Historical interpretations: What explains the fall of the USSR, c.1985-91?

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  • Created on: 23-04-18 21:39

Economic weaknesses and the failure of reform.

Long-term economic weaknesses

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Fundamental economic weaknesses.

  • Soviet economy flawed
  • Failed to create incentives for hard work or innovation
  • From 1945-1980, egalitarian state
    • Difference between rich and poor much smaller than the difference in the west.
    • Therefore, less incentive to improve
  • Labour productivity much lower in the West.
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Waste in the USSR’s economy.

  • Gosplan state planning committee who measured and rewarded production.
  • Quality of production was irrelevant
    • As well as the proportion of the goods being used on whether they were even being used.
  • Although large amount of goods were produced, they were often wasted.
  • For example: Gosplan demanded 400,000 tractors,
    • At least 20% went unused due to shortages of tractor drivers.
  • Waste was a big issue:
    • Estimated of 12% of machinery went unused
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Modernisation of the USSR’s economy.

  • Never fully modernised
  • Too many tractors, Soviet agriculture lacked sophisticated machinery.
  • Required a lot more labour than the West.
  • In 1960’s, 25.4% of Soviet workers were in farms, in comparison to the West where just 4.6% worked in farms.
  • Transportation system never fully modernised.
    • Therefore transporting food was difficult
  • Lack of modern storage system led to crops like grain rotting away due to inadequate storage facilities before it would be used.
  • Therefore. whilst a greater percentage of Soviet workers were in farms than America, they still managed six times more production than the USSR.
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Arms race.

  • Production of expensive missiles, nuclear bombs, tanks and fighter planes.
  • Between 1965-1985, proportion of GDP spent on defence went from 12% to 17%
    • Compared to America at 6% average over this period.
  • Soviet defence spending starved other areas of the economy that actually needed it.
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  • Economy controlled by government administrators.
  • In farming, the government set timetables for planning and harvesting
    • But they did not account for local initiatives.
    • Farmers, who had expertise, could not interfere to adjust the schedule to account for whether.
  • Central planners set schedules for delivery of fertilisers.
    • Often delivered late or were the wrong kind for the crop planted.
  • This explains why the production of important crops improved very slowly.
  • Centralisation caused significant issues because it limited production.
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Economic weaknesses and the failure of reform.

Gorbachev and Perestroika

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Rationalisation 1985-1986.

  • Led fully by the Communist party.
  • Designed to stimulate economic modernisation, higher rates of economic growth, and for production levels to increase.
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Reform 1987-1990.

  • Initiated reforms intended to introduced market forces into the Soviet economy.
  • At the same time, he initiated Political reform designed to build support for economic change.
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Transformation 1990-1991.

  • Gorbachev began to abandon the fundamental aspects of the system such as the single party rule and the command economy.
  • As a result, the Communist Party, lost control of the process.
  • Gorbachev’s reforms consistently failed to increase economic growth, economy in fact stopped growing.
  • By 1985, the Soviet economy wasn’t just weaker than the West, but was even being overtaken by developing countries in Asia.
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Alcohol production.

  • Gorbachev’s first initiative continued Andropov’s anti-alcohol campaign
  • In may 1985, Gorbachev limited alcohol production at state run factories by 50%
  • 55,000 party members assigned to a new task force to stop illegal production.
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Successes and failures of Anti-Alcohol campaign.

  • Generally, the policy failed.
  • Initially drop in alcohol consumption amongst moderate drinkers.
  • However consumption in 1987, consumption was still double that of 1960.
  • In 1987, citizens over 15 would consume between 15-16 litres of alcohol every year.
  • Still 4.5 million registered alcoholics.
  • Soviet citizens now drinking Samogon, an illegally produced alcohol.
  • However it meant that the Soviet government made less out of vodka sales.
  • Therefore revenue fell by 67 billion Roubles.
  • Economic conditions grew even worse.
  • Therefore abandoned by 1988.
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  • Acceleration or uskorenie  was an economic initiative designed to end economic stagnation.
  • Get economy moving again.
  • Acceleration was one of the main factors of the twelfth and final Five Year Plan
  • Acceleration meant  a huge increase in investment.
    • Designed to modernise the Soviet economy and therefore more efficient.
  • Gorbachev predicted that the new investment would lead to a 20% increase in industrial production in the next fifteen years.
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Success or failure (Acceleration).

  • A major reason was the decline in oil prices globally.
  • During the 1970’s, the Soviet economy made a huge amount of money from selling oil to the West.
    • When prices fell from $70-$20 from 1981-1985, Soviet oil revenues fell by more than 40%
    • Combined with the drop in alcohol revenues, the Soviet economy made significantly less money from the mid 1980’s.
  • Gorbachev financed acceleration from borrowing from Western countries.
    • As a result, government debt rose from $18.1 billion in 1981 – $27.2 billion in 1988.
  • However, Gorbachev invested in energy production, ignoring the advice of his economic experts.
  • Therefore investment did not lead to greater growth.
  • Increased debt led to more government spending on interest payments.
    • Therefore less money to spend on further modernisation or to produce consumer goods.
  • Overall, did not lead to economic growth instead, economic crisis.
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Partial market reform.

