Why USSR dissolved?

Why USSR dissolved? from the coldwar museum.com

In Dec of 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated into fifteen separate countries. Its collapse was by the west as a victory for freedom, a triumph of democracy over totalitarianism, and evidence of superiority of capitalism over socialism. It was the end of the Cold War.

After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the newly formed government developed a philosophy of socialism with the eventual and gradual transition to Communism. The state which the Bolsheviks created was intended to overcome national differences. It was to create one monolithic state based on a centralized economical and political system. This state, which was built on a Communist ideology, was eventually transformed into a totalitarian state, in which the Communist leadership had complete control over the country.

This project of creating a unified, centralized socialist state proved problematic for several reasons. 1) the Soviets underestimated the degree to which the non-Russian ethnic groups in the country would resist assimilation into a Russianized State.2) their economic planning failed to meet the needs of the State, which was caught up in a vicious arms race with the US. This led to a gradual economic decline. 3) Finally, the ideology of Communism, which the Soviet Government worked to instill in the hearts and minds of its population, never took firm root, and eventually lost whatever influence it had originally carried.

“A new moral atmosphere is taking shape in the country,” Gorbachev told the Central Committee at the January 1987 meeting where he declared glasnost — openness — and democratization to be the foundation of his perestroika, or restructuring, of Soviet society. “A reappraisal of values and their creative rethinking is under way.” Later, recalling his feeling that “we couldn’t go on like that any longer, and we had to change life radically, break away from the past malpractices,” he called it his “moral position.”

Indeed, the Soviet Union in 1985 possessed much of the same natural and human resources that it had 10 years before. Certainly, the standard of living was much lower than in most of Eastern Europe, let alone the West. Shortages, food rationing, long lines in stores, and acute poverty were endemic. But the Soviet Union had known far greater calamities and coped without sacrificing an iota of the state’s grip on society and economy, much less surrendering it.

The same lackadaisical but hardly catastrophic pattern continued through 1989. Budget deficits, which since the French Revolution have been considered among the prominent portents of a coming revolutionary crisis

oil was more expensive in the world markets in 1985 than in 1972, and only one-third lower than throughout the 1970s. And at the same time, Soviet incomes increased more than 2 percent in 1985, and inflation-adjusted wages continued to rise in the next five years through 1990 at an average of over 7 percent.

the previous decade was correctly judged to amount “to the realization of all major Soviet military and diplomatic desiderata,” as American historian and diplomat Stephen Sestanovich has written. Of course, Afghanistan increasingly looked like a long war, but for a 5-million-strong Soviet military force the losses there were negligible. Indeed, though the enormous financial burden of maintaining an empire was to become a major issue in the post-1987 debates, the cost of the Afghan war itself was hardly crushing: Estimated at $4 billion to $5 billion in 1985, it was an insignificant portion of the Soviet GDP.

Most of what they said publicly in the early days of perestroika now seems no more than an expression of their anguish over the spiritual decline and corrosive effects of the Stalinist past.

dy at the end of 1989, the first representative national public opinion survey found overwhelming support for competitive elections and the legalization of parties other than the Soviet Communist Party — after four generations under a one-party dictatorship and with independent parties still illegal. By mid-1990, more than half those surveyed in a Russian region agreed that “a healthy economy” was more likely if “the government allows individuals to do as they wish.” Six months later, an all-Russia poll found 56 percent supporting a rapid or gradual transition to a market economy. Another year passed, and the share of the pro-market respondents increased to 64 percent.

DELVING INTO THE causes of the French Revolution, de Tocqueville famously noted that regimes overthrown in revolutions tend to be less repressive than the ones preceding them. Why? Because, de Tocqueville surmised, though people “may suffer less,” their “sensibility is exacerbated.”

As usual, Tocqueville was onto something hugely important. From the Founding Fathers to the Jacobins and Bolsheviks, revolutionaries have fought under essentially the same banner: advancement of human dignity. It is in the search for dignity through liberty and citizenship that glasnost’s subversive sensibility lives —

“The Almighty provided us with such a powerful sense of dignity that we cannot tolerate the denial of our inalienable rights and freedoms, no matter what real or supposed benefits are provided by ‘stable’ authoritarian regimes,” the president of Kyrgyzstan,Roza Otunbayeva, wrote this March. “It is the magic of people, young and old, men and women of different religions and political beliefs, who come together in city squares and announce that enough is enough.”

The Russian moral renaissance was thwarted by the atomization and mistrust bred by 70 years of totalitarianism. And though Gorbachev and Yeltsin dismantled an empire, the legacy of imperial thinking for millions of Russians has since made them receptive to neo-authoritarian Putinism, with its propaganda leitmotifs of “hostile encirclement” and “Russia rising off its knees.” Moreover, the enormous national tragedy (and national guilt) of Stalinism has never been fully explored and atoned for, corrupting the entire moral enterprise, just as the glasnost troubadours so passionately warned.

By the time of 1985 rise to power of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, the country was in a situation of severe stagnation, with deep economic and political problems which sorely needed to be addressed and overcome. Gorbachev introduced a two-tiered policy of reform. One was freedom of speech. Another was economic reform known as perestroika or rebuilding. What he did not expect was the unleashing emotions and political feelings that had been pent up for decades, which proved to be extremely powerful when brought out into the open. The Soviet people consequently used their newly allotted freedom of speech to criticize Gorbachev for his failure to improve the economy.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union began on the peripheries, in the non-Russian areas. The first region to produce mass, organized dissent was the Baltic region, where, in 1987, the government of Estonia demanded autonomy. This move was later followed by similar moves in Lithuania and Latvia, the other two Baltic republics.

After the initiative from Estonia, similar movements sprang up all over the former Soviet Union. In the South of the Soviet Union, a movement developed inside the Armenian-populated autonomous region in the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Gorbachev government refused to allow the population to secede, and the situation developed into a violent territorial dispute, eventually degenerating into an all-out war which continues unabated until the present day.

The nationalist movement emerged in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Central Asian republics. On August 19 of 1991, a group of hard-line Communists organized a coup d’etat. They kidnapped Gorbachev, and then they announced on state television that Gorbachev was very ill and would no longer be able to govern. However, the coup d’etat failed as they realized that without the cooperation of the military, they did not have the power to overcome the entire population of the country.

It was not all failure thought. Only a few months later, the Soviet Union completely collapsed. Both the government and the people realized that there was no way to turn back the clock. The massive demonstrations of the August days had demonstrated that the population would accept nothing less than democracy. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned. A new entity was formed. It was called the “Commonwealth of Independent Republics”, and was composed of most of the independent countries of the former Soviet Union. The member countries had complete political independence, but they were just linked to other Commonwealth countries by economic, and in some cases by military ties.

Now it was time for them to develop their economies, reorganize their political systems, and in many cases, settle bitter territorial disputes.

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


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