AQA A2 History - The USSR - Detailed Revision Notes on The Collapse of the Soviet Union

Here is the final installment of my set of four revision notes on the USSR. This time detailed the collapse of the Soviet Union, including Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev. 

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Triumph and Collapse: Russia and the USSR, 1941 ­ 1991
Key dates, key people, key statistics
Part 4: The End of the USSR (19821991) ­ Andropov, Chernenko and
The death of Brezhnev and Andropov's rise to power:
The head of the KGB was 68 when he succeeded Brezhnev as General
Secretary and suffered from an acute kidney complaint.
Although Brezhnev wanted Konstantin Chernenko to succeed him, towards
the end of Brezhnev's life, Andropov gained great influence and begun trying
to discredit the current leader.
His supporters in the KGB circulated stories about Brezhnev and his family in
order to create a climate where Chernenko, Brezhnev's closest supporter
couldn't succeed him.
In practice, the USSR was being run by Gromyko, Ustinov, Suslov and
During the winter of 19812, Brezhnev's health worsened dramatically and the
Politburo decided that his place as General Secretary would be decided by
Suslov, who was a senior Central Committee Secretary. However Suslov died
again 79 in 1982 and, in May, Andropov was given his place in the Central
Committee Secretariat.
There were more attempts to discredit Brezhnev ­ his aides deliberately
switched the speech he meant to read out in Georgia for the one intended for
Armenia and when he didn't notice the difference, it appeared that Brezhnev
was senile.
On 7th November 1982, Brezhnev attended the annual parade to celebrate the
October Revolution it was bitterly cold but he stood all through the ceremony.
Three days later, Brezhnev suffered a final relapse and died.
Andropov was chosen by the Politburo as the new General Secretary on 12th
November 1982.
Yuri Andropov (November 1982 ­ February 1984)
Andropov was an austere character, a teetotaller and a strict believer in
MarxistLeninist ideology.
Domestic policies:
His priority was to restore discipline, reducing the privileges of the
apparatchiks (bureaucrats unquestioningly loyal to the Soviet system) and
trying to reduce corruption.
By February 1984, he had already replaced about 1/5 of party secretaries and
ministers and about a 1/3 of department heads of the secretariat of the Central
He even arrested Brezhnev's soninlaw, Churbanov, who was notoriously
corrupt and known to accept bribes.
He continued to clamp down on dissidents.
He introduced a drive against poor workmanship, absenteeism, alchoholism,
corruption and the black market ­ on his orders, the police cleared the streets

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His measures hit women and mothers particularly hard ­ most women went
out to work, yet were expected to carry out domestic chores it was difficult for
them to cope with queuing in shops unless they could take time off work.
He allowed the introduced of a cheap new vodka called `Andropovka'.
He tried to prioritises improvements to peoples' lives, saying "First we'll make
enough sausages and then we won't have any dissidents."
He was naturally cautious and maintained Brezhnev's slogan of `developed
socialism'.…read more

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Industrial output was 5% higher in 1983 than the previous year and the value of
agricultural production rose by 7%.
His failures:
Andropov was not in power long enough to take a grip on economic policies.
He was far too traditionalist to do much more than he had already
accomplished when he died.
Konstantin Chernenko (February 1984 ­ March 1985)
Chernenko was aged 72 and already terminally ill with emphysema when he
succeeded Andropov.…read more

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He gained popularity as the protégé of Andropov, appearing as a traditionalist despite
using terms such as `glasnost' (openness) and `perestroika' (restructuring and
regeneration) in a speech as early as December 1984.
In 1983 he told Yakovlev, the Soviet ambassador to Canada, "Society had to change,
it had to be constructed on different principles."
On the evening he was chosen as leader, he confided with his wife, Raisa, that "we
can't go on living in this way.…read more

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Banned writers, such as Mikhail Bulgakov and Boris Pilnyak, reappeared in
In January 1987 the USSR stopped jamming the BBC.
Yakovlev and Gorbachev parted company as Yakovlev wished to end one
party rule and abandoned Marxism.
The Second Phase of Perestroika Political
Gorbachev decided that reform of the party was essential before progress in
economic reform.…read more

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The Second Phase of Perestroika ­ Economic (decentralisation)
The 1988 Law on State Enterprises allowed 60% of state enterprises to move
on a system of selfmanagement, setting their own prices and targets, making
a profit on the free market with remaining produce and dealing with foreign
By 1989 the economic situation had deteriorated ­ the drop in world oil and
gas prices cut revenues, as this accounted for 54% of the USSR's exports.…read more

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Ligachev disapproved strongly of Gorbachev's talk of the market economy,
private enterprise and democratisation ­ although Gorbachev assured him
that his privatisation plans would only involve 7% of the total, Ligachev stated
"big business and capital will hog everything."
The conservatives blamed perestroika for national unrest.
In March 1988 a letter appeared in a Soviet newspaper from a Leningrad
teacher defending Stalin and condemning `leftwing liberal' development.…read more

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Gorbachev's policies being
implemented or even alter them.
Yeltsin was formally elected President of the Russian Federation on 12th June
How economic failures led to the USSR's collapse:
Gorbachev's economic policies had little overall effect ­ after 4 years of
perestroika GDP was static and in 1990 industrial production actually fell by
1.2% and agricultural production by 2.3% (according to official figures ­ most
experts think the actual figures were much worse).…read more

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Gorbachev was not helped by his choice in collaborators in economic policy:
o Ryzhkov (Chairman of the Council of Ministers) was a reformer but a
reformer who wanted to "go to the market" at a snail's pace.
o Ligachev was put in charge of agriculture in September 1988, however
he was not in favour of reform and didn't even increase the size of
private plots.
The ShatalinYavlinsky 500 day programme was published in September 1990
and was soon passed by the Supreme Soviet.…read more

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As disorder continued, the Supreme Soviet decided to place
NagornoKarabakh under direct rule from Moscow in January 1989 but
Armenia and Azerbaijan were on the brink of civil war.
In January 1990 there were further developments in the conflict ­ 60
Armenians were murdered by Azeris in Baku and Moscow declared a state of
Soviet troops retaliated, killing at least 83 Azeris ­ Gorbachev's claims that
this was necessary show that he was willing to use force to keep the USSR
together.…read more


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