  • Acceleration was the USSR’s last plan to save the centrally planned economic system.
  • From 1986, officials began to believe that only some degree of market reform could recover the economy.
  • First small reform was: Law on Individual Economic Activity of November 1986.
    • Made it legal for families and individuals to make money from small scale work such as private teaching and maintenance jobs.
  • 1987 Law on State Enterprise was a lot more radical.
  • Intended to devolve power from central government to factory management.
    • For example, factory managers could set prices for their production.
  • Failed in two ways:
    • Little power was actually devolved as Gosplan found new ways of maintaining central control.
    • Ability to charge higher prices meant the government had to pay more for goods, further increasing government debt.
  • The 1988 Law on Co-operatives made it legal to set up large scale private companies.
    • By 1990, nearly 200,000 private companies had been set up across the USSR.
    • Many cooperatives were successful.
    • In the first year, turnover of the co-operatives were successful.
    • increased from 29.2 million roubles- 1.04 billion roubles.
    • incomes of those under private companies was two-three times more than those under state enterprise.
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Problems with the market.

  • From 1987-1990, Gorbachev’s economic reforms created a partial market.
  • Hoped that it would combine the best features of the market with the best features in planning and hence revive the economy.
  • However, the new market could not function properly and therefore created greater problems
  • Markets required prices that accurately reflect true value of goods and services.
    • However, the Communist Government subsidised prices, allowing consumers to buy goods at a price well below the market rate.
  • Initially, the new companies could sell goods at a price of their choosing.
  • However, free market prices were much higher than state subsidised prices and therefore free market goods were very unpopular.
  • Gorbachev introduced price capping.
  • Causing more issues for co-operatives.
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Economic chaos and political problems.

  • Partial market reform created economic chaos.
  • Reforms undermined the central planning system, while at the same time failing to create an effective market alternative.
    • No effective way of distributing goods as a  result.
    • Shortages of essential goods increased.
  • For example during 1990, severe food shortages.
    • Although the USSR produced 218 million tons of grain, no system of distribution.
  • State distribution systems abolished and market was still developing, therefore there were food shortages all across the USSR.
  • Figures for the Twelfth Five year plan demonstrated the true failure of the the new policies.
  • In April, Gorbachev finally cut subsidies for basic products to let the market determine a price and therefore create a price mechanism for consumers.
    • He hoped that the cut in subsidies would reduce government spending and allow the economy to normalise.
    • Chaos in the economy led to political consequences.
    • Price rises led to dissatisfaction with the government.
    • Gorbachev’s approval rating dropped from 52% from 1989 to 21% in 1990.
    • Number of strikes increased. In 1990, only 260 enterprises were affected.
      • In 1991, this rose to 1755.
    • Led to widespread support from nationalist movement demanding the disbanding of the USSR.
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500 Day Program.

  • In order to minimise the economic problems, that were expected during the transition to a market economy.
  • Gorbachev and Yeltsin commissioned two Soviet economists, Stanisalv Shatalin and Griorri Iavlinskii, to devise a plan for economic transition.
    • Result of this plan was the 500 day program in August 1990.
  • Both economists proposed widespread privatisation and marketisation in less than two years.
    • Gorbachev initially supportive of these proposals and eventually backed down.
    • Remained committed to economic transformation but wanted it at a slower pace.
  • Government did not adopt the plan fully, because of Gorbachev’s refusal.
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Reform and collapse, 1991.

  • Supreme soviet introduced private property, as an important step towards a free market, hadn’t been available since 1920’s.
  • In April, law passed to allow citizens to trade stocks and shares.
    • Designed to revitalise the economy through the introduction of market forces.
  • Economy continued to decline.
  • Oil production fell by 9%.
  • Steel and tractor production both feel by 12%.
  • Official government report stated that the economy was moving towards complete catastrophe.
  • By 1991, the Soviet Government were bankrupt.
  • Neither the Soviets or the Republican governments had the economic power to govern.
  • Consequently, Yeltsin announced a program of full marketisation in 1991.
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Gorbachev’s Political reforms.

The problems of political reform

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Problems of political reform.

  • The fundamental nature of Soviet politics had been established by Lenin and Stalin, they had created a political system which had:
    • A centralised part with control over the state across the whole of the Soviet Union.
    • Regional parties in each of the republics that obeyed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
    • A disciplined party that obeyed direction of the Politburo.
  • The Communist Party became the government of the USSR, controlling the economy, the army, the police and the media.
  • Any policy which weakened the authority or discipline of the Party risked weakening the Soviet Union, as the Communist Party held the union together.
  • Communists remained ideologically committed to creating a genuine democracy based on the will of all of the working people.
    • This tension between the reality of the Soviet government and Communist ideals created discussion in the party which led to pressure for reform.
  • Over time, the tension between the official goals of the Party and the reality of life in the USSR led to widespread cynicism.
  • In reality, the Soviet people became increasingly aware of the corruption of Party officials.
  • In general terms, the Soviet people tolerated the government as the party began improving living standards year on year.
  • The cynicism of the people troubled idealists in the Party, who hoped that reform of some kind of democratisation would inspire the new generation to take control of Communism and finish the journey initially began by Lenin.
  • Reform was still dangerous.
  • True democracy could lead to the fall of Communism.
  • Khrushchev’s reforms had previously threatened Soviet control of Hungary and Poland.
  • Under Brezhnev’s policy of suppressing political dissent.
  • Andropov allowed greater freedom with Party leadership to discuss the Soviet Union’s social and economic problems.
  • His desire to deal with long-term economic problems such as economic decline and corruption meant that he promoted Communists who were prepared to question the system to senior positions.
  • Gorbachev owed his position on the politburo to Andropov.
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Gorbachev’s objects.

