Fall of the USSR 1985-91

What were the successes of the Command economy?
The first 5YP had industrialised Russia; won the Second World War; in the 1950s the Russian economy was the fastest growing in the world
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How much was the Soviet economy growing by in the 1950s?
An annual rate of 7.1%
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How much was the US economy growing by annually during this same time?
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What happened under Khrushchev?
Khruschev promoted growth in agriculture and living standards, but growth rates declined
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What were growth rates at?
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What caused economic problems?
The USSR took part in the space race, having to develop constantly more and more advanced weapons at huge cost
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What happened under Brezhnev?
The decline got worse, 1970s: averaged 2% by 1980: 0.6%
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What was a critical problem with the Soviet economy?
Relied on Stalinist methods; created no motivation for hard work
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What was one success of the communist system?
USA 1970, the richest 10% were 7x richer than poorest 10% in USSR 3x
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What problem did this create, however? What evidence is there of this?
Created no incentive to improve; low labour productivity
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What was the big problem?
Soviet system created a lot of waste, Gosplan rewarded output not quality
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What evidence was there of this?
In the early 1980s Gosplan demanded the production of 400,000 tractors every year; at least 20% were never used due to shortages
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In 1986, what percentage of machinery did Gosplan estimate was never used?
12% of machinery was never used
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What was the issue with modernisation?
Soviet agriculture lacked sophisticated machinery; far less efficient than American farming
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What evidence was there for this?
In the 1960s, 25.4% of Soviet workers employed on farms; just 4.6% in USA; American farms six times more productive
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What other issues affected agriculture?
Waste: grain often rotted in poor storage facilities
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What proportion of the Soviet GDP was spent on defence in 1965 and 1985?
Increased from 12% to 17%
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What was American spending during the same period?
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What was this spent on?
Trying to keep up with the Americans, developing new missiles and planes
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What were the issues with centralisation?
Controlled by gov't administrators
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What did this mean for farming?
Gov't set timetable for planting and harvesting, farmers couldn't take weather into account
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What was Perestroika?
Gorbachev's re-structuring
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What were the three stages of Perestroika?
Rationalisation (1985-86) Reform (87-90) Transformation (March 1990-Aug 1991)
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What was Rationalisation?
A period of partial economic reforms, designed to stimulate economic modernisation
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What was Reform?
When this failed, Gorbachev planned to introduce market forces into the Soviet economy
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What was Transformation?
Gorbachev began to abandon fundamental aspects of the system such as single-party rule
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What was Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign?
Gorbachev reduced alcohol production in state factories by 50%; 55,000 Party members assigned to a task force to stop its illegal production
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What evidence was there that this failed?
In 1987, Soviet citizens over 15 were consuming 16 litres of alcohol every year
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What were Soviet citizens drinking instead?
Samogon; illegally manufactured alcohol
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What was Uskorenie?
Acceleration; an economic initiative designed to end stagnation and get the Soviet economy moving again
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What did Gorbachev predict that Uskorenie would do?
Lead to a 20% increase in industrial production in the next 15 years
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Why did Uskorenie fail?
Decline in the global price of oil; oil fell from $70 a barrel in 1981 to $20 a barrel in 1985
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How did Gorbachev deal with the USSR's lack of money?
Borrowed from Western countries
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What did this lead to?
An increase in gov't debt; from $18.1 billion in 1981 to $27.2 billion in 1988
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What other critical error did Gorbachev make?
He invested in energy production, ignoring his experts who recommended investment in high-tech machines
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What was the Law on Individual Economic Activity?
Made it legal for families and individuals to make money from small-scale work such as private teaching
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What was the Law on State Enterprise?
Devolved power from central gov't to factory managers; allowed to set the prices for their production
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Why did this fail?
Very little power was actually devolved as Gosplan found new ways of maintaining central control
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What did this mean?
Gov't had to pay more for goods
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What was the 1988 Law on Co-Operatives?
Legal to set up large-scale private companies
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What did this lead to?
By 1990, nearly 200,000 private companies had been established
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What was the financial turnover from this?
