- Relatively young, mid-50s, had been a party secretary in Stavropol, gave him a chance to impress the higher ups when they came to visit their dachas. The very fact that the party was willing to turn to Gorbachev indicated the seriousness which they viewed the problems. He was the candidate for leadership that most clearly percieved the need for change. Supported by Andropov, worth remembering that the KGB was probably the least corrupt element of the government under Brezhnev. Gorbachev saw a Soviet Union that was awash in trouble. Facing 3 principle problems:
1. Malaise - mistrust of the cp after the years of Brezhnev and khrushchev led to a general feeling of cynicism within the soceity; belief was that their leadership must be lying even when it was telling the truth.
- Problems of alcoholism
2. Economic Problems - the economy had declined in absolute terms since the 1970s. It was an overly bureaucratized system which was based on yearly plans which were little better than fiction. Country was producing goods with limited incentives for increasing production, therefore you had tremendous shortages and lines for consumer goods. Even if you could offer economic incentives, what was the point if there was nothing to spend the extra roubles on.
3. Defense and External Commitments -
(I) Extended Empire
Sinking billions of dollars into an empire which was providing limited returns. Chess game with the US had led the Soviets to support a number of regimes in the third world which did little for the material well being of the Soviet systems - Africa, Cuba, Nicaragua, Vietnam, N.Korea.
Also, by the time that Gorbachev took office the war in Afghanistan was becoming their Vietnam. Invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. The Soviets had been involved in Afghanistan for more than 25 years prior to this time - historic area of Russian interest. The Soviets had supported the non-Marxist Prince Mohammed Daud when he set up a constitutional monarcyh in 1953 and then twenty years later when he launched a coup against the king and made himself President. The Soviets had built roads in Afghanistan in the 1960s and supported the marxist People’s Democratic Party in 1978 when they overthrew Daud. However, this government as well as the events that were taking place in Iran led to a cycle of violence that escalated through 1979. Reaction of the Islamic people to the Marxist oriented government. At one point in August of 1979, thirty Russian military advisors were skinned alive near the Muslim shrine of Kandahar. The Soviets were asked by the leader Amin to send troops in, eventually they sent in 80,000, members of the Red Army, while initially many of these troops were from Central Asia, they proved to be reluctant to fight against fellow muslims and eventually were replaced by troops of European extraction.
Trotsky - “The putrescent tissue of Islam, will vaish at the first puff”.
Anyway, by the time of Gorbachev, Afghanistan was becoming a brutal war of attrition, the Afghan army proved to be unreliable and the Soviet troops controlled the cities but were unable to pacify the countryside. Despite using increasing force and measures which, by any standards, must be considered to be brutal, they were unable to finish off the mujahidin. Led to serious problems among the nationalities - esp the muslim republics and a general resentment toward the war.
- buzkashi “dragging the goat”
(II) Eastern Europe
By the time that Gorbachev took office the events in Poland were beginning to undermine the confidence that the Soviet had in their tradtional relations with Eastern Europe. Poland had always been the most difficult country in EE to govern and had been the least receptive to communism. Most of the land was private, the church was tolerated, and the workers were prone to rebellion. Ramifications of the reforms of 1956 discussed earlier.
By the 1970s, the country had become heavily indebted due to its borrowing to import capital intensive technology from the West to fuel its industry. It was also providing massive subsidies to the farmers for their crops to ensure that food prices were not intolerable for the workers in the cities. Yet, the increasing debt meant that the government could no longer afford the subsidies to the farmers. Three attempts were made to raise food prices - 1970, 1976, and 1980. All led to demonstrations and strikes on the part of the workers to protest the increase in the food prices. With respect to the first two demonstrations, the government would first meet the demands of the workers and then move in to arrest the leaders. After the second set of demonstrations in 1976, a group of Polish intellectuals led by Jacek Kuron formed a Worker’s Defense Committee (KOR), which was intended to work for the release of the imprisoned workers and support their families. Union of the workers and the intellectuals so feared by the Soviets - for obvious reasons relating to Marxism.
Anyway, in 1980, following another rise in food prices, the workers at the Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk went on strike - led by an electrician named Lech Walesa. This soon spread throughout the country and the aims of the strike were broadened to include such demands as: freedom to organize independent trade unions with the right to strike, and the right of all groups to express their views publicly in the mass media. Wide base of the movement forced the party to accede to these demands. The new union - Solidarity - soon had a membership of 9 million people.