  • At the time of his appointment, Gorbachev’s key aim was to revitalise the Soviet Union, and to end stagnation which arose of the Brezhnev period, like corruption of senior members.
  • Wanted to end the cynicism and apathy of the Soviet people.
  • Did not have a clear strategy for achieving these goals.
  • Consistently argued that the Soviet Union needed to return to Lenin’s model.
  • With people playing an actual role in politics through participation in local soviets.
  • Initially, Gorbachev believed that he could reform the Soviet system and retain communist control. His plans for reform were limited, he wanted to:
    • Open up debate within the Party.
    • Allowed intellectuals more freedom of expression.
    • Allow the public to have more access to information.
  • Gorbachev’s reforms had unintended consequences, such as greater pressures to reform.
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Gorbachev’s Political reforms.

Gorbachev’s early political reforms, 1985-86

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Gorbachev’s early political reforms, 1985-86.

  • Gorbachev’s appointment as General Secretary was the shift of power of one generation to the next.
  • Gorbachev was 20 years younger than Chernenko, Andropov, and Brezhnev had all been born before the revolution.
    • Gorbachev was born before Stalin’s reign.
  • Gorbachev’s first priority as General Secretary wa to replace the senior officials who had been close to Brezhnev.
    • Part of Brezhnev’s plan to end stagnation.
    • Heighten his own authority through patronage.
  • Appointed young Communists who favoured reform.
    • To senior positions.
  • Gorbachev focused on economic reform.
  • As economic reform failed, Gorbachev became convinced that political reform was an essential part of reviving the economy, the traditional Communist officials were standing in the way of reform.
  • Gorbachev argued that the Soviet economy was highly centralised, data obtained was always inaccurate due to the manipulation of economic data.
  • His solution to this was in democratisation and openness:
    • Hoped that democratisation would limit the power of traditionalists and therefore speed up economic reform.
      • Also hoped that democratisation would end centralisation.
    • Gorbachev hoped openness would help economic recovery because it would end the distortion of economic information.
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Glasnost, 1986-88.

  • Gorbachev always spoke about the need for the government to admit the truth.
  • Gorbachev spoke about openness in December 1974.
  • From 1983, the term was used by supporters of Andropov who wanted to end corruption.
  • Initially, glasnost was a commitment to be open about the state of the Soviet economy.
  • Glasnost became an important initiative from 1986.
  • Due to the opposition to Gorbachev within the Communist Party.
  • Hardline Communists opposed Gorbachev’s reforms.
  • Therefore, Gorbachev looked for support from outside the Party.
  • He invited writers and intellectuals to criticize hardliners and get them to support his reforms.
  • He believed that intellectuals and writers and artists were natural allies against Party hardliners.
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The Twenty-Seventh Party Congress.

  • The Twenty-Seventh Party Congress held in February and March 1986 set out a new programme for the Communist Party.
  • First time the party had ever adopted a set of priorities since 1961.
  • Gorbachev’s new programme committed the Party to the “systematic and all around improvements of socialism”
  • “Genuine democracy, power for the people and by the people”
  • Gorbachev linked democratisation to glasnost.
  • However, there were signs of openness at the Party Congress.
  • The adoption of a new programme was a symbol that Gorbachev wanted to break the past.
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Liberalisation of the media.

  • To help create an alliance between Communists, reformers and Russian intellectuals Gorbachev allowed much greater freedom of expression in the Soviet media.
  • Hoped that greater freedom would allow intellectuals to criticize the Party and develop new ideas.
  • Following the 1986 Congress, Gorbachev gave Yakovlev responsibility for the media.
    • Yakovlev appointed new radical editors to head the Moskovskie Novosti, the Moscow News.
    • As a result, the media was liberalised.
  • Newspapers began to publish accounts of the scale of Stalin’s atrocities, even stories of admitted problems in the USSR.
  • Yakovlev permitted the publication of banned books, plays and films by anti-communist intellectuals.
  • A good example is the film: Repentance, a film made in 1984 which was highly critical of Stalin’s terror.
  • Gorbachev released dissidents from prison.
  • In December 1986, he invited Andrei Sakharov to Moscow from exile in Gorky to support political reform.
  • This was an immediate signal that Gorbachev wanted to work with intellectuals from outside the Party in order to move forward in reform.
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The extension of glasnost.

  • From 1987-1988, Gorbachev extended glasnost.
  • Initially he had only criticised Stalin.
    • These were not new, as Khrushchev had initiated criticism of Stalin in 1957.
    • This attacked the foundations of Communism.
    • From 1988, citizens were allowed to listen to foreign radio and newspapers.
    • Nineteenth Party Congress of June 1988, took openness to a whole new level:
      • Senior Party Officials admitted the scale of the problems facing the USSR, including the inadequacies in health and education and the poverty of the rural areas.
        • Huge contrast to the traditional high profile meetings which claimed the Communist Party were consistently successful in improving the lives of all.
    • Scale of the weaknesses shook the public faith in the Communist Party.
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Consequences of glasnost.

