The 1980s were a challenging time for the Soviet Union. Industrial stagnation, inefficient economy, low quality and deficit of the consumer goods undermined ideological pressure of the Communist Party, already entered into a deep crisis. The conflict between economic and technological growth needs and the current administrative-command management system was exacerbated. The country leaders have made decisions aimed at overcoming the dictates of departmental bureaucracy, at developing economic methods of management. However, these solutions remained on paper. The USSR were in need of structural political and economic reforms.
Politburo (Executive Committee) members leading the regime for many years were approaching a very senior age. After the death of Konstantin Chernenko in 1985 the post of General Secretary was taken by Mikhail Gorbachev – the youngest member of Politburo. Known for the set of reforms in the agricultural sector, Gorbachev represented a new type of the Soviet leaders. He boldly took up the radical reforms in all the spheres of life – economic, political, social and cultural.
While old guard leaders thought that the time for revolutionary changes was over and that the key focus must be set to the arms race and maintaining the status quo, Gorbachev developed and implemented the set of reforms and introduced the new terms that later became the symbols of the epoch – “perestroika,” “uskoreniye,” “glasnost’,” etc.
Glasnost’ (openness) should assist in building “socialism with human face” and assumed radicalization of democratic processes in society. With this openness and “new thinking” regarding the foreign relations, Gorbachev managed to restructure and improve relationship with the majority of Western countries leaders.
Domestic reforms were characterizing by the term “perestroika.” Political reform aimed at democratization, liberalization and freedom of speech, two major sets of economic reforms predecessed the course towards a market economy, proclaimed in 1990.
Results of the reforms were controversial. The reforms, mostly economic, were partial and inconsistent, and didn’t involved credit, pricing, centralized supply systems. After some initial success, the economic downturn began.
There were many internal causes of collapse of the Soviet Union, including continuing economic stagnation, decentralization in management resulted nationalistic movements and separatist trends in Soviet republics, lowered motivation by fear deliberating criticism of Soviet regime, etc. As a response, Gorbachev tried to transform the Soviet Union to more democratic, voluntary federation, but he faced resistance from more radical reformists supporting the USSR disintegration. After the “putsch” of 1991, Gorbachev remained actually powerless. After signing the Bialowieza agreement the USSR disintegrated, and the Commonwealth of Independent States was formed.
Russia inherited from the Soviet Union both huge territory and resources and many structural and economic problems. Collapse of the Soviet Union resulted in speeding up pace of political and economic transformation of Russia into modern democratic country with market economy, but Soviet inheritance, including specific management models at both the country and corporate levels, resulted in situation that the social & economic balance in the country remains wobbly. Russia is still susceptible to internal structural conflicts in political and economic areas.
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