In the first year, increased from 29.2 million roubles to 1.04 billion
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What happened in 1990?
Gosplan was finally abolished
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What problem with the market emerged?
Markets rely on the price being paid for goods being roughly equivalent to the cost to produce; communists subsidised goods
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Why were free market goods unpopular?
Free market prices were higher than state-subsidised prices
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What problem did the communists now have?
Had abolished the central planning system yet failed to provide a working market alternative.
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What did Gorbachev do in response to economic chaos?
Cut subsidies for basic products; allowing prices to rise
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What did the price of rye bread rise from from Jan. 1990 to Apr. 1990?
0.12 roubles to 0.48 roubles
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What did the price of butter increase from in this same time period?
3.50 roubles to 8.80 roubles
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What were the political consequences?
Gorbachev's approval rating dropped from 52% in Dec. 1989 to 21% in November 1990
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What was the 500 Day Program?
A plan for the transition from a command to market economy, drawn up by Soviet economists Shatalin and Iavlinskii
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What did they propose?
Widespread privatisation and complete marketisation in less than two years
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What happened in 1991?
Allowed private property; Soviet citizens allowed to trade stocks and shares; introduced market forces
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What did this lead to?
Continued fall in production; oil fell by 9% while tractor production fell by 12%
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What were the fundamental pillars of communist government?
Centralised single-party government; regional parties in each of the republics; a disciplined party that obeyed the direction of the Politburo
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Why had people tolerated communist governance?
It led to rising living standards
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What did Soviet citizens think about communism?
They were cynical, which troubled Party idealists
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What did reform risk doing?
Loosening communist party control, as had happened in Hungary and Poland under Khrushchev
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What were Gorbachev's objectives?
Open up debate within the Party, allow intellectuals more freedom of expression, allow the public to have more access to information
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What happened at the 19th Party Congress of 1988?
Gorbachev introduced multi-party elections to the Supreme Soviet
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What were Soviet elections like before this?
Since the 1920s citizens had no choice of candidate, single candidates were appointed by the government
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What were the 1988 reforms like?
1500 of the Congress of People's Deputies would be elected; 750 would be appointed
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What was the major anti-democratic flaw?
Multi-candidate elections didn't mean that people could vote for rival political parties
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Why did Gorbachev bring in this reform?
Gorbachev hoped that the Soviet people would back radical candidates, which would provide a mandate for further reform
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What meant that reforms weakened the Party?
The new Congress of People's Deputies would elect the Supreme Soviet; now at least partly independent of the Party's leadership
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Why was the 1989 election important?
Candidates were forced to engage in public debate in order to win votes; communists won 80% of the seats
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How much of the vote did Yeltsin win?
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What was the Inter-regional Deputies Group (IRDG)?
An opposition group that embraced a radical anti-communist agenda, introduction of private property and greater autonomy for the republics
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Why was the IRDG important?
Organised opposition group within an official position within the Soviet system
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What were some consequences of the election Gorbachev did not intend?
Nationalists used the campaign to call for independence, Yeltsin emerged as a viable opponent
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Why was Yeltsin a threat to the Soviet Union?
He proposed replacing the USSR with a loose confederation of truly independent states, which was very popular
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What evidence was there that anti-communist trends were prevalent in the 1990 election?
In Moscow, a group called Democratic Russia won 85% of the seats
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What dashed Gorbachev's assumptions?
Hoped it would strengthen radicals, instead strengthened anti-Party groups
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Why did democratisation weaken the Party position?
Weakened the Communist government, Gorbachev needed strong central authority to push through reforms, Yeltsin wanted a new constitution
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What was Gorbachev appointed as in March 1990?
President of the Soviet Union
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Why did Gorbachev create the position?
Wanted to increase his power after democratisation, hoped Dem. would give him an independent power base, Gorbachev not able to control the new institution
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Who did Gorbachev decide would appoint the President?
The Congress of People's Deputies, where he had a majority of support; in an election Yeltsin could easily be elected
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What issue did this create for Gorbachev?
He had no democratic legitimacy, unlike Yeltsin
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Why did Eduard Shevardnaze resign?