  • Gorbachev had hoped that glasnost would benefit him at the expense of the opponents he had.
  • Glasnost allowed Gorbachev, Communist radicals and Soviet intellectuals to criticize moderates in the Communist Party.
  • However, Gorbachev didn’t escape criticism.
  • Accused of reforming too slowly.
  • More concerning criticisms of the Whole Soviet System.
  • Revelations of Stalin’s terror led to the questioning of the entire Soviet System.
  • Groups in the Soviet Republics began to demand not even reform, but full independence.
  • Glasnost destabilized the Communist Party rule, it permitted profound criticism of the Party that Gorbachev had not seen coming.
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Gorbachev’s Political reforms.

Democratisation, 1989-90

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Soviet Power.

  • Nineteenth Party Conference of 1988 embraced radical democratic reform.
  • In simple terms, Gorbachev introduced multi-candidate elections to the Supreme Soviet.
  • From 1989 onwards, Soviet citizens had the right to vote in elections where there was a choice of Communist Party candidates.
  • Independent candidates could also stand for election.
  • Since 1917, Russian citizens had elected local soviets.
  • Since 1920’s, citizens had no choice of candidate.
  • Communist Party had full control over the elections and took control over the Soviets.
  • Gorbachev removed this.
  • Multi-candidate elections stripped the Communist Party of any power to appoint candidates, therefore was a shift of power from Party leadership to the people
  • However, the reforms were only partial:
    • In multicandidate elections, 1500 of the Congress of People’s Deputies would be elected.
    • The remaining 750 would be appointed by the Communist Party and other officials.
    • Multi-candidate elections did not allow citizens to vote for political parties.
  • Reforms still allowed them to make a choice from independants, radicals and reformists.
  • Gorbachev put his faith in the people to back him up and doing so provide incentive for further reform.
  • The new Congress of People’s Deputies would elect the Supreme Soviet.
    • Which would also be reformed.
    • Rather than meet once a year, the Supreme Soviet was given the right to meet for two three-month sessions every year, which Gorbachev was a chair of.
  • Reforms meant that, the Supreme Soviet was partly independent from Party leadership.
    • Therefore the reforms weakened the Party.
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Election, 1989.

  • The March-April elections of 1989 was an important step in reducing the power of the Communist Party.
  • During the campaign, candidates were forced to engage in public debate in order to win votes.
  • As a result, the Communists won 80% of the seats in the Congress of People’s deputies.
  • Nonetheless, Communists were still defeated, including 5 members of the Central Committee.
  • Radicals did well, Yeltsin won with 89% of the vote in Moscow.
  • Soon after, a group of newly elected deputies, like Yeltsin, and Sakharov formed the IRDG which embraced a radical anti-communist agenda including the introduction of private property and greater autonomy. for the republics.
  • The creation of the IRDG was important as it moved towards democracy because it became an organised opposition group with an official position within the Soviet system.
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Consequences of the election.

  • Election weakened the position of the moderates as Gorbachev had hoped.
  • Also led to unintended consequences:
    • Nationalists wanted to break up the USSR used the election to campaign for independence.
      • In Georgia, the campaigns resulted in violence.
    • Yeltsin emerged from the election as a popular figure and rival to Gorbachev.
      • Yeltsin’s desire to replace the USSR with a loose confederation of independent states was very popular across the USSR, and consequently became a threat to the Soviet Union.
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Republic elections, 1990.

  • Anti-Communist trends were also obvious in the March 1990 elections in the republics.
    • In Moscow, a group called Democratic Russia won 85% of the seats.
  • Gorbachev had assumed that democratisation would strengthen the radicals within the Communist Party.
  • Soviet Elections however weakened the whole party, increasing the power of the Anti-Party and nationalist groups.
  • Consequences of democratisation was the same as glasnost consequences, were much more radical than Gorbachev had wanted.
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Gorbachev’s Political reforms.

Constitutional reform

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Constitutional reform.

  • Democratisation weakened the Communist Party, did not produce a strong government.
  • Caused problems for Gorbachev as he needed a strong central authority that could push for his own economic reforms and maintain order.
  • Raised questions about the role of the Party.
  • Yeltsin demanded a new constitution that stripped the Communist Party of the leading role.
  • Gorbachev also wanted a constitutional change that would give him new powers to deal with the USSR’s growing economic and political issues.
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  • In March 1990, Gorbachev appointed himself as President of the USSR.
  • Short term victory, long term created huge problems.
  • Gorbachev created the presidency for numerous reasons:
    • Wanted to increase his power as democratisation had weakened his position as leader.
    • Gorbachev was not able to control the new institution.
    • Decided to set up the new position.
  • He would be independent from the Party and the Supreme Soviet.
  • Standing for election as President was a gamble due to Yeltsin’s popularity which had been increasing since the election of 1989, and therefore, Yeltsin could win the election.
    • Gorbachev realized this and made it so that the Congress of People’s Deputies would decide the presidency, where he had the majority of support.
    • It ensured Gorbachev’s appointment as president, but he also lacked democratic legitimacy, unlike Yeltsin.
  • Following his appointment, Gorbachev had emergency powers for 18 months to deal with the economic crisis and the growing unrest in the Republics.
  • As a result, Gorbachev was criticised by radicals for abandoning reform and creating a new form of dictatorship.
  • A key supporter of Gorbachev, Shevardnadze, resigned from government in December 1990, claimed that Gorbachev had abandoned democracy.
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Overall conclusion.

