The breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991 was arguably one of the most pivotal and surprising events of the twentieth century. Lauded in its stirring anthem as the ‘Indestructible Union of Free Republics’, the USSR entered the 1980s as a superpower. Following the results of the referendum, the Soviet central government signed an agreement with its nine republics on April 23, 1991. Key to the survival of any dictatorship is strict control of the media, which shapes public opinion and promotes tacit acceptance of a regime. But his policy backfired. It probably would have meant the end of the Cold War, but the individual Soviet citizen would probably be better off today than his real-world counterpart that went through 25 years of chaos and is still facing the same basic human rights issues. In fact, Moscow only recently announced that it is capable of “import substitution” of Ukrainian military wares starting in 2018. This strictly economic approach would have redirected the energies of many individuals towards economic gain and profit, and away from antistate activities and protests—as it eventually did in China, although with some notable exceptions. Loss of confidence in the ability to properly govern and to provide for its citizens propelled alternative political thoughts and movements, ultimately resulting in the Belavezha and Alma-Ata Accords. Recently enacted Soviet policies that encouraged political openness and discussion unleashed forces that were shaking the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party and undermining the very foundations of the state. The reason the Soviet Union didn't survive was because the United States of America was just too powerful in terms of the foreign stage. In 1969, a Soviet dissident named Andrei Amalrik wrote an essay called “Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?” It predicted the demise of the Soviet system, most likely in a conflict with China. Some historians have viewed this move as a result of the fact that Gorbachev (born in 1931) was the first leader of the Soviet Union to have cut his political teeth in a de-Stalinised USSR. Glasnost is loosely defined as political openness, while perestroika means political and economic restructuring. How that arrangement would have worked in reality is difficult to answer, considering major political and social changes already taking place across the country. The Soviet Union can't survive its crisis because in this context 'survive' involves keeping its numerous plates spinning. Key to the survival of any dictatorship is strict control of the media, which shapes public opinion and promotes tacit acceptance of a regime. One has to wonder about the fate of the Soviet Union if NEP were allowed to continue. Perhaps more than anything else, their reporting of the horrific accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 illustrated the Party’s incompetence and shredded citizens’ belief not only in its ability to govern effectively, but also to keep them safe. This does assume, however, that such economic transformation would have been well managed by the state. In Eastern Europe, inside the Soviet Union itself, the subject peoples were increasingly restless for freedom. It is a small example of the economic contradictions that meant the Soviet Union could not have survived. The only way the USSR could have survived long term is if some of the radically stupid ideas the radical left put forward in the early 1980s were implemented. Soviet government would have to make small-scale commercial loans available for its budding entrepreneurial class, with most successful of such entrepreneurs eventually becoming members of the Party in order for the government to keep tabs on its most active citizens. But what if Gorbachev, in his desire to reform and re-invigorate the country, launched a different set of reforms? The vast majority of voters supported maintaining the federal system of the Soviet Union. Perhaps USS was an idea whose time has come, but its eventual existence was already undermined by the political forces that were tearing USSR apart. If we were to take a closer look at what actually happened, could USSR have actually survived into the twenty-first century? The Soviet Union could not have survived, because by 1991 the Communist Party had lost control of the media and thus the public sphere. In him, the Soviet Union had a leader who believed that its creaking system could be reformed and made fit for purpose. As the Soviet economy showed signs of a major slowdown in 1980s, the population and many of the USSR’s policy makers became restless. It’s likely, Taubman says, that the Soviet Union could have survived for a number of years, but it would have grown weaker and more decrepit. As the shock of the Belavezha decision still reverberated across around the world, another summit took place on December 21, this time in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. Others counter that without Stalin, the Soviet Union would never have survived World War II. There, the heads of the eleven of the Soviet republics (minus Baltics and Georgia) finally dissolved what was left of the Soviet Union. According to today’s prevailing attitudes, the political, economic and socio-cultural processes brewing in the country since 1986 eventually tore the nation part, and the relatively quick end of the largest country on the planet was more preferable to any alternatives. It’s tempting to think that even if the Soviet system suffered numerous deficiencies along the way, the absence of strong political competition to Gorbachev could have allowed the slowly reforming Soviet Union to overcome internal problems and to emerge past 1991 in some new and reinvigorated form. In some cases, Moscow supplied both finished and raw materials to make up for lack of industrial base and economic development in certain regions. Yuri Andropov, who