The Fall of Communism in RussiaThe Reasons for the fall of Socialism/Communism and the Troublesof Starting the New Democratic System in the Russian Federation “Let’snot talk about Communism. Communism was just an idea, just pie in thesky. ” Boris Yeltsin (b.
1931), Russian politician, president. Remarkduring a visit to the U. S. Quoted in: Independent (London, 13 Sept.
1989). The fall of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union was morethan a political event. The powerful bond between economics andpolitics that was the integral characteristic of the state socialistsystem created a situation that was unique for the successor states ofthe Soviet Union. The Communist regime was so ingrain in every aspectof Soviet life that the Russian people were left with littledemocratic tradition. Russia faces the seemingly impracticable task ofeconomic liberalization and democratization.Order now
This is combined with thefact that the new administration must address human rights issues,such as living conditions and the supply of staple goods in this newform of administration makes the prospect of a full democratic switchseemingly impossible. To fully underezd the scope of the transference of governingpower in the Russian Federation, one must first look at the oldSocialist/Communist regime, to see the circumezces under which itfell gives a good view of why this transference is almost impossible. In the beginning Communism seemed to the people of Russia as autopian ideal. The promise of the elimination of classes, ofguaranteed employment , “The creation of a comprehensive socialsecurity and welfare system for all citizens that would end themisery of workers once and for all. ” Lenin’s own interpretation of theMarxian critique was that to achieve Communism there would first haveto be a socialist dictatorship to first suppress any dissent orprotest.
Through coercive tactics this new government seized power andin 1917 Lenin came to power. Under his “rule” the Soviet Unionunderwent radical changes in it’s economic doctrines adopting a mixedeconomy which was termed the New Economic Policy also referred to asNEP, this economy called for some private ownership of the means ofproduction, but the majority of industry was made property of thepeople, which meant the majority of the means of production wascontrolled by the government. Lenin’s government made manyachievements. It ended a long civil war against the remnants of theold Czarist military system and established institutions ingovernment.
During this period, and in fact throughout the majority ofthe Communist rule, censorship and the subordination of interestgroups such as trade unions was imposed to stop dissension andincrease conformity to the new governments policies. Lenin died in 1924, and was quickly followed by Joseph Stalin ashead of the Soviet Communist Party, the oppressive reforms started byLenin were continued and at length became completely totalitarian. Stalin became the most powerful man in Russia. He controlled to bulkof all the political power and with that he started a ruthlesscampaign of removing all opposition to the Communist rule.
During thisperiod called the “Great Purge” Stalin systemically executed anyonewho stood in his path. Millions of people were arrested and eitherharassed or killed. The economic status of the Soviet Union was yetagain changed and the entire system became controlled by thegovernment. All private ownership ended. A mass program ofindustrialization was commenced, and the strength of the SovietMilitary was subeztially increased. The citizens during this periodendured great hardship.
Agricultural production output diminishedresulting in food shortages, these shortages were enha! nce by themass exportation of food, this was done to pay for industrial imports. Stalin also put the production of what he called production goods suchas manufacturing machinery over basic consumer goods such as clothesand other staples. During this period the Second World War broke outand drained most of what was left of the already impoverished state. Yet after the war national unity was strengthened as well is theSoviet military machine. The Soviet Union became a super power, theU.
S. being the only country more powerful than it. After the death of Stalin in 1953 Nikita Khrushchev became FirstSecretary of the Communist party. Stalin’s death marked the end ofsupreme power for the head of the party, and Khrushchev condemnedStalin’s actions as unnecessary and harmful to the process of movingthe Socialist government to it’s goal of pure Communism. During thisperiod the public was given a say in the government, albeit anextremely minor one, and the judicial system eased it’s aggressivenessallowing a defendant a better chance of defending themselves.
Khrushchev concerned himself with bettering the plight of theindividual, attempting to increase the supply of food and making goodssuch as home appliances, making automobiles somewhat available, andproviding more housing. A new policy of efficiency and quality controlwas brought in. Leadership was somewhat decentralized to allow commonmanagers and directors more power to run their production units. Although Krushchev started a process of slight reform he was dismisseddue to in part a massive shortage of grain and dairy products, and thefact that he had started to seize more power and “His efforts tostreamline party organizations produced chaos and conflict among partyadministrators. ” He was also blamed for the Russia “defeat” during theCuban Missile Crisis, and of not accomplishing anything toward thereunification of Germany under East German rule.
After the ousting ofKhrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev became the Soviet Communist PartySecretary General in October of 1964. Under his administration themajority of the decentralization of power was destroyed bringing acentralized form of control back into effect. Krushchev’s denouncingof Stalin’s policies was criticized and slowly some of Stalin’spolitical disciplinary policies were restored. Stalin was named a warhero. There began an outright attack on dissidents from the literaryand scientific community. During this time there was an inefficientuse land, labour and resources which resulted in an economicslackening.