  • Gorbachev hoped that Glasnost and democratisation would help revitalise the Party and the economy.
  • Reform process failed to achieve either of the goals and contributed to the dissolution of the USSR.
  • More openness destroyed the authority of the Party, whilst allowing anti-Communist opposition were allowed to criticise the government.
  • Democratisation weakened the Communist Party by bringing legitimacy into question.
  • His reforms had destroyed his power base, increasing difficulty pushing through reforms.
  • Gorbachev stressed the importance of democracy but put himself as president of the USSR, never had a mandate for his power.
  • Gorbachev consistently hoped that the Soviet people would defend his reforms but he misunderstood the people’s moods at the time.
  • Soviet people lost faith in him.
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The impact of the nationalist resurgence.

The Union and the republics before 1985

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The Union and the republics before 1985.

  • In 1985, Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Union was a collection of republics under control by the Communist Party.
  • According to Soviet Constitution, each of the republics was an independent nation.
  • Each republic did have its own Supreme Soviet and its own governmental setup.
    • In reality, the Communist Party, based in Moscow governed the entire Soviet Union.
    • Republics had very little independence.
  • Soviet Government dominated by Slavs, the majority of which were Russian.
  • Soviet Union was an empire, with non-Russian republics as Russia’s colonies.
  • From 1917-1985, Nationalism was a mixture of economic and political incentives + repression.
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Soviet Politics and nationalism.

  • Political opportunities and organisations were one way in which the Soviet Union kept nationalism at rest from 1917-85.
  • Each republic had its own government system.
    • Stalin’s purges had wiped out the previous generation of leaders, and in each republic was energetic and talented people who were well paid.
    • Republican governments tended to be dominated by people of each republic.
      • Therefore, the Georgian government would be dominated by Georgians.
      • Owed their power to the Soviet system and therefore loyal.
  • Governments were dominated by local people, other organisations like the Secret Police and the Army were always dominated by Russians, kept strictly under government control.
  • Soviet Government always ready to deal with unrest through terror.
  • Under Andropov, the KGB kept nationalists under surveillance constantly.
  • By 1975, half of the people in prison were subjected to repressive psychiatry, were nationalists.
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“Soviet nationalism”

  • Soviet Union was not a nation, the Government still tried to inspire loyalty in the Union through the creation of “Soviet nationalism”
  • In the 1920’s, and again after Stalin’s death, citizens of the republics were encouraged to put their loyalty to the Union ahead of loyalty to their own nation.
  • Government argued that the traditional “nationalism” was superior as it was based on ethnic equality and unity.
  • From 1945, all Soviet citizens were encouraged to take pride in the Soviet Union’s superpower status as one of the most powerful and dominant nations on earth.
  • Soviet nationalism was unpopular in many of the non-Russian republics as in reality, it was based off of Russian values and traditions.
    • Therefore non-Russians would be expected to renounce their existing customs, traditions and language.
    • Soviet nationalism was based off of the assumption of Russian dominance and superiority and the inferiority of the other cultures.
  • Gorbachev did not understand the weaknesses of Soviet nationalism:
    • Genuinely believed that Soviet citizens had renounced their national identity and become united “Soviet people.”
      • Assumed that the Soviet Union was more stable than it actually was.
      • Strength of the Republics took him by surprise.
        • “Unintended consequences”
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The Soviet economy and nationalism.

  • Economic benefits were another way in which nationalism was controlled before 1985.
  • From 1953, economic planners targeted investment at the poorer regions of the Soviet Union.
  • As these areas tended to be in the non-Russian republics, the investment led to an improvement in the standards of living for the majority of people in the 13 non-Russian republics.
  • Under Brezhnev the “social contract” was as important to managing the republics as it was to managing Russia.
    • In return for obedience, lives were transformed as areas of Central Asia were urbanised and modernised.
    • Educational investment was also higher in the non-Russian republics.
      • Easier for non-Russians to get university places.
  • Under Brezhnev, the system developed into what historian Terry Martin called an”affirmative action empire.”
  • Non-Russians who made the most of the opportunities could get good jobs and improve living standards for themselves.
  • These benefits could only continue to grow.
    • Economic decline in the 1980’s threatened to reduce the standards of living and opportunities.
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Nationalism under Brezhnev.

  • Under Brezhnev, the government encouraged forms of national self-expression.
  • Increased tolerance of nationalism which would later on play a role in the emergence of anti-Soviet nationalist movements.
  • Following 1964:
    • Each of the republics had the right to introduce native education.
    • Increase in books and newspapers in non-Russian languages in the republics.
    • Folk art and music devoted to national culture were allowed in each of the republics.
    • Brezhnev established new universities to educate non-Russian citizens of the Soviet Union.
    • Brezhnev’s trust in cadres policy was allowing local elites to consolidate their hold over the Communist Parties in the non-Russian republics.
    • Greater representation of Turkic people in the Central Committee and Politburo.
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The impact of the nationalist resurgence.

