The Soviet Breakup Essay, Research Paper
When on December 21, 1991, the Soviet Union ceased to exist and broke into a
fragmented group of independent countries (Byrnes), the world breathed a sigh of
relief. Another horrible communist country had finally seen the light and given way
to the western beliefs of capitalism and democratic government. But was this really the
best thing to happen to an already unstable country? Some say yes, because the socialist
beliefs and oppression are finally gone. Others say no, because even though capitalism
is present, the countries weren t ready for it and have suffered because of it. One thing
is for sure though. The economy of the former U.S.S.R. is on the brink of disaster
with no apparent escape in the near future (Lucas).
The Russian economy has seen a huge decrease in productivity. In the late
1980 s, the per capita income was about $8700 (Byrnes). Compared to the $2,466 of
1997(World in figures), this change is painfully evident. This, some believe, is
ultimately leading to the disintegration of Russia. The government is printing more and
more unbacked money, leading to worthless currency (Lucas). The situation is even
compared to Germany during Hitler s rise. Startling similarities are present.
Hyperinflation is making the currency worthless. Once a great power, the country
feels beaten down, and its weak democracy may soon be crushed by a hybrid of
nationalism and socialism. Is this Russia in the 1990s? Or Germany on the eve of Hitler
taking power? It could be either. (Caryl) This opinion of the impending demise of
Russia is not alone. According to Edward Lucas, 1999 will be the year of Russia s
disintegration. Bill Powell also agrees. With the murder of Galina Starovoitova, one
of Russia s original democrats, he wonders Whether democracy is dead as well.
So, based on these facts, I believe that the former Soviet Union was better off
as the Soviet Union. Unemployment was nonexistent, because every able bodied person
was guaranteed a job. (Byrnes) The socialist government was not a good one on the
perspective of the West, but I do not believe that they were ready for capitalist
What to do about the current situation is uncertain. But one fact remains:
something has to be done. The west cannot stand by and watch one of the former world
powers die while trying to assimilate to our ways. Beyond the moral aspects lie the
more urgent problem of the possibility of the offshoot countries utilizing their nuclear
weapons to gain power. The thought of an imploding Russia, with nuclear weapons on
the loose and perhaps xenophobic nationalist forces vying for power, is a nightmare for
the West. (Marcus) It is also believed that the Russian people, for the most part, are
longing for the totalitarian past. “The desire for security, for law and order, probably
outweighs the desire for freedom.” (Caryl) So if nothing is done, the totalitarian
government, with its characteristic oppression, will probably take over once again. I
believe that outside economic support is the only way to help stabilize the catastrophic
economy and social structure. Only by giving the impoverished people a way to see
capitalism as a good thing will they be willing to accept it over the traditional ways of
Overall, I believe that the Soviet Union was better off as it was before the
breakup. While freedom is a wonderful thing, one must ask: Is it better to starve free
or live a better life with fewer rights? I believe that living is a better choice. But since
the Soviet Union is now free, the West must help to stabilize the countries through
economic support until they can get back on their feet and utilize the new found
freedom. If this is not done, the former Soviet Union will become the Soviet Union
once again, and another vicious cycle of wars and oppression will start again.
Byrnes, Robert F. U.S.S.R Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Microsoft,
Caryl, Christian. Is this Weimar Russia? U.S. News Online. 11/16/98
Online. Internet. Available: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/981116/16weim.htm
Lucas, Edward. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. The World In
1999. The Economist Newspaper Limited, 1998. pgs 60-61.
Marcus, Jonathan. Keeping Russia afloat. BBC 17 August 1998. Online.
Internet. Available: http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/special_report/1998/08/98/
Powell, Bill. Requiem for Reform. Newsweek Dec 7, 1998: 38-41
The World in Figures: Countries The World In 1999. The Economist
Newspaper Limited, 1998. pg. 74.