The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came into existence in 1917 after the Russian revolution at the end of the First World War It was formally established in 1922 with the establishment of the communist party under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. ‘Soviet’ in common Russian means a ‘law making body’.
The economy and planning of the USSR was centralized which turned out to be highly successful in its initial days. India has copied the ‘5 year plan’ system from the USSR itself. The USSR followed the One-party rule.
THE DISINTEGRATION OF USSR
During the Cold war, two leading superpowers i.e. USA and the USSR were combating each other.
- The USSR spent billions to compete with the USA in the field of space. The USSR succeeded in sending the first satellite (Sputnik) to space, the first animal (Lyka- a dog), the first cosmonaut (Yuri Gagrin) and the first woman (Velentina Tereshkova) to space.
- The USSR had the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, even larger than that of the USA. Billions of Roubles were spent of huge armies. USSR’s army was then known as ‘The Red Army’. A nuclear war between the countries would have proved to be a mutually assured destruction.
- This ceaseless spending of USSR in the competition with USA led to shrinking of its own economy.
- The Cold War took place for around 45 years. To increase the influence of its communist ideology, USSR extended a tremendous amount of money in the form of materials, technology to support communist nations such as Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, China and many others. The USSR also financially supported the communist parties in India.
- The USSR sent its army to fight in the Afghan War (1979-1989) in support of the communist party against the Mujahideen . About 15,000 of Soviet soldiers were killed and more than 50,000 were wounded. This drained the Soviet of its vital resources and wounded its prestige.
- Apart from the Cold war (1947-1991), another reason for the shrinking economic strength of USSR was its tight state control over economy and absence of free market economy. State control on the economy is one of the biggest drawbacks of communism.
- The USSR had become a totalitarian state under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin after he snatched the throne from Lenin.
IMPORTANT EVENTS BEFORE THE FALLOUT
- Mikhail Gorbachev- Gorbachev became the general secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union in 1985 at the age of 55. He launched new policies called ‘Glasnost’ and ‘Perestroika’ to make socialism more efficient and liberate the stagnant economy.
GLASNOST- Meaning openness, this policy provided freedom of speech. Media Censorship was eased and earlier records declassified. This policy backfired when people started speaking out against the government itself and there was no law to shut them up.
PERESTROIKA- Meaning Restructuring and reformation, major changes were brought in Soviet political and economic structure. Elections, foreign investment policies were improved and private markets were introduced.
Relaxed policies led to demands of sovereignty and independence in Eastern and Central Europe and also in 15 sub national soviets.
- 1989 Revolutions- From the summer of 1989 till 1991, revolutions shook the earth of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia.
Nationalist movements to gain independence from USSR influence and communist puppet governments took place.
Berlin Wall fell in November of 1989. George Bush Sr. announced the end of Cold War in December of 1989 as the communist governments across Europe begun to collapse due to Domino effect. The first Baltic States to demand for independence were Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Throughout 1990 and 1991, all of the sub national Soviets became independent.
- August Coup- On August 1991, a group of senior party leaders endeavoured a coup by placing Gorbachev under House Arrest and demanding re-establishment of the USSR. The Coup failed as the people in cities rose against it and the majority of the Red Army repudiated their support to the Coup leaders.
- Boris Yelstin- Yelstin was the leader of Moscow unit of the Communist party who advocated Independent Russia. He happened to be the Leader of the Public in the August Coup and became the first elected President of Russia in July 1991.
- After the failed Coup- The disintegration process of USSR accelerated. On 8th December 1991, the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords, which dissolved the USSR and established the Commonwealth of Independent states (CIS) in its place. The Alma ata Declaration gave a formal independence to the states and Gorbachev resigned as the President of USSR on December 25th.
The Supreme Soviet dissolved the union on 26th December.
The Post-Soviet states witnessed a severe contraction and catastrophic plunge in living standards. Poverty, Crime, corruption, unemployment, disease, and income inequality increased alarmingly. The was an disturbing fall in life expectancy, adult literacy, and income.
In the political warfare of powerful men, it is always the common people who suffer.