The impact of Gorbachev’s reforms

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Cadre change and anti-corruption.

  • Following Brezhnev’s death, a lot of changes introduced in the policies towards the republics.
  • Andropov and Gorbachev both argued that an effective government was more important than representative government.
  • They were therefore no longer committed to ensuring the governments of the republics were staffed by local people.
    • Argued that all government posts should go to the best candidates.
      • Meaning that Andropov and Gorbachev would just replace existing local leaders with Russians.
    • Process linked with the sacking of many local leaders.
    • Gorbachev’s “purges” of the republican governments were far reaching, he removed relatively popular leaders in the Central Asian republics in 1986.
  • At the top of the Soviet Government, Brezhnev’s appointments from the Republics were replaced by Russians.
  • Gorbachev’s Politburo only had one non-Russian.
  • As a result, following Brezhnev’s death, Soviet Government became more dominated by Russians at all levels.
    • Created resentment in the non-Russian republics.
      • In Kazakhstan in 1986, major riots where the new Russian leader Kolbin was replacing local leader Kunaev.
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  • Gorbachev’s economic reforms also led to economic decline.
  • Standards of living in the republic also fell or stagnated.
    • Change happened at the same time as Gorbachev was replacing local leaders with Russians.
    • Therefore, Russians were associated with the economic decline.
      • Economic growth was previously associated with the previous generation of local leaders.
      • Gorbachev did not challenge the privileges of the Communist Party officials which made matters worse.
      • As the economic activity declined, the inequalities between the new privileged Russian leaders and the people were blatantly obvious.
  • Gorbachev’s reforms led to growing nationalism because of their failures and associated with new Russian leadership.
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  • Democratisation led to problems that Gorbachev had not foreseen.
  • Most significant was the demands for greater autonomy or independence from the Soviet republics.
  • Glasnost led to the rise of nationalism because:
    • It exposed the ways in which Stalin’s government has persecuted non-Russian people.
    • Allowed Soviet people to see the much better living standards of those living in the West with that compared to the Soviet Union.
    • Significant change, from the mid 1950’s to the mid 1980’s, people in the republics were happy with the living standards.
      • Soviet economy had improved living standards compared to maybe during Lenin’s time.
    • However still poor compared to the West.
    • Glasnost undermined the perception that the Soviet Union had benefited people in the republics.
  • Allowed nationalist groups to publish material that demanded greater autonomy.
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Sinatra Doctrine.

  • Gorbachev’s foreign policy reforms also led to the rise of nationalism.
  • Most significant change in this context ways to redefine the relationship between the Soviet Union and the East European “satellite states”, which it had controlled since the late 1940’s.
  • Under Khrushchev and Brezhnev, these states like East Germany and hungary were only allowed limited freedom.
    • Reforms in Hungary and Czechoslovakia which threatened Soviet interests were crushed by Soviet military.
  • Soviet Union’s relationship with the Eastern European satellite states was summed up in the Brezhnev argued that the Soviet Union had the right to intervene in the affairs of other European socialist countries in order to protect socialism across the whole of Europe.
  • Gorbachev rejected the Brezhnev doctrine in August 1989, renouncing the Soviet Union’s right to intervene in the affairs of other socialist countries.
    • Argued that the different countries would follow their own path to Communism.
  • The new doctrine named the Sinatra Doctrine after Frank Sinatra’s song: “my way” allowed greater freedoms across the Eastern European countries.
  • As a result, during October and November 1989, Communism fell across Eastern Europe.
    • In Poland and Hungary, new leaders won democratic elections; in Czechoslovakia and East Germany there were peaceful revolutions against Communist rule.
    • Destruction of the Berlin Wall, which began on the 9th of November 1989, was a symbol for the fall of Soviet Control over Eastern Europe.
    • Changes went against what Gorbachev had anticipated.
    • Gorbachev allowed them to happen, refusing to use Soviet troops against democracy.
  • Revolution in Eastern Europe had implications for the Soviet republics.
    • Across Eastern Europe countries had regained their independence.
    • Nationalists in the non-Russian republics hoped that they could do the same.
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  • Further aided nationalist by giving them a chance to fight and win elections.
  • Nationalists gained majorities in several of the republic’s parliaments in the elections of 1990.
  • Elections led to the first major nationalist challenge to the Soviet Union since 1921.
  • In March 1990, the newly elected parliament of Lithuania declared Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union.
    • Gorbachev claimed that the declaration was illegal and so imposed economic sanctions.
    • Sanctions were lifted in the Summer, there was no resolution to the issue.
  • Yeltsin took this further by insisting that in May 1990, that laws made by the Russian parliament were legally more superior to the Soviet laws.
  • Yeltsin’s statement gave Russia a significant degree of independence from the Soviet Union.
  • Evidence that nationalism was on the rise in Russia was the re-emergence of the old Russian flag and the double headed eagle, the symbol of the old Russian monarchy.
    • Both of which had been banned by the Soviet Government.
    • Use of these symbols had shown that Yeltsin indicated that nationalists in Russia wanted to break away from the Soviet Union and create Russian Independence.
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The impact of the nationalist resurgence.

