Soviet Union + USA between 1980 and 1990

  • Created by: amber4661
  • Created on: 10-01-18 17:14

Why was Soviet leadership so ineffective? Andropov

Brezhev's sucessor was Yuri Androprov -  "Andropov served in the post for only 15 months, from November 1982 until his own death in February 1984"* " Andropov attempted to improve the economy by raising management effectiveness without changing the principles of socialist economy."

  • "In foreign policy, the war continued in Afghanistan, although Andropov - who felt the invasion was a mistake - did half-heartedly explore options for a negotiated withdrawal. Andropov's rule was also marked by deterioration of relations with the United States. U.S. plans to deploy Pershing missiles in Western Europe in response to the Soviet **-20 missiles were contentious." 
  • "March 1983, during Andropov's reign as General Secretary, U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire". The same month, on 23 March, Reagan announced the Strategic Defense Initiative."
  • Once in office, Andropov focused his attempts for reform on the Soviet administration and culture and took a dim view of corruption; even Brezhnev's son-in-law went to prison. During the 15 months he held office, he fired 15 ministers and dozens of deputy ministers and regional officials; some bureaucrats convicted of corruption were executed by firing squads. New economic changes, which freed certain industrial or regionally based plant managers from restrictive central planners, led to a 4% growth in the economy in 1982.
  • In response to increased alcoholism in the Soviet Union, especially amongst state officials, Andropov introduced a new type of vodka with a lower alcohol content, which came to be known as Andropovka. He also proved intolerant of dissidents and tightened up Soviet borders to prevent 'unwanted' persons from entering the country. While in office, Andropov's health declined rapidly, and he died in February 1984 of kidney failure.


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Why Soviet leadership was so ineffective? - Cherne

  • Soon after Andropov's death, Konstantin Chernenko, his greatest rival, was elected General Secretary.
  • As a teenager, he was a member of the Communist Youth League, a training ground for those aspiring to positions in the Communist Party.
  • A skilled propagandist, Chernenko was eventually appointed to the important Novoselovo District Komsomol committee, where he led the propaganda and agitation department.
  • In 1950, Chernenko become the head of the communist party in Moldova; by 1971 he was a full member of the Politburo.
  • He was a great favorite of Brezhnev and published numerous papers on the principles of communism and social issues facing the Soviet Union.
  • When Chernenko became General Secretary in 1984, he was already in poor health, as evidenced by his appearance and behavior at Andropov's funeral.
  • A conservative who represented the desire of the majority of the Politburo to avoid reform. 
  • Chernenko was thus unable to have an impact on policy. 
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Why did this make Soviet Union weak politically?

Foreign policy - one example of this was the shooting of a Korean Airliner KAL 007 by soviet fighters in 1983 - the incident cost the lives of all 269 passengers. This caused outrage in the west. The aircraft had strayed into soviet airspace - this, was assumed to be a spy plane and shot down. 

  • Gromyko ignored questions from the west.
  • Soviet military reiterated that the standard line of any unidentified craft would be treated in exactly the same procedure. 

Old age and illness had rendered the soviet union unable to act, meaning it was unable to respond in a sensible manner. The 1970's had shown the best way of cooperation was through face-to-face meetings, the condition of Androprov made this very difficult, especially during the the KAL 007 affair. Incident marked a low point in the Second Cold War. 

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Who was Gorbachev?


•             Born March 1931

             General Secretary of the Party in March 1985, aged 54, seen as young: last two leaders                  68+ at succession.

             Graduate of Moscow State Uni, Law degree; agriculture expert.

             Instituted major reforms of the economy, politics, foreign policy and press/ censorship.

             In the first year, led wave of new reformers: 70% of ministers changed; 50% of leaders in                Soviet Republics; 60% of the Central Committee

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Why was leadership ineffective?

The election of Reagan as American president in 1980 resulted in foreign policy changes. Yet, Soviet policies grinded to a halt in the early 1980's. No initiative was possible from the Soviet leadership because of the nature of the leaders in this period. 

A succession of old leaders led to instable politics, classed as gerontocracy*, resulted in iertia in decision-making. 

gerontocracy - gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population.


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Gorbachev - early reform

Early reform.

  • Anti-alcohol campaign, known as 'Comrade orange juice'
    • Uskorenie (acceleration)
    • Quality over quantity
    • More control of production process at ground level/decentralisation
    • Quality assurance
  • Glasnost (openness) / social
    • More honest media
    • Highlighted the problems of the system
    • Protection of individual rights 
    • Stronger re-evaluation of Stalinist past, e.g rehabilitation of Bukharin and Tukhachevsky
    • Admits responsibility of Katyn massacre in 1990
    • Hope people get behind reforms
  • Impact - loss of control - open expression led to demand that were unwilling to be met
    • HAd to balance radicals vs. moderates vs. conservatives 
    • Resistance to reform and radicals seeking more reform. 
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Glasnost - bad impact - example.

Chernobyl Disaster, 26th April 1986:

  • Caused by Human error 
  • Undermined Glasnot (openness)
  • Issues downplayed and covered up, highlighted tensions in system
  • Led to focus on environmental issues
  • Freedom of press led to social issues being covered in news e.g radiation poisoning, alcoholism and social problems
  • Poor safety efforts
    • Contrary to glasnost - nothing said until 2 days later and sweden had detected nuclear dust their way - forced to annouce disaster
    • New spirit of glasnot - newspapers fought for more information to be released and party member refused to acknowledge - tension
    • Glasnost would not save the system 
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Perestroikia - (restructuring)/political

Perestroika: In economic policy adopted in the former Soviet Union; intended to increase automation and labor efficiency but it led eventually to the end of central planning in the Russian economy.

  • Law on State Enterprise, July 1987 - more factory bosses power - decentralisation problems - factory bosses didnt know didn't know what to do or how to improve their goods. Businesses went bust or in debt - never had to do any of these jobs. 
  • Shift from reform to fundamental transformation of the system
  • Debates televised 
  • Used to circumvent communist party attempts to undermine reform
    • 1990 Election for Republic Legislatures and new Presidencies in 1991
    • Yeltin becomes president of Russia
    • Gorbachev becomes President of USSR
  • Led to focus on local issues = rise of nationalismArtical 6 dissolved communist power monopoly = new political parties 
    • Creates more resistance, 1981 coup
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New thinking/foreign policy

New thinking/foreign policy. 

  • Geneva summit 1985; Reykjavik 1986; Washington 1987; Moscow 1988
  • Soviet **-20s and US Cruise and Pershing Missiles outlawed in 1987 – SDI remains major sticking point
  • Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
  • Repudiation of Brezhnev Doctrine
  • Revolutions in Eastern Europe, loss of Eastern Europe
    • Poland- Solidarity union -Talks in February 1989 =New elections
    • Romania -Ceausescu executed
  •  Discontent at home – KGB
  • 31 July 1990 – START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) with George H. W. Bush
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New union treaty?

  • Calls to reform
  • 500 days Plan - predicted USSR would get into capitalism in 500 days. Ambitious to abandon socialism 
  • Decentralisation of power - predictable backlash,
  • Gorbachev backs away - facing issues with the KGB. Lost the respect of the radical reformers
  • Relying more upon right
  • Keeping military on side - annoyed about losing east - reforms but not to the extent the reformers wanted - all he wanted was to keep the union together. 
  • Little good will between Yelstin and Gorbachev
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