The Collapse Of The Soviet Union Essay — страница 2

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first time. Trotsky’s works were now publicly examined but not unsurprisingly, they were condemned. Bukharin, on the other hand, was finally exonerated by Gorbachev. A good deal of archival material on the Stalinist purges and the Great Terror was unearthed and published. Some statistics were located but an accurate count of those who suffered will probably never be known. And in 1989, Soviet responsibility was finally acknowledged for the Katyn mass murders of Polish soldiers in 1939. Despite all of this, not everything was cleared up. Past manifestations of anti-Semitism were revealed but in an incomplete way. Whether Kirov had been murdered at Stalin’s order remained unsettled and it was revealed that some of the documents seen by Khrushchev’s commission on the Kirov

affair had since disappeared. In Gorbachev’s way of thinking, it was to be the Russian Communist Party that was to serve as the vanguard of perestroika. It was the party that would stimulate civic activity and responsibility. In 1988, a Soviet Congress was formed, including elected members, which in 1989 chose the smaller Supreme Soviet. In 1990, the Supreme Soviet elected Gorbachev as the country’s president for a term of five years. At the time, Gorbachev was still the leader of the increasingly unpopular Communist Party. Economic changes accompanied these political reforms. Industrial enterprise was encouraged which in turn would foster private initiative and loosed the stranglehold of decades of central planning. By 1990, Gorbachev was cautiously promoting a market

economy including the individual’s right to possess private property. Religious freedoms were restored and in 1988, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrated its 1000th anniversary. Meanwhile, contacts with the outside world, especially the west, began to intensify. However, all this seemingly good stuff — especially from the western perspective — had its downside as well. For instance, glasnost released decades of bitterness which had accumulated over the fifty years of Stalinist repression and terror. Perestroika and glasnost also revealed the widespread ecological damage the Soviets had caused on the environment. Gorbachev’s reforms also polarized opinion in ways that even Gorbachev and his stalwart supporters could never have foreseen. All that restructuring and all that

openness had increased the diversity of opinions and in the end, led to little more than nationalist and ethnic in-fighting. According to Anatoly Sobchak, liberal mayor of St. Petersberg: A totalitarian system leaves behind it a minefield built into both the country’s social structure and the individual psychology of its citizens. And mines explode each time the system faces the danger of being dismantled and the country sees the prospect of genuine renewal. In other words, glasnost and perestroika were good things in themselves but too much too fast meant the danger of confusion amidst liberation. In an effort to preserve unity by compromise, Gorbachev entered a bitter quarrel with his more radical rival, Boris Yeltsin. The weakening of traditional Soviet authority and the

release of “history” brought about by the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, in the end, brought disunity. Meanwhile, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians all demanded independence which in turn set off similar demands among Ukrainians, Georgians, Beylorussians, Armenians and the various peoples of central Asia. By the late 1980s, inter-ethnic violence had escalated. And in 1990, the Russian Republic, the largest republic of the Soviet Union, declared its limited independence under Yeltsin, and an Anti-Reform Russian Communist Party broke off from the reformist party faction led by Gorbachev. Gorbachev, caught in an avalanche he himself had helped to create, was willing to establish a new federal union of Soviet sovereign republics but remained opposed to the outright dissolution

of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the transition to a market economy was too complex for ready and easy solutions. The production and distribution of consumer goods collapsed. Local governments hoarded essential commodities and the black market flourished as did the Russian Mafia. As the journalist David Remnick has written: the Communist Party apparatus was the most gigantic Mafia the world has ever known. It guarded its monopoly on power with a sham consensus and constitution and backed it up with the force of the KGB and the Interior Ministry police. Obviously, the spiritual rebirth and the revolution that Gorbachev had hoped for had not materialized. In October 1990, Gorbachev sadly remarked that “unfortunately, our society is not ready for the procedures of a law-based