Growing nationalist unrest, 1988-90

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Nationalist violence.

  • In 1988, nationalist protests broke out in Karabagh, a region of Azerbaijan.
  • Crisis was caused by Armenian nationalists living in Karabagh who wanted to unite with Armenia.
  • Armenian nationalist organised protests in favour of redrawing the republic’s boundaries in February 1988.
  • Azerbaijani nationalists organised a counter campaign.
  • By the end of the month there were violent riots.
  • Gorbachev intervened by introducing direct rule of Karabagh.
  • However, this pleased neither side.
  • New groups emerged for their different national communities.
  • The situation led to massacres and mass emigration of Armenians.
  • Both sides began to denounce the corruption of the Soviet Union.
  • Soviet Authorities failed to contain the crisis and by the end of 1989, the Communist Party lost full control of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
  • January 1990, Azerbaijani nationalists who controlled the republic, massacred Armenians.
  • A year leader in Central Asia in 1989, Uzbeks massacred the Muslim minority in Meskhetians.
  • Soviet authorities were unable to restore peace, nor were they able to restore peace in the areas, nor compromise.
  • Loss of faith in the Soviet Government which appeared incapable of creating peace or meeting the demands of the nationalists.
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Russian Nationalism.

  • During the late 1980’s, there was a growth of Russian nationalism.
  • Russians had traditionally benefitted from the Soviet Union and many Russians had identified the success and world power which had been achieved under the Communists.
  • Soviet Union and Soviet leaders were blamed for the economic crisis.
  • From 1988, there was a growing demand for change which puts Russians first.
  • Russian nationalism was spurred on by a growing environmental or green movement.
  • Russian citizens were first alerted to the environmental impact of Communism
    • The explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
    • Glasnost led to the government publishing data showing that Russia was very polluted due to agriculture and industry than previously admitted.
  • Green movement began to grow in Armenia in the late 1980’s.
  • In 1987, environmentalists organised mass demonstrations against the Soviet Government’s environmental policies.
  • These demonstrations were unprecedented and indicated how powerful a green movement was in the republics.
  • In 1989, the State Committee for Environmental Protection published a report which acknowledged serious levels of pollution in 16% of the Soviet Union’s land.
  • Report admitted that the Aral Sea was an area of ecological calamity due to pollution from chemical weapons.
  • Industrial pollution affecting water, air quality as well as the extensive use of chemical fertilisers was poisoning some of the Soviet Union’s great lakes.
  • Environmental groups in Russia tended to express their concerns in terms of saving the Russian landscape and saving the Russian environment.
  • Increasing support for green issues undermined the Soviet Union and aided the growth of Russian nationalism.
  • Equally, Russian nationalists began to use some of the arguments that emerged from the green movement.
  • Specifically they argued that Soviet Communism was unnatural and had smothered and poisoned national culture like the chemicals from Soviet factories.
  • Nationalism also flourished among groups established in order to protect national monuments.
  • Protecting national monuments and traditional buildings was part of a bigger movement to protect Russian culture and re-evaluate the past.
  • Indeed , some Russians began to argue that Tsarism had been a better system than Communism
  • As the economic and political crisis deepened a minority of Russians began to back extremist movements which were anti-semitic and nationalistic.
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Baltic independence.

  • The break-up of the Soviet Union started in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
  • States had been independent, in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
    • Conquered by Stalin in 1940.
    • Nationalist wanted a return to independence.
  • By 1988, large popular fronts movements dedicated to gaining independence, were growing in all three Baltic States.
  • Estonia declared itself sovereign.
  • Estonia did not leave the Union but the government claimed the right to revive the old flag and begin educating citizens about the Estonian language.
  • Lithuania declaration of independence in March 1990, came after nationalist victories in the election of a new Lithuanian Supreme Soviet.
  • Criticism of the Tbilisi massacre meant that Gorbachev was only prepared to use force against nationalists in the Baltics in extreme circumstances.
  • Gorbachev imposed economic sanctions than force.
  • Sanctions failed.
  • In January 1991, Soviet Government sent in troops and killed 14 people.
  • Led to outrage across the Soviet Union.
  • Ukrainian miners protested.
  • Yeltsin asked the Russian soldiers to refuse the orders from the Soviet government that would oppress political protest.
  • Yeltsin created a Russian army, to defend Russian Republics from Soviet attack.
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Reforming the Soviet Union.

