1985-89 & MIKHAIL GORBACHEV who came to power in 1985 in the USSR. He introduced a 3-plank platform of reform including perestroika, glasnost and democratization. This was stimulated by his desire for drastically restructuring the CENTRALLY CONTROLLED/COMMAND ECONOMY that the Soviets had established by the late 1920s under Stalin. As a young Communist Party member, replacing the octogenarians (80 year olds) Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernenko, GORBACHEV was a realist and a pragmatist. He sensed that the economic stagnation would have to be overcome if the USSR were ever to get on its feet. He saw that the older communist system was insufficient for economic survival in the present day world which the West now recognized as POSTINDUSTRIAL and to which western capitalist and democratic systems had adapted very nicely. His proposed remedies were decentralization, self-management for industry and agriculture, and end to the rigidities imposed by the party and government bureaucracy, and incentives for productivity. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ALL THIS? GORBACHEV'S REFORMS SIGNIFICANTLY CHANGED THE POLITICAL STRUCTURE OF THE USSR, 1988 TO 1989 AND LOOSENED THE MONOPOLY GRIP OF THE PARTY. THEY SIGNALLED TO EAST EUROPEAN STATES ALSO THAT THE DAYS OF THE BREZHNEV DOCTRINE WERE OVER AND THAT THEY WERE PROBABLY FREE TO CARRY OUT THEIR OWN REFORMS WITHOUT SOVIET INTERFERENCE.
1985-89; Gorbachev's system of more "openness" in which he included the right to freely voice opinions and criticize the existing system. In effect he was freeing the people of the USSR to help him reform the country since he knew on his own he could not fight party bureaucracy. If the USSR was to modernize, it would need popular support to do so. Dissent which in the past had been punished and suppressed was now free to help promote a reform movement. The totalitarian control over the political, cultural, and intellectual life of the country was coming to an end.
A Russian Nobel prize-winning nuclear physicist who spoke up against the return to Stalinism that seemed to be happening under Brezhnev. He and his dissident wife, Elena Bonner, were removed from their work environments and banished from Moscow. Under Gorbachev's glasnost (openness) they returned to Moscow and became more vocal. In 1988, in the first open elections which were part of Gorbachev's perestroika (political reform), Andrei was elected to the Chamber of People's Deputies and gave speeches in favor of reform but still critical of the existing system as not moving fast enough. He died in 1989.
the Russian republic that emerged when the USSR collapsed in 1991. BORIS YELTSIN became the leader/president. The collapse of Communism was imminent. The USSR dissolved into its component republics and Russia, still in itself a multi-ethnic state, would still remain the largest of the former republics. Single-party Communist states now all but disappeared from Eastern Europe and Asia (except for China, Viet Nam, North Korea and a few questionable other exceptions.) This republic is NOW COMMONLY REFERRED TO AS RUSSIA.
1990; this was a conflict over a disputed enclave of Armenians in Azerbaijan. Armenians had been a persecuted Diaspora since the beginning of the century (Armenian Deportations - see WWI IDs). They now constituted about 10% of the population in Azerbaijan - a republic of the USSR. The relaxing of totalitarian controls under Gorbachev's reforms meant that long suppressed ethnic tensions were now being released. NOTE:
EVERY ONE OF THE FIFTEEN FEDERATED CONSTITUENT REPUBLICS OF THE SOVIET UNION BEGAN TO RAISE DEMANDS FOR SOVEREIGNTY, SELF-GOVERNMENT, AND AN END TO CENTRAL CONTROL IN ALL SPHERES, POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC. BUT ALSO, IN MANY OF THESE, SMALLER ETHNIC GROUPS WERE CONCERNED THAT THEY WOULD BECOME EVEN FURTHER PERSECUTED UNDER INDEPENDENT REPUBLIC RULE AND BEGAN PREPARING TO SEEK THEIR OWN INDEPENDENCE FROM WHAT WOULD BE NEW, SMALLER REPUBLICS.
