Russia Essay, Research Paper
Almost immediately after the death of Stalin, many of the representative policies that he had instituted were dismantled. Under the leadership of Nikita Khruschev, political controls were to some degree relaxed, and cultural life experienced a brief period of revival. However, opposition to Khruschev gradually gained strength within the party, and in 1964 he was removed from office. He retired quietly unlike the removal of leaders in times before. Brezhnev became the next leader of the Soviet. He focused on domestic stability and an aggressive foreign policy. The country was in a period of stagnation for roughly a decade. The economy deteriorated and the political climate was not good either. In retrospect, the Brezhnev years are seen as a period of stability and relaxation in international tensions (although he took the USSR into Afghanistan) presided over by an ageing and unimaginative party leadership. After Brezhnev’s death came Andropov followed by Chernenko and finally Gorbachev.
Upon taking office, Mikhail Gorbachev was met with a Soviet Union in despair. The economy was sagging. Industrial and agricultural output was very low. There was essentially no easy way for the country to catch up to other major countries of the world. He wanted to convince major players in the world’s economics that the Soviet Union was no longer a threat. His first effort was to input a set of psychological incentives on the citizens. He encouraged them to do their best, because the entire country would prosper by one person’s good deeds. He tried to improve the working class’s attitude about work. And increase their loyalty. When this system seemed to fail, Gorbachev knew that he must take a better, firmer approach. He introduced his policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness).
His program called for economic, political, and social restructuring. Reactions to the new policies were mixed. Reform policies rocked the foundation of entrenched traditional power bases in the party, economy and society but did not replace them entirely. Newfound freedoms of assembly, speech and religion, the right to strike and multi-candidate elections undermined not only the Soviet Union’s authoritarian structures, but also the familiar sense of order and predictability. Long -suppressed, bitter inter-ethnic, economic, and social grievances led to clashes, strikes, and growing crime rates. Gorbachev introduced policies designed to begin establishing a market economy by encouraging limited private ownership and profitability in Soviet industry and agriculture. But the Communist control system and over-centralization of power and privilege were maintained and new policies produced no economic miracles. Freedoms of expression and of information were significantly expanded; the press and broadcasting were allowed unprecedented candor in their reportage and criticism; and the country’s legacy of Stalinist totalitarian rule was eventually completely repudiated by the government. Gorbachev is faced with a catch-22 problem. The workers will not work harder until they see some results. They need money in their pocket, or new machinery, something. The infrastructure is so deteriorated that even if they work harder, there are no immediate rewards. Gorbachev was sincere about economic reforms, because without them the Soviet Union is facing a period of decline. Glasnost is the price Gorbachev must pay to get Soviet workers behind perestroika. But how do you convince the masses of this, especially when they have been lied to for all of their lives? Around them is hard times, and harder still in view. Attracting and maintaining support and belief in the system was Gorbachev’s main difficulty. That coupled with the fact that the modest reforms encountered serious resistance from party and government bureaucrats who were unwilling to relinquish their control over the nation’s economic life.
In 1990, the Soviet Union itself began to unravel. It’s own republics began to issue declarations of independence. Strikes shattered the claim that the Communist party was representative of worker’s rights. Demonstrations against the government and the party intensified. The economy worsened, food shortages became a problem, and the crime rate began to skyrocket. Gorbachev was caught between a rock and a hard place. He was unable to satisfy the people’s demands for radical reform and the party’s demands for strict control. The following summer, the radical reform movements became strong enough to openly defy the government. Gorbachev was openly criticized in the press. Yeltsin won in the June elections for the presidency. A coup ensued, Gorbachev gave way, and the Soviet Union was in a state of emergency. Once the coup collapsed, Gorbachev was reinstated, only to realize that his position had become completely obsolete. By the end of the year the Soviet Union had been voted out of existence, to be replaced by a Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 25, Gorbachev resigned, and on midnight of December 31, the Soviet flag atop the Kremlin was replaced by the Russian tricolor.
In order for Gorbachev’s plans to succeeded he should have shown quickly that his reforms produced results. In order to maintain support by the people, an improvement in housing and the availability and distribution of consumer goods was a must. He lacked here, and his plans ultimately failed. He tried to decentralize the economy by creating regional economic councils, but he apparently had no intention of moving toward a free market system. He tries often to walk the line. He doesn’t make a move firmly in either direction. Of course his policies will not work, the people do not know how much of this rhetoric should be trusted. He was able to end the cold war and break down barriers between the Soviet Union and other parts of the world. Because of his efforts, Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.