  • Gorbachev’s response to the growing nationalism was to propose a reformed union.
  • Republics would have greater independence.
  • Gorbachev first proposed a new union treaty in 1990.
  • Negotiations hampered by Gorbachev’s declining power.
  • Nationalist leaders won democratic elections and therefore had authority to act as representatives for their people.
  • Gorbachev was unelected.
  • Gorbachev was unable to deal with nationalist leaders as an equal.
  • In March 1991, following the Lithuanian crisis, Gorbachev proposed a referendum for all the people in the Soviet Union.
    • Hoping to strengthen his position by winning popular support.
    • However 76% of voters backed a reformed union.
    • Six of the republics, including the Baltics refused to participate.
  • Gorbachev reached a provisional agreement in April 1991, called the 9+1 agreement which was designed to establish a federation of independent states with a single president.
    • In June 1991, Russia took another step away from the Soviet Union, by electing Yeltsin with 57% of the votes, beating the Communist candidate, with 16%.
  • Gorbachev was weakened whilst Yeltsin got stronger.
  • Yeltsin got popular legitimacy.
  • Russians made up 60% of the Soviet population.
  • Yeltsin could claim to be the truer representation of the union than Gorbachev.
  • Gorbachev had never won a popular election and therefore lacked a democratic basis for his position.
  • Negotiations for a new treaty continued throughout the spring,
  • In mid-July, a complete draft of the Treaty establishing a Union of Sovereign States had been established by the eight Soviet Republics.
  • Gorbachev announced that the Treaty would be signed on 21st August.
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The impact of the nationalist resurgence.

The Coup, 1991

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The Coup, 1991.

  • Gorbachev’s new Union Treaty did not have the support of Communist hardliners in the Party.
  • Gorbachev’s conservative opponents thought that the new treaty allowed the republics to have too much power.
  • Gorbachev’s decision to go on holiday prior to signing of the new treaty allowed his hardline opponents to overthrow Gorbachev.
  • On the 18th August, eight senior Communists announced the establishment of an Emergency Committee which would replace Gorbachev’s existing government.
  • Emergency Committee’s leader was Gorbachev’s deputy, the head of the KGB.
  • Plot to overthrow Gorbachev had been brewing since the beginning of 1991.
  • Coup’s leaders launched the coup when he was on holiday, hoping that he would be unable to stop them.
  • On August 18th, Gorbachev was announced as resigned from power due to poor health.
  • Gorbachev refused to sign, but Yeltsin called a general strike to resist the coup.
  • Plotters stated that their goal was to break up the Soviet Union and restore law and order.
  • Recognised that Communism was very unpopular and did not take the power in the name of the Communist Party.
  • Yeltsin headed resistance to the coup.
  • Army units were sent to the White House, The Russian Parliament building to arrest him.
  • Soldiers refused to obey orders and Yeltsin demanded Gorbachev’s return to power.
  • Without the support of the army, the Emergency Committee couldn’t continue, the coup collapsed on the 21st August.
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Consequences of the coup.

  • Gorbachev’s position was weakened.
    • Statement following the coup indicated that he was significantly out of touch with majority opinion.
    • On his return to Moscow, Gorbachev declared he had faith in the Communist Party, he kept commitment to renewing the Party.
    • Still wanted the Party to play a role in the future of the Soviet Union.
    • Due to glasnost, the public had lost faith in Gorbachev.
    • Gorbachev’s statements demonstrated he did not represent the aspirations of the majority of the public.
    • While Gorbachev was reinstated as President, his authority was gone.
  • The Party, army and the KGB were discredited as they were behind the Coup.
  • Yeltsin’s authority grew.
    • Emerged as defender of democracy.
    • Actions following the coup won him greater support.
  • The coup led to the end of the Communist Party.
    • On the 23rd August, Yeltsin suspended the Communist Party in Russia,
    • Very little support
  • The coup led to the breakup of the Soviet Union.
    • Fears of another Communist Dictatorship from the Emergency committee led the republics to declare independence by the end of August.
    • Gorbachev was forced to recognise the independence of the Baltic states, the coup also destroyed the treaty “Union of Sovereign states”
    • Gorbachev would hard throughout October and November but failed to revive the treaty.
  • The coup led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS).
    • In December, Yeltsin and the leaders of the Ukraine signed the Minsk Agreement which stated that the Soviet Union had been replaced by the CIS.
    • Eleven/fifteen of the former Soviet republics joined the CIS on the 21st December 1991.
  • The coup led to a series of changes. In essence it finally destroyed the authority of Gorbachev, the Communist Party, and the army.
  • In many ways the coup simply accelerated events that were already eventual.
  • Prior to the coup, Gorbachev’s authority was declining and Yeltsin’s was increasing, there were signs of at least six republics going to leave the Union, authority of the Communist Party declining quickly.
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The end of the Soviet Union.

  • Creation of the CIS destroyed the Soviet Union.
  • In that essence, from 21st December Gorbachev was the president of a state that no longer existed.
  • Gorbachev formally resigned as President.
    • Declared that the Soviet Union would formally cease to exist on the 31st December.
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  • Nationalism clearly played a huge role in the demise of the Soviet Union.
  • From 1985, the Soviet Government’s economic failure, the revelations about the political and environmental crimes of the Soviet Government, and Gorbachev’s refusal to seek a democratic mandate all weakened the Soviet Government.
  • Local leaders were able to present themselves as defenders of natural local traditions against the tyranny of the Union.
  • Moreover, local leaders like Yeltsin had genuine authority.
  • Gorbachev’s attempts to save the larger part of the Union was destroyed by the coup.
  • Coup finally destroyed the authority of the Soviet Union and ended Gorbachev’s attempts to restrain the growing nationalism.
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all the revision notes you made are so useful the exam in about 3 days thank you 

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