Result was a period of mistrust between the party and solidarity with neither side being willing to acknowledge that the other was bargaining in good faith. Solidarity was more than a trade union - it became an opposition to the rule by the party. In 1981, General Jaruzelski (Secretary of the Polish CP) declared martial law and arrested the leaders of KOR and isolated Walesa. Poland slipped into an 8 year period of morass. Army occupation. Society unable to reach any sort of economic growth and the emergence of barely concealed hostility toward the party.
- Joke about Jarulzelski emerged in mid 1980s(1956, 1970, 1980, 1987) “There were riots and strikes resulting from the justifiable anger of the working classes”.
- Drain of the Bloc
(III) Inner Empire
- Problems and Demographics in Central Asia and the general difficulties in ruling the republics, where communism came to be seen as simply an updated term for Russian imperialism.
- Costs of defense
B. Changes Introduced By Gorbachev
The changes that Gorbachev enacted were intended to reform the system, not to replace it. He did not desire to preside over the demise of the Soviet System, rather, he saw this as a necessary measure for the system to continue to operate. The system could not continue in its present course - though some might argue that this was better than the chaos of change. Initially, the reforms that were proposed by Gorbachev were rather cautious in nature. He followed Andropov’s ideas of tighetening discipline as a means of increasing productivity. He established an official quality control inspectorate to attempt to stem the flow of shoddy goods. He also enacted campaigns against corruption and sought to deal with the alcohol problems by restricting the sales of Vodka and banning its consumption at official events.
- Contradiction with Russian culture and the general effects of banning official liquor.
Also, at this time, he began to initiate the policy of glasnost, which at this time essentially meant that the party would become more professional in the presentation of its policies and that the media was encouraged to rail against corruption and the excesses of the Brezhnev period. This was a tactic used by Khrushchev and other communist leaders, to free the media to criticize the actions of one’s predecessor and the societal impacts of these actions. This would serve as a justification and hopefully as a means of building public support for change. Glasnost became much more than this later, but in its initial phases it was simply intended to serve as a means of building public acceptance for change.
1986 - Gorbachev Brings About Dramatic Reforms
While Gorbachev acted with a great deal of caution early in his tenure, this reticence disappeared by the fall of 1986. There are two possible explanations for this change: (1) that he had always intended to proceed at a fast pace and was simply waiting until he had consolidated his power; and (2) that it was not until he had been in office for over a year that he came to realize the true depths of the challenge that confronted him and the Soviet Union.
- Problems at Chernobyl in April of 1986. Extent of crisis was not passed on to either the Soviet citizens or the West by the Soviet Union - limits of glasnost soon became clear as even the central government had some difficulty in gaining information conerning the gravity of the situation. The idea of secrecy that existed throughout all levels of society was combined with a natural tendency on the part of the locals to attempt to conceal mistakes, the reforms that followed Brezhnev’s indifference were very disconcerting to the local party officials. Yet, in the system there were no independent bodies to report on official errors, and the enterprises and party apparatchiks were reluctant to place themselves in potentially vulnerable positions. Gorbachev’s answer was to allow for greater intellectual freedom to illustrate the problems in the Soviet Union. By late 1986, Gorbachev then began to expand glasnost; what was it?
1. Glasnost - Openess. After Chernobyl, Gorbachev encouraged both the press and the intelligentsia to offer open criticisms of the Soviet system. In 1987 and 1988, numerous pieces of banned literature began to be published. Dissidents such as Sakharov were released from internal exile. This served two potential ends: (1) it would give Gorbachev and the other reformers independent sources of information and (2) it would also gain the cooperation of the intellectuals in the efforts to make reforms to the society, useful in the sense that they could help to justify the short term pain inherent in any reform efforts to the population as a whole. The latter concept, easing the passage of the reform program was augmented by Gorbachev’s successes in dislodging all of Brezhnev’s former henchmen from the Politiburo, which he accomplished by the summer of 1988. These people were replaced by Gorbachev’s own men.
Attempts to allow for debate within and outside of the CPSU. Attempt to make the party leaders accountable. While it might be said that the control over all aspects of soceity was a Stalinist deviation from Marxist theory, in reality this was more of an attempt to gain the support of the intellectuals for Gorbachev's reforms and to use their influence to appeal directly to the people over the heads of the police and party apparatus. Supporters were given increased freedom to attack the power structures which were opposing his reform efforts (bureaucracy, police, military, party apparat).
