Domestic Policy under Brezhnev

Domestic Policy under Gorbachev, 1985-1991

In 1985 MIKHAIL GORBACHEV rose to the position of General Secretary of the Comminist Party. He realized that during the Cold War, the USSR had overspent its resources for unproductive policies. The Soviet Union began to withdraw from Afghanistan, announced to satellite countries that it would cut subsidies (such as oil delivery below world market price).
Gorbachev announced a policy of GLASNOST and PERESTROIKA (openness and restructuring).
The policy was necessary, as the old policy of confrontation could no more be financed, yet Glasnost and Perestroika failed to lead to a quick improvement in the living conditions of Russian citizens. But the political climate had changed; people felt free to voice their opinion. In 1986 the nuclear power station at CHERNOBYL experienced a nuclear meltdown; news from Chernobyl dominated international broadcasts fro weeks, indicating the poor condition of many industrial failities in the USSR.
Now, CONCRETE HEAD administrations in Soviet satellite states began to crumble, but also Soviet Republics, first of all the three Baltic Republics, began to openly claim independence from Russia, arguing that Soviet annexion in 1940 had been unconstitutional.

Economic reforms created a free market in Russia, but also lead to rising prices; for many Russians, the standard of living sank dramatically, while organized crime secured a share of the profits where they appeared.
BORIS YELTSIN left the communist party and ran for the presidency of the Russian Federation as an independent; he won the election.
While Gorbachev was on summer vacation, hardline communists staged a coup d'etat in Moscow; Yeltsin, as Russia's president, declared the Communist Party a criminal organization, had the USSR's parliament besieged by troops and forced them to surrender. Gorbachev was freed; in December 1991 he resigned from office, no successor taking over - the USSR disintegrated into 15 independent republics.

History of the GAZ-Volga (car), from Autosoviet
REFERENCE Article : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1986 pp.547-551, 799-800, 1987 pp.517-521, 767-768, 1988 pp.473-477, 719-720, 1989 pp.474-478, 719-720, 1990 pp.492-495, 735-736, 1991 pp.475-480, 720-721 [G]
Article : Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1985-1986 pp.1210-1276, 1986-1987 pp.1209-1275, 1987-1988 pp.1212-1279, 1988-1989 pp.1216-1283, 1989-1990 pp.1222-1289, 1990-1991 pp.1223-1292, 1991-1992 pp.1226-1291 [G]
Article : USSR, in : Americana Annual 1989 pp.541-547, 1990 pp.530-534, 1992 pp.536-539 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on April 18th 2007

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