kyrgyzstan
8. Latvia
9. Lithuania
10. Moldova
11. Russia
12. Tajikistan
13. Turkmenistan
14. Ukraine
15. Uzbekistan

When Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and others successfully claimed independent statehood, this had a destabilising effect within the Soviet Union itself. The expectations of, again most notably, Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians were enormously enhanced by what they saw happening in the ‘outer empire’ and they began to believe that they could remove themselves from the ‘inner empire’. In truth, a democratised Soviet Union was incompatible with denial of the Baltic states’ independence for, to the extent that those Soviet republics became democratic, their opposition to remaining in a political entity whose centre was Moscow would become increasingly evident. Yet, it was not preordained that the entire Soviet Union would break up.

A major factor in producing its dissolution was Boris Yeltsin’s playing of the Russian card against the Union. Since Russia and Russians had long dominated the Soviet state, there was something surprising about a Russian leader (Yeltsin was Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet from 1990 and elected President of Russia in June 1991) demanding Russian ‘sovereignty’ from the Union in 1990 and full ‘independence’ in 1991. Gorbachev and his remaining supporters in the leadership of the federal government had negotiated a new Union Treaty between the spring and summer of 1991, designed to keep a majority of republics, including Russia, within a much looser federation in which far greater powers than hitherto were to be devolved from the centre to the republics.

For conservative communists in the party apparatus, the military and the KGB, this was the last straw and they mounted a coup in August 1991 which began on the 18th with their putting Gorbachev under house arrest in his holiday home on the Crimean coast, and ended on the 22nd. The putschists themselves had been affected by the changes of the preceding years and they showed lack of resolution when faced by defiance from Yeltsin and thousands of Russian citizens who surrounded the parliament building from which Yeltsin was still able to communicate with the outside world. Moreover, by taking action just two months after Yeltsin had been popularly elected, their claims to be speaking on behalf of the people as a whole rang hollow.

The collapse of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics radically changed the world’s economic and political environment. No other conflict of interest dominated the post World War Two world like the cold war did. One man is credited with ending the cold war, Mikhail Gorbachev. This however was not the biggest event Gorbachev was responsible for. The end of the cold war was just a by-product of the other major event he was involved with. That is the fall of communism in the USSR and the collapse of the USSR itself. Gorbachev a communist reformer was appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. His appointment followed the death of three previous Soviet leaders in three years. Leonid Brezhnev was first to go followed by Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko.

Not being able to afford another short term leader the old guard appointed the youthful 56 year old Mikhial Gorbachev as General Secretary. From the outside it seemed as if this great superpower self destructed in only three months. The USSR’s demise is of course more complicated than this. The break up of the USSR can be traced back to Gorbachevs appointment and his early reforms. Gorbachev introduced a wide ranging program of reform. His major reforms were glasnost, perestroika and democratisation. These reforms allowed the problems of the USSR to be uncovered and become public knowledge. Ethnic unrest, economic inefficiency and historical atrocities were the major challenges Gorbachev faced.

How he dealt with these challenges and how successful he was is examined in this report. In December of 1991, as the world watched in amazement, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries. Its collapse was hailed by the west as a victory for freedom, a triumph of democracy over totalitarianism, and evidence of the superiority of capitalism over socialism. The United States rejoiced as its formidable enemy was brought to its knees, thereby ending the Cold War which had hovered over these two superpowers since the end of World War II. Indeed, the breakup of the Soviet Union transformed the entire world political situation, leading to a complete reformulation of political, economic and military alliances all over the globe.

What led to this monumental historical event? In fact, the answer is a very complex one, and can only be arrived at with an understanding of the peculiar composition and history of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was built on approximately the same territory as the Russian Empire which it succeeded. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the newly-formed government developed a philosophy of socialism with the eventual and gradual transition to Communism. The state which the Bolsheviks created was intended to overcome national differences, and rather to create one monolithic state based on a centralized economical and political system. This state, which was built on a Communist ideology, was eventually transformed into a totalitarian state, in which the Communist leadership had complete control over the country.