Gorbachev was given emergency powers for 18 months to deal with nationalist crisis, used this to censor press, argued he'd abandoned the path to democracy
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What was Gorbachev's first priority as Party Secretary?
Replace the senior officials who had been close to Brezhnev
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How did Gorbachev do this?
Appointed young communists, who supported reform, to senior Party positions
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What did Gorbachev initially focus on? What did he become convinced of?
Initially, Gorbachev only focused on economic reform. Became convinced that political reform was an essential part of reviving the economy
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What was Gorbachev also convinced of?
Reliable economic information was almost impossible to obtain because of official manipulation of economic data
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What did Gorbachev hope his reforms would do?
Limit the power of traditionalists, speed up reform: Openness would help economic recovery by ending the distortion of economic information
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Why did Gorbachev talk about Glasnost (openness)?
He was unpopular within the Party, hoped to bring writers and intellectuals on side
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What happened at the 27th Party Congress?
Gorbachev implemented a new program, calling for democracy; he linked this to Glasnost
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Why did Gorbachev liberalise the media?
To help bring intellectuals, natural opponents of Party hardliners, on side
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Who was Aleksandr Yakovlev and what did he do?
Head of Soviet media; appointed by Gorbachev; appointed radical editors to head the Moskovie Novosti (Moscow News) and Ogonek
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What was Repentance and what was its significance?
The film was given approval to be aired in the Soviet Union; it showcased Stalin's terror
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What was the significance of Andrei Sakharov being invited back?
Showed the liberalisation of the Soviet regime
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What did Aleksandr Tsipko do?
Publicly criticised Marx and Lenin; attacking the foundations of Soviet communism
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What happened at the 19th Party Congress?
Senior officials admitted to the scale of the problems facing the Soviet Union
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What did this do?
It shook faith in communist rule
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What were the effects of Glasnost?
Gorbachev did not escape criticism, he was accused of reforming too slowly or too little; some now questioned the foundations of the Soviet system; destabilised the system
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(Nationalism) What was the constitution vs reality of the national situation?
Theoretically, each of the republics was an independent nation, each had its own Supreme Soviet, however in reality the Soviet Communist Party governed the whole USSR
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What issue did this create?
The Soviet government was dominated by Slavs, the majority of whom were Russian
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How had nationalism been kept at bay?
Political and economic opportunities; local government opened positions after Stalin's purges
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Why were people in the republics prompted to support communism?
They owed their positions and wealth to the communists
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What remained dominated by ethnic Russians?
Secret police and army dominated by Russians; therefore the Soviet government were always ready to deal with unrest through terror or military action
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By 1975, what proportion of people in prison or subjected to repressive psychiatry were nationalists?
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What was Soviet nationalism?
Urged citizens of the republics to put Soviet regime above local nationalism
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Why did the Soviet government argue that this model of nationalism was superior?
It was based on ethnic equality, rather than division and superiority
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Why was Soviet nationalism unpopular?
It was based on the assumption of the superiority of Russian culture and values
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What did Gorbachev misunderstand?
Soviet nationalism, thought that people had genuinely renounced their own national identity in favour of a Soviet one
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How did economic benefits manage to reduce the impact of nationalism?
Economic planners targeted investment at the poorer regions of Russia, which tended to be the non-Russian republics
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What did this lead to?
Lives in Central Asia were urbanised and modernised, educational investment higher in non-Russian republics
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Why did this collapse?
These benefits would only be accessible for as long as the economy was growing, economic decline threatened to reduce the standard of living
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What were some examples of increased nationalism under Brezhnev?
Each of the republics had the right to introduced education in their own language, folk art and museums dedicated to culture were allowed in each of the republics
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How did this change after Brezhnev?
Both Andropov and Gorbachev argued that effective government was more important than representative government
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What did this lead to?
Replaced existing leaders in the non-Russian republics with Russians
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What was evidence of Russian domination?
Gorbachev's Politburo only had one non-Russian
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What did the lack of ethnic diversity create?