became Soviet leader in 1982 after being head of the KGB, understood that – the secret police were always the best-informed part of Soviet society. The signers actually referred to the afore-mentioned Article 72 of the constitution that allowed for “peaceful” secession from the state. Rodric Braithwaite, British Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1988-91) and author of Armageddon and Paranoia: the Nuclear Confrontation (Profile, 2017). Tauris, 2020) and former BBC Moscow correspondent. To be clear, this was a decision neither made after canvassing the general population nor announced publicly months in advance. The Soviet Union could not have survived, because by 1991 the Communist Party had lost control of the media and thus the public sphere. Although the results were mixed, the NEP nonetheless resulted in an almost complete recovery of the new nation’s economy to pre-WWI levels, before being abruptly abolished in 1928 by Joseph Stalin. In 1986, the Kazakhs had no idea all this was looming. Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 … Yet this loosening of media relations led to more complications than the Soviet Union could swallow, as the policy of glasnost became more of a problem than a solution. Though many Soviet citizens may have claimed not to believe what was written in their newspapers, they were never aware of just how far removed from reality the reports were. But such preservation and eventual survival of the Soviet state required different management, with a more decisive government apparatus ensuring that it was not challenged by alternative political or ethnonational models. They are not going to agree quickly on why the Soviet Union collapsed when it did. Soviet scientists were the equal of any in the world, but their country was too poor to afford both guns and butter and their skills were directed towards matching the American military machine, rather than improving the people’s welfare. While the ‘free republics’ part of the heroic lyric was barely believed outside – or, indeed, inside –the territory which they covered, the ‘indestructible’ part seemed much more convincing. Contact author. After hardliners in his own party tried – and failed – to take power in a shortlived coup in 1991, the Soviet system was finished. It is common knowledge today that indeed, by the end of 1991, there was no way to preserve USSR as it existed for decades after 1922. The Kazakhs’ bid to make Moscow heed their frustrations failed. They knew something had to be done. The Soviet Union could not have survived, because by 1991 the Communist Party had lost control of the media and thus the public sphere. The reformer Mikhail Gorbachev had recently come to power promising glasnost, so that his people could freely voice their opinions in a more tolerant Soviet Union. The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. If the Communist Party had retained control of the media, it could, perhaps, have survived anything. Russians call Gorbachev a traitor for failing to prevent the collapse by force. The Soviet Union held its vast regions and republics together by a system of subsidies and fixed economic quotas, with many of its less developed regions receiving Soviet tech and consumer products in exchange for raw materials and agricultural goods. The Soviet Communist government would have never allowed its republics to freely leave the country as independent entities. However, there were attempts made by the Soviet government to extend the life of their country by changing specific aspects of how it could be governed. Putin has been recreating a sort of a Soviet-Union-with-shopping-malls-instead-of-Communism for some time now, and had a lot of success with it. Long story short, the Soviet Union could have survived by spending their money smarter and acting like the stone-cold killers that got them to that point in the first place. You're going to have to pick one. The Soviet Union’s seductive ideology had already given it influence across the world. When the Kazakhs took to the streets to do that, Gorbachev sent in the security forces to quell the demos with bloodshed. The … But in 1983 the Soviet Chief of Staff admitted that ‘We will never be able to catch up with [the Americans] in modern arms until we have an economic revolution. In 1985, after three decrepit leaders died in succession, they picked Mikhail Gorbachev to run the country: young, experienced, competent and – they wrongly thought – orthodox. The New Economic Policy (NEP) was enacted in 1921 following the Soviet government’s victory over Tsarist and anti-Bolshevik forces in the 1918–1920 civil war. For example, Amalrik's book "was welcomed as a piece of brilliant literature in the West" but "virtually no one tended to take it at face value as a piece of political prediction." The scale of resistance took Moscow by surprise, an indication of how disconnected from the thinking of ordinary Soviet citizens their leaders had become. On March 17, 1991, a popular referendum was held in the nine Soviet republics—Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. Richard Millington, Senior Lecturer in German at the University of Chester. Key point: Moscow could have played its hand much better. Some think it could have lasted for many years, others that the collapse was unforeseeable. If we want it to survive, we have to learn from what happened in Russia. I do not believe that the Soviet Union would have survived even with a capitalistic society. Despite a nearly year-and-a-half process that led to the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, the end of the mighty Communist superpower still caught many by surprise—in the United States and across Soviet Union itself. The Soviet society in mid-1980s was ready for such incremental economic changes, and may have embraced greater economic freedoms. It could not. Therefore, the Soviet Union in comparison to China