Also connected to these efforts were Gorbachev’s goals of democratizing the CPSU and Soviet Society. At a special party conference called in the summer of 1988, led to the use of secret ballots in party elections and the introduction of dramatic change to the legislative process. Creation of the Congress of People’s Deputies:
- 2,250 members elected from constituenicies and institutions. CPD would elect a new head of state President of the Soviet Union and new style supreme Soviet of 450 people which would be in charge of day to day legislative activities. Important points were: (1) multi candidate elections and (2) importance of the President - Gorbachev, new power base.
- Monopoly role of the CPSU was abolished in 1990.
- Efforts to gain public support for the accumulation of power by the President - Gorby.
- Problem is that this only led to increased demands for change from the Russian and non-Russian intellectuals. Finally, the full horrors of Stalin and the other Soviet leaders were revealed, depths of corruption under Brezhnev - led to belief that it would be necessary to discard the system as a whole. Bitterness of the nationalities.
2. Perestroika - Restructuring. This involved the decentralization of the bureaucracy, decreases in the role of central planning and increased autonomy for the enterprises. They were encouraged to produce excesses which would provide profits for the workers - incentive. Made more responsible for gaining their own inputs and outputs, and allowed to gear their own production to maximize their own benefits.In an effort to increase production and efficiency companies were given the right to conclude contracts with each other and directly with customers as opposed to following the central plan.
- Problem in that these enterprises had to then negotiate with suppliers on their own and seek to gain their favor, increased production. Mix of plan and market led to economic chaos.
- Resisted at every turn by the mangers of industry - old system was a known quantity, elimination of the plan did not provide any alternatives. Explanation for the need for glasnost - the enterprise managers were fearful of their newfound autonomy and the planners were concerned about their loss of influence.
Agriculture saw some minor changes, the peasants were allowed to rent their private plots for periods of up to 50 years, but the communes were retained and the peasants were very leery, as they had seen multiple changes to the agricutural policy over the years. Still no idea of private property for the peasants. In general soviet agriculture was still not able to meet the demands of Soviet society, another source of public dissatisfaction with the reform efforts.
Perhaps Gorbachevs main contribution in the area of economics was the introduction of cooperative enterprises in the retail and service sectors. These were essentially private enterprises - restaurants, repair shops, peasant markets - efforts to try and eliminate some sectors of the second economy. Emergence of inequality and resentment toward those who were gaining profits as a result of the scarcity.
Economy did simply not respond to the reforms and the private traders took advantage of the shortages by charging dearly for the items. Massive public resentment - Gorbachev became simply another leader who had failed to deliver on his promises, the problem was that with Glasnost, public complaints were more acceptable and the opposition could become public.
3. Foreign Affairs - Gorbachev had to achieve some degree of international calm in order to achieve the idea of perestroika. If it was to succeed then he would have to be able to retain power, and enhancing the security of the Soviet Union would serve as his principle achievement that he could point to. During the first stages of the program some uncertainty was expected and the downturns in the Soviet Economy were severe. Yet, the diplomatic achievements of the Soviet Union were intended to buy him some time so that the fruits of perestroika could blossom. Beyond enhancing his own credibility, lessened foreign tensions could serve three main goals:
i. Increase Soviet Security - A country who is undergoing dramatic social, economic and political change is acutely sensitive to the vagaries of international politics. During Perestroika, with the shift in the economy away from the military industrial base, the Soviet Union wished to minimize the chances of external conflict. As such, Gorbachev adopted a conciliatory line with respect to foreign relations.
ii. Lessen the Costs of Defense
- INF treaty and other missile arrangements - Soviet fear of SDI
- Limiting the costs of Imperial Overstretch. Schevardnadze in 1987: "The main thing is that the country not bear any additional expenses in connection with the need to maintain its defense capability and protect its legitimate foreign policy interests".
- Extended Empire - Contained both socialist and non-socialist nations. Ex. Nicaraua, Cuba, Angola, Vietnam, Syria, etc. This was proving to be very expensive for the Soviet Union (Aid - military and non-military, buying Cuban Sugar, etc.) and was offering them very little in return, would prove to be the first to be discarded.
- Outer Empire - Eastern Europe (1989) - Poland (free elections in June of 1989 after long dispute between gov’t and solidarity), E. Germany, when gorbachev refused to support Honecker if he fired on the rioters, is was clear that the Soviets were no longer commited to the maintenance of the Eastern Bloc. Political change in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia (mention the character of the last two). Also, mention the fault line that divides Eastern Europe, Northern and Southern Tiers.