Resentment in the non-Russian republics
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What evidence is there for this?
In Kazakhstan in 1986, there were riots when the new Russian leader replaced local Kazakh leader Dinmukhammed Kunaev
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What problems did Acceleration cause?
Standard of living in the republics either declined or stagnated, happened at the time Gorbachev was replacing local leaders with Russians
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Why did this make matters worse?
As the economy declined, the inequality between the privileged Russian rulers and the ruled became obvious, led to resentment
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What issues did Glasnost create?
Exposed the ways that Stalin's government had persecuted non-Russian people; showed the better living standards in the West; allowed nationalist groups to publish material demanding greater autonomy
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What was the Sinatra Doctrine?
Allowed nations in Eastern Europe to make their own way to communism, the Soviet Union should not interfere with the affairs of Eastern European countries
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How did this contrast to the Brezhnev Doctrine?
Under Brezhnev, Soviet Union had the right to intervene in the affairs of Eastern Europe to protect socialism
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What did this lead to?
The fall of communism across Eastern Europe, in Poland and Hungary new leaders won democratic elections; Czechoslovakia and East Germany saw peaceful revolutions
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When did the destruction of the Berlin Wall begin?
9 November 1989
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Why did this happen?
In spite of the fact that the backlash went far beyond what Gorbachev expected, he still refused to use Soviet troops to intervene
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How did democratisation aid the nationalist cause?
Nationalists fought elections and gained significant headway; in March 1990 the newly elected Lithuanian Parliament declared independence from the USSR
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What did Yeltsin do in May 1990 that worsened the situation?
Declared that laws made in the Russian Parliament were superior to Soviet laws, giving Russia a significant degree of independence from the USSR
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What further evidence was there that nationalism was on the rise in Russia?
Re-emergence of the old flag and the double headed eagle - the symbol of the old Russian monarchy
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What happened in Karabagh, Azerbaijan?
Armenian nationalists organised protests in favour of redrawing the republic's boundaries, Azerbaijani nationalists organised a counter campaign; violence
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How did the situation escalate?
By 1990, Azerbaijani nationalists massacred Armenians, mass Azerbaijani rallies called for independence
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What did this, coupled with Uzbek massacre of Meshketians lead to?
A loss of faith in Soviet government which appeared incapable of either meeting nationalist demands or ensuring peace
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What was the Tbilisi Massacre?
Georgian nationalists protested, Soviet troops attempted to restore order by force, killed 19 Georgian protestors
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What was Tbilisi Syndrome and what was its significance?
Massacre led to concern among nationalists that the USSR was willing to use force, gov't refused to take responsibility and blamed military leaders, as such commanders became unwilling to use force
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What did this lead to?
Weakened the government's position, could no longer rely on military support
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What impact did the green movement have?
The 1986 Chernobyl incident raised concerns about environmental impact of USSR, glasnost led to this being revealed, in 1987 environmentalists organised mass demonstrations
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What environmental impacts were affecting the Soviet Union?
Serious levels of pollution affected 16% of the USSR's land
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How did green advocacy link to nationalism?
Green groups emphasised preserving Russia's landscape
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What else linked to nationalism?
Movements to preserve Russian national monuments, these became points of discussion about Tsarism and communism
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What happened in Lithuania?
Large popular fronts emerged in 1988, Lithuania declared independence in 1990 which Gorbachev held was illegal yet was unwilling to use force because of Tbilisi Massacre
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How did Gorbachev ultimately respond in 1991?
Initially attempted to impose sanctions, when these failed sent in troops, Soviet forces killed 14 people at TV headquarters
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How did people react to this?
Outrage; Yeltsin asked Soviet soldiers to disobey orders that would suppress protest; Yeltsin started to form a Russian army
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How did Gorbachev propose the resolution of the national issue?
Proposed a reformed union, where the republics had greater independence
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What created issues with this?
Nationalist leaders had democratic legitimacy, Gorbachev didn't
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What did Gorbachev propose in March 1991?
A referendum of all people in the Soviet Union, hoping to win support for a loosely federated union with a single leader, 76% of people in the republics voted for this
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What was the solution referred to?