In this time what was supposed to ultimately be aclassless society became classed as bureaucrats were paid for loyaltywith material wealth, allowing them a better ezdard of living,because of this public interests were placed secondary to personalgain. The 1980’s saw a dramatic drop in the Soviet citizens alreadyimpoverished ezdard of living. This caused strikes and public outcryagainst the administration which threatened the stability of theSoviet Union. The people were angry at the fact that the CommunistParty had not lived up to what it had promised which was in return fortheir obedience they would receive employment, free health care, and alevel of comfort. March 1985 marks a turning point in the Communistrule of Russia.
Mikhail Gorbachev is elevated to the position ofGeneral Secretary. He is aware of the current social upheavaloccurring and that change must occur if Communism is to survive. Hebegins a program called “Perestroika” which was the organizationalrestructuring of the Soviet economy and government apparatus. Gorbachev discovers that this change will depend on other changes,among others a more tolerant and open political environment , morepublic influence over governmental and military institutions. Thiscalled for major long term change of the political system.
Hebegan a policy called “Glasnost” which emphasized openness with regardto discussion of social problems and shortcomings. The purpose of these reforms was to elevate the Soviet ezdardof living in order to reaffirm the citizenry’s loyalties to theCommunist party and to enable the rebirth of the Soviet economy andideal. State control was lo! osened and individual initiativeencouraged. He expanded the authority of the Soviet presidency andtransferred power from the Communist party to popularly electedlegislatures in the union republics. In international affairs, hewithdrew Soviet troops from Afghaniez, normalized relations withChina, signed a series of arms control agreements with U.
S. PresidentsRonald Reagan and George Bush. During this period of change strongNationalistic opinion started in the republics of the Soviet Unioncausing major upheaval. In 1991, as the Soviet economy deteriorated,Gorbachev faced competing pressures from hard-line Communists,from free-market reformers, and from nationalists and secessionistsseeking independence for their republics. The hard-liners, whoincluded many top government officials, staged a coup in August,placing Gorbachev under house arrest, but within three days thereformers had restored Gorbachev to power.
He immediately resigned asCommunist party general se! cretary, suspended party activities, andplaced reformers in charge of the military and KGB. After allowingEstonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to become independent republics. Nationalist forces became stronger in the republics as the year wenton. The USSR voted itself out of existence in December 1991, andGorbachev resigned his position as president of the USSR. Under theCommunist Regime there were immense social problems. In the periodbefore Gorbachev all religion was dismissed.
Although the citizenswere still allowed to practice their religion it was made extremelydifficult for them by the government and the official attitude towardsreligion was that it was a relic of the past and Atheism wasencouraged. There was a subeztial amount of alcoholism mostly due tothe living and working conditions. There was also a subeztial amountof crime. There was extreme discrimination against women.
There . . . . .
was astrong sexist attitude and women found it hard to find decentemployment, and most women were expected to also take care ofhousehold duties as well. Women were also very scarce in government. Relations among the different ethic grouped which lived withinthe Soviet Union were very tense and sometimes openly hostile. The fact that the Russian language was the language in which allpolitical transactions had to occur in and it was encouraged tobe learnt, with the purpose of trying to make a single Soviet culturemade this tension even stronger. The education system in the SovietUnion also caused tension because it was set up around a motive toteach students to be obedient to the Communist Party and to be Atheistamong other things. Also students were assigned jobs when theygraduated and this caused considerable stress on them because they hadto take the job assigned to them, and if it was an undesirable one itcould ruin their chances for advancement in the future.
This was sucha tense issue that graduates were sometimes prone to commit suicide. The health care system was under funded. Most hospitals were understaffed and the equipment was outdated, medical supplies were alsoscarce. This lead to the gradual decrease of the life expectancy of acitizen. Poor ezdards of sanitation and public hygiene lead to anincreased annual death rate and a drop in the birth rate. All of thesefactors in a way, lead to the disintegration of the Communist Regime,taking into account all of the social problems and the years ofmismanagement of the countries resources, we can see why the economyslowed and citizen support for the government diminished.
Boris Yeltsin was named President of Russia by the RussianRepublic’s Supreme Soviet in 1990. He immediately resigned fromthe Communist party and declared Russia’s independence. In 1991 hebecame the first President of the Russian Republic by popular vote. Hehelped found the Commonwealth of Independent States, which ended anyattempts to preserve the USSR. He moved to end state control of theeconomy, privatized most industries and among other things outlawedthe Communist Party.
Beginning in 1992 the conflict between Yeltsin and his politicalopponents intensified. Yeltsin suffered a series of defeats at thehands of the Russian Constitutional Court, chaired by Valeriy Zorkin. The court overturned Yeltsin’s decree creating a Russian ministry ofsecurity and internal affairs and lifted portions of Yeltsin’s ban onthe Soviet Communist party. In 1993 the court repealed his ban on theNational Salvation Front, a communist-nationalist organization thathad called for Yeltsin’s removal.