- Dissolution of WTO and Comecon in early 1991
- Inner Empire - The Soviet Union - Most of the Republics, seizing on the decentralization of power declared their sovereignty in 1990, real independence came after the dissolution of the Soviet union following the coup attempt of 1991. Gorbachev’s fall.
iii. Increase the participation of others in the Soviet Economy
- Investment $, also useful in the provision of consumer goods into Soviet society. Very important as this will give the workers something to spend $ on, thereby increasing their incentives to work.
Soviet Dissatisfaction with the Reforms
Public dissatisfaction with the failures in the economic sphere; communists concerned about the decline of their political power; militaty concerned with the decline of the Soviet empire and the lack of emphasis being placed on defense; Russian nationalists concerned about the unraveling of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev vaccilated between the forces for radical reform and those who sought to maintain the system - to the satisfaction of neither.
- Coup on August 19, 1991. Day before a new union treaty was to be signed which would have involved a radical decentralization of power in the Soviet Union. With Gorbachev on holiday in the Crimea, Drunken Generals try to seize power in the clumsiest manner possible. The airports were left open, opposition politicians were not arrested, and the media was not shut down. As the President of the Russian Federation, Boris Yeltsin was able to galvinize opposition to the coup - people surround the White House to prevent the arrest of the Parliament and soldiers unwilling to do a series of Tiananmens.
"For 70 years we have been ruled by morons, this is the first time it has paid off."
- Result was the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the banning of the Communist Party.
15 Former Republics become independent states in 1991 -
Slavic - Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova
Baltic - Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia
Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan
Caucuses - Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijian
Summary of Gorbachev
- Faced problems in economy, society, external commitments.
- Solutions - Glasnost (democratization), perestroika, foreign affairs
- Allowed Opposition, unprepared for the response.
- Economy Could not be reformed
- Alienated Elements within the system - security forces, army, communist elites, planners.
- In the end, decision was that communism was no longer the answer either.
Yeltsin (1991- )
- Institution of Civil Society How? What do people believe in? Russia has never really known any sort of civil society. Fledgling democracy, yet it certainly has problems. For example, as the state is still being shaped, there are conflicts between the parliament and the President where power should lay. Yeltsin, as the President has been afforded a great deal of power under the constitution. He has the power to dissolve parliament and call new elections, which nearly happened last summer, and did happen in September of 1993. The real problem that exists in Russia is uncertainty over the fruits of reform. Within the Duma, those elected in the past two elections (December of 1993 and December of 1996) are mostly opposed to a fast paced reform. They represent a distinct voice in Russian politics. Has led Yeltsin to vaccilate back and forth between the reformers and those who fear its consequences.
- PM - Yevgeny Primakov - Former Apparatchik who served every Russian leader since Khurshchev. Slower reform.
- New right - Zhirinovsky & his ilk. Perceptions of the US
- Fertile ground to be farmed
- loss of status
- economic uncertainty
- Moscow bus drivers now earn more than trained fighter pilots
- Dissatisfaction throughout the service, estimated that ½ of the conscripts voted for Zhirinovsky’s party during the Duma elections. While the upper echelons tend not to support him, opinion polls have found that a majority favor a return to some sort of authoritarianism to deal with the present chaos.
2. Economic - While the Russian economy seems to be showing
some signs of recovery, there is little doubt that it has declined dramatically
over the past ten years. Between 1990 and 1993, Russia’s GDP shrank by
38%. Factories that were redundant, or made goods that simply were not desired
had been closed. While this is beneficial, the short term effects de-stabilize
While privatization has gone ahead with over 85% of the Russian industrial workers are employed by private firms, questions have emerged about who is profitting from these economic changes.
- Former CP’s as owners
- Corruption - Estimates of the corruption that exists in Russia are staggering. Countless horror stories about foreign businesspeople who are visited by men in loud suits. It is estimated that 3/4 of the private companies in Russia are forced to pay between 10-20% of their earnings to criminal organizations. These gangs have used this income to corrupt officials at all levels, the chief of Moscow’s police force has estimated that 95% of his force is on the take. The rise of the Russian mafia has been well publicized - the murder rate in Russia is nearly double that of the United States, claimed that a majority are contract killings. When Russia began the movement toward the market, it was the criminals who had the money and were therefore able to take advantage of their position.