The 9+1 Agreement
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In June 1991, what happened?
Yeltsin won 57% of the vote in the Russian election, beating the communist candidate who gained only 16%
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What problem did this pose for Gorbi?
Again, Yeltsin could claim to be a truer representation of Russians, 60% of the USSR, than Gorbachev
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In mid-July what was completed?
A treaty to establish a Union of Sovereign States
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What was the motivation for the coup?
Hardliners did not agree with this solution
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What happened on 18 August 1991?
Eight senior communists announced the establishment of an Emergency Committee that would replace Gorbachev's government
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Who led the Emergency Committee?
Gorbachev's head of the KGB
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How did Yeltsin respond?
Called for a general strike to resist the coup, headed resistance to the coup, Army units were sent to the White House (home of Russia's President) to arrest him
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What did the plotters state their goal was?
To stop the break-up of the USSR and restore law and order; recognised communism deeply unpopular so did not take power in the name of the Communist Party
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Why did the coup fail?
Soldiers refused to obey orders to arrest Yeltsin, without the support of the Army the coup collapsed
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What was the impact of the coup on Gorbachev?
His position within the Party was weakened, Gorbachev made a mistake in emphasising his allegiance to the Party, due to Glasnost public had lost faith in the party
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What did this lead to?
Weakened the Party position as it showed that senior communists wanted to reverse democratisation, they went against the will of the Russian people
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What other impact on the Party did this have?
The Party, Army and KGB were discredited as they were behind the coup
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How did Yeltsin benefit?
Emerged as a defender of democracy, very popular with the Russian people
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What happened to the Communist Party afterwards?
On 23 August, Yeltsin suspended the Communist Party in Russia; little opposition, Yeltsin banned the Communist Party on 6 December
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What happened in the nations?
Feared that an Emergency Committee would re-establish communist dictatorship, declared independence; Gorbachev forced to recognise their independence, Union of Sovereign States became unrealistic
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What was the CIS? (Commonwealth of Independent States)
Formed in December, Minsk Agreement stated that Soviet Union had been replaced by Commonwealth of Independent States
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How many states joined?
11 of the 15 in December 1991
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How many states joined?
11 of the 15 in December 1991
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When did Gorbachev resign as President of the USSR?
Four days after the creation of the CIS, announced that the USSR would formally cease to exist on 31 December
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How did Perestroika damage the Soviet Union?
Rationalisation led to a decline in economic growth, making economic conditions worse and undermining faith in the Party
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How did Glasnost damage the Soviet Union?
Exposed the crimes of previous Soviet governments, this undermined not only faith in the Party but in the ideology of socialism
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How did democratisation damage the Soviet Union?
Allowed alternative candidates to stand, weakened Party control over patronage
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How did transformation damage the Soviet Union?
Gorbachev abandoned the essential features of Soviet communism
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In what way did Gorbachev play an important role in the collapse of the Communist Party?
In 1985, there was no need for reform. USSR declining, yet not in crisis. Andropov had removed dissidents, G reformed anyway
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How did the situation continually weaken?
Gorbachev was willing to embrace more radical reforms as time went on, and was prepared to abandon the very features that held the USSR together
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What was "New Thinking" and "New Language"?
Represented Gorbachev's attempts to introduce a new age of Soviet politics
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Why did Gorbachev embrace the term Perestroika rather than reform?
Reform was associated with Khrushchev's failings, communists were suspicious of reform, Perestroika was a neutral word for scientific re-structuring
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What did Gorbachev do that showed his reform?
Introduced words that had formerly only been used critically. For instance, the word pluralism was associated with the weaknesses of Western democracy, yet Gorbachev embraced "socialist reform."
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What were other examples of Gorbachev's "New Thinking"?
Glasnost (Openness), Perestroika (Re-structuring), Uskorenie (Acceleration), Demokratizatsiya (Democratisation)
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What did Gorbachev's New Thinking lead to?
Allowed radicals in the Party, intellectuals and members of the public to advocate radical alternatives to communism such as freedom of speech + free market economies
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How had Western values been treated in the USSR before?