Congress of Peoples' Deputies
In March of 1989, as part of Gorbachev's democratization reform measures, the FIRST OPENLY CONTESTED AND MULTICANDIDATE ELECTIONS WERE HELD IN THE USSR SINCE 1917(for the Constituent Assembly which Lenin promptly dismissed). Admittedly, over half the seats were reserved for the Communist Party and its props, but VOTERS ELECTED THE CONGRESS OF PEOPLE'S DEPUTIES with 2,250 seats and it, in turn, chose a smaller standing legislative body with 542 members. Both bodies were free to debate and initiate legislation. In 1990 the Cof PD created a PRESIDENCY with broad executive powers modeled on the American and French examples. GORBACHEV WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT.
Intermediate Range Nuclear Missiles
Soviets had deployed these in Eastern Europe in the late 1970s. They had radius of 600 to 1,500 miles. They were seen as a threat to security of Western Europe. NATO (US and Euro allies) made plans to strengthen Europe's defenses and deploy similar missiles targeted on USSR. This touched off big public protests in Western Europe. Demonstrations/sit-ins took place at entrances to missile sites and air bases. Western governments and Reagan held firm. Reagan did not meet with Brezhnev or his two successors (Andropov & Chernenko). Reagan also supported the so-called "STARS WARS" technology R & D plan to build a defensive weapon that would orbit the earth and target missiles after they had been fired and before reaching their destination. It was in this context of US determination NOT TO BLINK and US hi-tech weapon development that Gorbie came to power and recognized that the USSR's economy could no longer sustain the military technology race with the US.
Series of 4 meetings in late 1980s (Geneva, Iceland, Washington and Moscow) in which these leaders of the two superpowers talked about nuclear arms reductions. Both agreed to remove the Intermediate-Range Missiles each had installed in Europe(had been much public opposition to the presence of those - especially by environmental groups - "Green" movements). Soviets willing to destroy over four times the missiles US destroyed and allow US to inspect destructions. Also, R & G agreed on the reduction of short-range nuclear missiles and to discuss reduction of long range missiles.
Strategic Arms Treaty
A Treaty between Bush (Reagan's successor) and Gorbachev pledging to reduce the number of nuclear missiles down by about a third.
After Gorbie's introduction of Glasnost, dissidents (those who dissented/disagreed with the govt's prevailing policy) were freer to comment/criticize. They had been harshly suppressed b/4 1985. After that they played an active role in promoting reform. They were the intellectual and human rights activists of the time. They called for recognition of the Helsinki Accords to which the Soviets and East Europeans had subscribed back in the '70s. They wanted an end to party-state dictatorships and the restoration of a "CIVIL SOCIETY" in which people could live their lives with personal freedom. Dissidents PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE ALL OVER EASTERN EUROPE AND THE USSR IN THE LATE 1980s. THEY WERE COURAGEOUS IN TAKING ADVANTAGE OF GREAT FREEDOMS - THERE WERE NOT GUARANTEES THAT THEY WERE PERMANENT AND THERE WERE STILL VERY STRONG COMMUNIST PARTY SUPPORTERS WHO COULD TURN THE CLOCK BACK.
Reformer of Poland back in 1956 who took advantage of Khrushchev's Secret Speech to assert a little more independence from Moscow. However, he disappointed reformers by using troops to put down strikes, persecuting church leaders who presumed too much and permitted anti-Semitic campaigns against a number of Jews still in Poland. Was replaced in 1970 after several severe riots caused by high prices.
1970-1980; He replaced Gomulka as leader of Poland. He was seen as reform-minded and embarked on an ambitious economic development program, financed by heavy borrowing from the West. Initial results were promising, but had to expand on exports to repay the debts. Heavy interest payments, market shrinkage in the west and the inefficiency inherent in the soviet style central planning system caused conditions to deteriorate after initial improvements. By 1980 there were widespread strikes in Poland in protest of rising food prices.
The freer atmosphere under Gierek made this labor movement possible. It was led by Lech Walesa - shipyard worker in Gdansk, Poland. Workers organized trade unions outside the official structure to create an aggressive independent trade union. Government yielded when the swelling movement demanded legal authorization. Claimed 10 million industrial and agricultural workers ultimately were members. THIS WAS THE FIRST OF ITS KIND IN ANY COMMUNIST COUNTRY AND THE NUMBERS WERE TOO OVERWHELMING FOR THE GOVT TO EASILY SUPPRESS.