3. Military - The Russian military has declined dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet state. Earlier I mentioned the plight of the fighter pilots, Tom Cruise as Ralph Cramden. This problem exists throughout the military. Living conditions for the Russian soldiers are brutal - in one hostel in St. Petersburg, the families of 22 officers share one kitchen. It has been estimated that at least 155,000 Russian officers and their families lack adequate housing, the number could reach 400,000 by the end of this year. These are largely officers recalled from the Eastern Bloc and the former Republics, brought home where the government lacks the resources to house them.
- A couple of ramifications
- More than 75% of Russian youths routinely avoid the draft.
- weapons sales. While the state sponsored formal sales by the Russians raise concern - Nukes to Iran, Aircraft Carrier to China - the informal weapons market raises terror. At least with the formal sales records are kept and other states can pressure the Russians. With the private sales, there is even less control.
- In the first quarter of 1992, in the Caucasus military district, 1,118 railway wagons, each carrying 20 tons of artillery ammunition, went missing.
- The possible loss of nuclear material, or even a nuclear weapon. Seizure of 300 grams of Plutonium in Germany. Sample weight, need 5 kg to make a bomb (11 lbs). Question about where it was going and the possibility that it was all a scam and an attempt to provoke the West into increased aid.
4. Non-Russian Republics
- Show the chart on % of Russians and GDP
- Present problem in Chechnya
- In 1991, made a unilateral declaration of its independence. Russian troops invaded in December of 1994. Conscript army had a great deal of difficulty with the Chechen fighters.
- When asked what would make it speed the process of taking the Caucusas in the 19th century, one Tsarist General replied - “One Chechen fighter”.
- Three reasons for this concern
- Example for other republics - esp resource rich regions
- Russia still has 20 million muslims, serious concern about Chechnya becoming a staging point for Islamic expansion.
- Area immediatelly north of Chechnya is the Kuban, the corn belt of Russia.
5. Foreign relations
i. Former Soviet Republics
- Russia’s Near Abroad
- 25 million Russians living in the former Soviet republics
- Show chart detailing % of ethnic Russians, GNP, etc.
- Continual point of conflict. The former republics, all brought under Russian control by the force of the sword, resent the dominance that the Russians enjoyed and are anxious to promote their own culture, language and peoples. Russians were seen as conquerors who had outlived their day. Common problem in the wake of the collapse of empires.
- Solzhenitsyn -
Imagine that, one not very fine day, two or three of your states in the south-west, in the space of 24 hours, declare themselves a fully sovereign nation, decreeing that Spanish will be the only language. All English-speaking residents, even if their ancestors have been there for 200 years, have to take a test in the Spanish language within one or two years and swear allegiance to the new nation. Otherwise they will not receive citizenship and be deprived of civic, property and employment rights. What would be the reaction of the United States? I have no doubt that it would be immediate military intervention.
- The first priority in Russian foreign policy has been to attempt to secure the border regions - not to allow threats to spread to Russia, to protect ethnic Russians, to use these states as springboards, rather than barriers. West has largely ceded to this, fears of who would move into the vaccuum - possibly Iran in the middle east.
ii. Eastern Europe
- Concerns about the former bloc members joining NATO
- Traditional area of Russian influence now looking Westward.
- Kuriles and Sakhalin Islands
- However, in November of last year, Japan agreed to reschedule Russian debt, provide $500 million in humanitarian aid, an undiclosed sum of technical aid, and support Russia’s entry into the WTO.
- Fears of China
- The Soviets policy in Asia depended on its relations with China.
v. The United States
- The United States and Russia seem to have reached agreement on the big issues. The US turns a blind eye to Russia’s operations in its own back yard.
- US offers of monetary assistance
- Support of Yeltsin, follows their policy of supporting a single leader - Gorbachev to Yeltsin.
In the Duma elections of December 1995 the Communists took 1/3 of the seats. Reflective of the overall discontent with reform and the efforts by the Comms to present themselves in a different light. Yeltsin won the last presidential election (54% to Zyuganov’s 40), mention the role played by Lebed and Yeltsin’s contortions.
Elections of December 1999 were more promising in terms of reform efforts, communists were down to about a quarter of the electorate and two new parties of the right took another ¼. Divided parliament with no one party having the ability to break a government, but more inclined toward reform that its predecessors.
Resignation of Yeltsin in December of 1999 and the coming to power of Vladimir Putin, shadowy figure with ties to the intelligence community. Still problems of the new moguls (mention how this affected Yeltsin) exist as well as the war in Chechnya.
Talk about Putin and his efforts against the moguls.
Factions in Russia
Their opinions on Future of Russia