Viewed as inferior to Soviet values
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What Western values did Gorbachev embrace?
Human rights, pluralism, and non-violence as a means of holding the USSR together
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What showed Gorbachev embracing human rights?
He allowed 129 dissidents to go overseas to be reunited with their spouses and stopped jamming foreign radio
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What showed Gorbachev embracing pluralism?
His allowing of Soviet citizens to form their own political groups and stand for election
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What did Gorbi do in March 1990?
Revoked Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, removing the Communist Party's senior position
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What did Gorbachev say at the 29th Party Congress?
"A civil society of free people is replacing the Stalinist model of socialism."
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How did commitment to Western values weaken the Party?
Weakened the power and position of the Party
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What mistakes did Gorbachev make?
Believed that people had more faith in communism than they did, having embraced democracy he refused to stand for election, inconsistent in his policy
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What did these fundamentally do?
They undermined his position
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Name two proposed reasons why reform had such different results in the USSR than China?
China decisively embraced market reform more quickly compared to Gorbachev's reforms, in China economic liberalisation was not coupled with political openness
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How had Yeltsin become a popular radical?
Denounced the privileges of Party leaders, advocated for a renewed focus on equality and advocated reform
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How did Yeltsin win support with the people and the Party?
Called for multi-candidate elections which appealed to lower-ranking officials in the Communist Party, while his attacks on Party privilege won support with the people
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In the 1989 Soviet election how did Yeltsin do?
Won a massive victory in Moscow, with 89% of the vote
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Why was Yeltsin important?
He was the Leader of the Inter-Regional Deputies Group, which functioned like an opposition political party
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What happened in May 1990?
Gorbachev became chair of the Russian Congress of People's Deputies, the new Parliament
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What did this do later?
Declared Russia sovereign and began building an independent Russian army, Russia contained 75% of the Soviet Union
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Why was Yeltsin popular?
He was seen as being one of the people, whereas Gorbachev was out of touch. Yeltsin advocated clearly for market reform
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What evidence was there that the Communist Party wasn't popular?
During 1990 Party members dropped from 19.2 million members to 16.5 million members
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What was Yeltsin's relationship with nationalism?
Yeltsin encouraged non-Russian republics to declare independence, his emphasis on Russia was largely to weaken Gorbachev whose power base was the USSR
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What was the significance of Yeltsin being elected Russian president?
Gave him the right to speak on the behalf of Russia, rivalled Gorbachev
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What conflicts divided Gorbachev's Communist Party?
Divisions between senior communists and mid-ranking communists, Yeltsin represented lower-ranking communists
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What evidence was there that Yeltsin represented the lower officials?
In Yeltsin's new government, almost 70% held mid-ranking positions in Gorbachev's old government
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How did this lead to Yeltsin contributing to the fall of the USSR?
These middle-ranking communists supported the destruction of the Union to enhance their own power
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How did the coup change Yeltsin's perspective?
Yeltsin aimed to get Russian independence through small scale reforms, now Yeltsin became more willing to pursue radical reform
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How was Yeltsin's response to the coup successful?
Publicly denounced the coup as unconstitutional; while encouraging Gorbachev's return to power he also encouraged popular uprisings against the Communist Party
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What did Yeltsin do against the Communist Party during the coup?
Ordered the Party's suspension, closed Pravda
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When did Yeltsin begin publicly advocating the end of the Union?
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What is the last theory on why Yeltsin was important?
Could have preserved the USSR, yet chose not to
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Why did Yeltsin choose to abandon Union?
Partly to trump Gorbachev, partly because democratisation and economic reform would be easier in Russia alone
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When did Yeltsin formally advocate this?
When Ukraine voted for independence and alongside Belorussia agreed to support the CIS.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2


How much was the Soviet economy growing by in the 1950s?


An annual rate of 7.1%

Card 3


How much was the US economy growing by annually during this same time?


Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4


What happened under Khrushchev?


Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5


What were growth rates at?


Preview of the front of card 5
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