However, this project of creating a unified, centralized socialist state proved problematic for several reasons. First, the Soviets underestimated the degree to which the non-Russian ethnic groups in the country (which comprised more than fifty percent of the total population of the Soviet Union) would resist assimilation into a Russianized State. Second, their economic planning failed to meet the needs of the State, which was caught up in a vicious arms race with the United States. This led to gradual economic decline, eventually necessitating the need for reform. Finally, the ideology of Communism, which the Soviet Government worked to instill in the hearts and minds of its population, never took firm root, and eventually lost whatever influence it had originally carried.

By the time of the 1985 rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, the country was in a situation of severe stagnation, with deep economic and political problems which sorely needed to be addressed and overcome. Recognizing this, Gorbachev introduced a two-tiered policy of reform. On one level, he initiated a policy of glasnost, or freedom of speech. On the other level, he began a program of economic reform known as perestroika, or rebuilding.

What Gorbachev did not realize was that by giving people complete freedom of expression, he was unwittingly unleashing emotions and political feelings that had been pent up for decades, and which proved to be extremely powerful when brought out into the open. Moreover, his policy of economic reform did not have the immediate results he had hoped for and had publicly predicted. The Soviet people consequently used their newly allotted freedom of speech to criticize Gorbachev for his failure to improve the economy.

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The disintegration of the Soviet Union began on the peripheries, in the non-Russian areas. The first region to produce mass, organized dissent was the Baltic region, where, in 1987, the government of Estonia demanded autonomy. This move was later followed by similar moves in Lithuania and Latvia, the other two Baltic republics. The nationalist movements in the Baltics constituted a strong challenge to Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost. He did not want to crack down too severely on the participants in these movements, yet at the same time, it became increasingly evident that allowing them to run their course would spell disaster for the Soviet Union, which would completely collapse if all of the periphery republics were to demand independence.

After the initiative from Estonia, similar movements sprang up all over the former Soviet Union. In the Transcaucasus region (in the South of the Soviet Union), a movement developed inside the Armenian-populated autonomous region of Nagorno-Karabagh, in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Armenian population of this region demanded that they be granted the right to secede and join the Republic of Armenia, with whose population they were ethnically linked. Massive demonstrations were held in Armenia in solidarity with the secessionists in Nagorno-Karabagh. The Gorbachev government refused to allow the population of Nagorno-Karabagh to secede, and the situation developed into a violent territorial dispute, eventually degenerating into an all-out war which continues unabated until the present day.

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Once this “Pandora’s box” had been opened, nationalist movements emerged in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Byelorussia, and the Central Asian republics. The power of the Central Government was considerably weakened by these movements; they could no longer rely on the cooperation of Government figures in the republics.

Finally, the situation came to a head in August of 1991. In a last-ditch effort to save the Soviet Union, which was floundering under the impact of the political movements which had emerged since the implementation of Gorbachev’s glasnost, a group of “hard-line” Communists organized a coup d’etat. They kidnapped Gorbachev, and then, on August 19 of 1991, they announced on state television that Gorbachev was very ill and would no longer be able to govern. The country went into an uproar. Massive protests were staged in Moscow, Leningrad, and many of the other major cities of the Soviet Union. When the coup organizers tried to bring in the military to quell the protestors, the soldiers themselves rebelled, saying that they could not fire on their fellow countrymen. After three days of massive protest, the coup organizers surrendered, realizing that without the cooperation of the military, they did not have the power to overcome the power of the entire population of the country.

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After the failed coup attempt, it was only a few months until the Soviet Union completely collapsed. Both the government and the people realized that there was no way to turn back the clock; the massive demonstrations of the “August days” had demonstrated that the population would accept nothing less than democracy. Gorbachev conceded power, realizing that he could no longer contain the power of the population. On December 25, 1991, he resigned. By January of 1992, by popular demand, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. In its place, a new entity was formed. It was called the “Commonwealth of Independent Republics,” and was composed of most of the independent countries of the former Soviet Union. While the member countries had complete political independence, they were linked to other Commonwealth countries by economic, and, in some cases, military ties.

Now that the Soviet Union, with its centralized political and economic system, has ceased to exist, the fifteen newly formed independent countries which emerged in its aftermath are faced with an overwhelming task. They must develop their economies, reorganize their political systems, and, in many cases, settle bitter territorial disputes. A number of wars have developed on the peripheries of the former Soviet Union. Additionally, the entire region is suffering a period of severe economic hardship. However, despite the many hardships facing the region, bold steps are being taken toward democratization, reorganization, and rebuilding in most of the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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