In 1993 Yeltsin announced ontelevision that he had issued a decree declaring special presidentialrule. But when the decree was published there was no mention ofspecial presidential powers. Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy sharplycriticized Yeltsin for issuing the decree and for using a referendumto gain popular approval of reform policies. Yeltsin asked Rutskoy toresign as vice president, and when Rutskoy refused, Yeltsin removedRutskoy’s powers of office, despite p! rotests by the Supreme Soviet. Yeltsin won the support of the majority of Russian voters whoparticipated in the April 1993 referendum, but the referendum didlittle to end his power struggle with parliament.
In September,Yeltsin attempted to break the power deadlock by dissolving parliamentand calling for new parliamentary elections. “In turn, parliamentvoted to impeach Yeltsin and swore in Rutskoy as acting president. Ledby Rutskoy and chairman of the Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov,hundreds of legislators and anti-Yeltsin demonstrators occupied theparliament building in Moscow. On September 28 Yeltsin ordered troopsto barricade the parliament building, and in the following weeksecurity forces, acting in support of Yeltsin, clashed withpro-parliamentary demonstrators, who were mainly hard-line Communistsand nationalists. On October 4 Rutskoy and Khasbulatov surrendered.
InFebruary 1994 they were granted amnesty by the lower house ofparliament, despite Yeltsin’s opposition. ” In December 1994 Yeltsinsent Russian military forces into the region of Chechnya, which haddeclared its independence from Russia in 1991. Since that time Russiahad made only minor military efforts to reclaim Chechnya. This useof military force is an example of the fact that true democracy cannot exist in Russia, these tactics are Soviet-era coercive measures.
During the bombing of Grozny Russian-speaking suffered as much as thenatives. This was demonstrated the worst of the Yeltsin Regime. Yeltsin was using the war to expand his political base and appear as astrong leader. Over 20,000 civilians died during this conflict, whichin a sense achieved nothing. The Russian economy has been put through sweeping reforms whichhave only proved to through it into disarray.
This mainly due to thefact that because the Soviet government has no experience inDemocratic/Capitalist styles of governing, and the 70 plus years ofCommunist rule has left a huge dent in the Russian economy. The oldstyle of government has left behind a legacy of corruption, pricedistortions, inefficient public industries and financial instability. This, combined with the need for much more extensive political reformmakes this task almost impossible. The process of democratization ofRussia occurred to quickly. This was done in the hopes that the fastprivatization of industry would hinder any chance of re-nationalizingthe economy, and basically forcing this new change. At the same timeprivatization has contributed greatly to the popular belief that thisnew system is unjust.
State assets were distributed disproportionatelyto insiders, to people willin! g to circumvent the law, and insome case to criminals. Official corruption and the lack of enforcedlaws and clearly defined property laws has lead to public dissension. One of Yeltsin’s greatest mistakes was moving economic reform ahead soquickly while not addressing the need for immense political reform atthe same time. The Russian economy is in disarray, and the ezdard of livingfor the average citizen is as low if not lower than during theCommunist rule.
This had bred many social problems which, in effect,mirror those of the Communist administration. Religious and ethnicanimosity and the lack of proper education in this new political andeconomic system has lead to public discontent and a rise in thealcoholism problem. There has been recent improvements in thedistribution of wealth. There have been improvements in theprivatization process, especially in the building sector, this couldbring the expansion of small-scale property ownership, which is alsoan important step towards private ownership. There is also a strongerentrepreneurial spirit among lower class society. Yet with the lack ofany experience in private proprietorship and private businesspractices the population of the Russian Federation is still not takingto the new system.
For too many years it was imprinted on them thateverything must be publicly owned. Much of this can to attributed tothe Communist tradition of not communicating with the public, which isa core part of any democratic system, the public participation andcommunication in and with government. With the apparent lack of publicparticipation in government, and in turn the lack of communication bythe government with the people we can see that the Russian Federationis far from being democratic. The government acted too quickly in it’seconomic reforms with not enough practical experience inDemocratic/Capitalistic to pull it off. We saw that some of the majorcontributing factors in the fall of communism was the dissension ofthe citizens due to the fact that the government did not live up toit’s promise of a better life and the failure of the government toproperly deal with social problems. The other factors were economic,many of which we can see are apparent in the new system.
In it’scurrent situation we are seeing the same factors. Unless theseproblems are addressed quickly and resolved effectively we will seethe decline of yet another Russian governmental system. On looking atthe past we can see that the Russian public must overcome many hurdlesin order for them to truly embrace Democracy and enjoy the promises ofa better life that it has made. The government must promote theeducation of it’s citizens and communicate more efficiently with them. There is a long road ahead for the Russian Federation in this enormoustask, and at this time it almost seems impossible.
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