did not possess a common history to which Soviet nationalism could arise. But after Stalin’s death in 1953 the ideology started looking threadbare, even at home. The heads of three Soviet constituent republics—Russia, Ukraine and Belarus—signed the document that officially dissolved USSR. When Western observers assess the likely democratic prospects of what was the Soviet Union, they tend to maintain that its peoples lack a representative tradition on which to build, and to cite the uncertainty, inefficiency, disorderliness and crises that have marked events … And the question is whether we can have an economic revolution without a political revolution’. The reality was very different. In 1986, Gorbachev unveiled two processes that led to the eventual death of his country. The Soviet economy was not strong enough both to maintain a military system at superpower level and give its people a good standard of living. 1556332. Could the Soviet Union Have Survived into the 21st Century? If it gives up on those things, and goes back to just being Russia (as it did), then the Soviet Union has not survived. Aimed at fixing the faults in Soviet society, Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika (‘reconstruction’) and glasnost (‘openness’) – it was a time of unprecedented press freedom, for both Russian and international journalists – ended up emphasising them. After a failed attempt by Communist hardliners to retake control in August of that year, the Party was banned and with it disappeared the glue that was keeping the Soviet Union together. Predictions of the Soviet Union's impending demise were discounted by many Western academic specialists, and had little impact on mainstream Sovietology. When Mikhail Gorbachev ascended to power in 1985, it was his policy of glasnost that let the genie out of the bottle. What seemed like a … No doubt that the second summit was underwritten by the earlier Belavezha Accords, which laid the legal foundation and a final precedent for the eventual and irreversible dissolution of the USSR. Prior to the August 1991 coup that gravely weakened then-Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and propelled Boris Yeltsin to prominence, the Soviet government debated the merits of a Union of Sovereign States (USS). Mikhail Gorbachev was 54. In fact, in 2006, Gorbachev pinpointed Chernobyl and the resulting media fallout as the real cause of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Perhaps in light of such events, the signers of the Belavezha Accords thought their actions were inevitable, and therefore felt justified that they were doing the right thing at that time. The Soviet leaders were not stupid. The Soviet Union collapsed overnight. A decade of Stalin’s purges had all but decimated the leadership of the Soviet military, and despite carefully worded pleas to upgrade equipment and fortifications from the remaining Soviet general staff, Stalin ignored these requests. Germany Invades Britain Instead of the Soviet Union. The “what if” discussions about the end of the Soviet Union are still reverberating across Russia. But was the breakup of the Soviet Union really inevitable? Disillusion with out-of-touch leaders ruling them from the distant Kremlin; disenchantment with inequality in a hypocritical communist state that professed equality for all; stirrings of national pride among the Kazakhs, who went out to protest against the Kremlin’s imperious imposition of a Russian leader from outside Kazakhstan. By 1991 the game was up for the Communist Party. He launched reforms to address the economic stagnation he inherited. He curbed the KGB, freed the press and introduced a kind of democracy. With the country’s economy in ruins, limited private enterprises was allowed to coexist alongside emerging state industrial sector. Or at the least, could the Soviet Union have survived until today, and remained a viable competitor to the United States while celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 2017, or the centennial of the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 2022? The Communist elite turned then to relative youth and energy. It worked for a while. The “what if” discussions about the end of the Soviet Union are still reverberating across Russia, as country’s intellectuals, politicians and nationalists try to understand what, if anything, could have done to keep their country together and to what ends. No, the Soviet Union would not have survived even with a capitalist society. (A few of us might argue, of course, that Stalin's idiocy and misplaced egomania also helped spark that war.) By August 1991, nine republics, except Ukraine, approved the draft of the new treaty. Following the full implementation of this treaty, the USSR would have become a federation of independent republics with a common president, foreign policy and military. However, let's be honest here, if that would really the case then such process could have taken place well before 1990. Foreigners dismiss him as an inadequate bungler. Key to the survival of any dictatorship is strict control of the media, which shapes public opinion and promotes tacit acceptance of a regime. Putin’s politic proves that the old USSR was salvageable. But Gorbachev believed that change was inescapable. Glasnost meant that news outlets could lay bare the failings of the Soviet system and the Communist Party. There was a precedent for such a move. The Soviet Union can't have free exchange of ideas and survive. James Rodgers, Author of Assignment Moscow: Reporting on Russia from Lenin to Putin (I.B. All fifteen Soviet republics were tied and interconnected together by a complicated economic matrix that placed the Russian Federated Socialist Republic (today’s Russia) at the center of all major industrial, economic and political activity across the country. Attempts to crack down on the widespread drunkenness that plagued the Soviet workplace proved especially unpopular with large parts of the population. People still argue about the fall of the Roman Empire. Five ways the Soviet Union could have won the Cold War ... Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution, you certainly might think so. Had they attacked, it is unlikely the Soviet Union could have survived a war on two fronts. Hitler could have just ramped up the naval and air war against the British after, but the war expanded to include the Balkans and North African...plus Hitler's dream was taking over the Soviet Union. Without the intensification of glasnost the Soviet Union could have survived longer than its collapse in 1991. Amalrik, as it turned out, was wrong about a war with China, but he was only off about the end of the USSR by a few years. © Copyright 2020 History Today Ltd. Company no. The Soviet constitution included Article 72 that allowed the constituent republics to secede. In his attempt to ‘open up’ society, Gorbachev permitted the press more freedom of expression. In 1986, when Kazakhs took to the streets to protest against the Soviet government in Moscow, nobody had an inkling that firing up the demonstrators in Soviet Kazakhstan was a heady cocktail of ingredients that would gather momentum around the USSR and help bring it down five years later. Small and light industries, as well as agriculture, would be in the hands of the private sector. Such a case would mean the permanent weakening of the Soviet state in the “zero-sum” game of the Cold War. For background, the Soviet Union was in no shape to fight a protracted war in 1941, at the outset of Operation Barbarossa. Could the Soviet Union have won the Cold War? What seemed like a sudden end of the Cold War ushered in a new world, along with new challenges and opportunities. Fast forward to December 8, 1991. In this scenario, there would be no “glasnost,” no open discussion and critique of the state, no facing up to the dark Soviet past and no rising ethnonationalism in far-flung republics. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the soaring poverty rates have steadily declined. British and U.S. civilian authorities ordered their military forces in Europe to deport to the Soviet Union up to two million former residents of the Soviet Union, including persons who had left the Russian Empire and established different citizenship years before. © Copyright 2020 Center for the National Interest All Rights Reserved. A reformed economic plan would have left medium- and large-sized enterprises in the hands of the state, while allowing Soviet people to conduct small-scale economic activity, especially in agriculture. In reality, by the late 1980s, Soviet population’s cynicism and distrust towards party slogans and overall management were at their highest. So,in my oppinion,the SU whould have survived if : 1.Gorbaciov woulden t have risen to power(he was an american spy who deribelatley destroyed the URSS,now he s living in the US...) 2.If Russia would have granted autonomy to all european countries,instead of trying to slavize them Was Thomas Becket a Saint or an Arrogant Troublemaker. The “commanding heights” of the economy, such as mines and heavy industry, would be under state management. We can hear the echoes of such an arrangement today in a complicated relationship between Russia and Ukraine. Key to the survival of any dictatorship is strict control of the media, which shapes public opinion and promotes tacit acceptance of a regime. Joanna Lillis, Author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan (I.B. In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Eastern Bloc and the humiliating Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan after a decade of pointless warfare confirmed that the superpower was waning. Around 40 million people escaped poverty from 1998 to 2003, although there is some disparity in growth between urban and rural areas as well as between different economic classes. Absence of secessionist movements that took place in the Baltics and Caucasus, and absent the August 1991 coup, the plan for the eventual transformation of the Soviet Union into a more economically liberal entity may have had a greater chance to succeed. Victory in war took the Soviet armies to the centre of Europe, where they stayed. Meant to slowly liberalize certain aspects of state management and interaction with people, both actually weakened Soviet oversight and control, resulting in economic and political chaos, with rising nationalist and secessionist movements in many republics. The Soviet Union could not have survived, because by 1991 the Communist Party had lost control of the media and thus the public sphere. On December 25, 1991, in a Christmas gift to the United States and its allies, the Soviet flag was lowered in the Kremlin and replaced with a current Russian tri-color, ending the Cold War and ushering in a new and uncertain world. That is precisely why they invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, even though it was late in the year and they needed to deploy the army to help collect the harvest (thus risked famine) - the free press is more dangerous to the USSR than famine. Andropov’s death in 1984 was followed by that of his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, the year after. But what if Gorbachev were able to convince his colleagues that better economic conditions across Soviet Union would result in people’s restored trust in the party and their country? Tauris, 2019). Unfortunately for Gorbachev and his last-ditch efforts, the Soviet hardliner August 1991 coup permanently sidelined him from political stage and ended any further efforts to reform the country. The Soviet Union could not have survived, because by 1991 the Communist Party had lost control of the media and thus the public sphere. Or at the least, could the Soviet Union have survived until today, and remained a viable competitor to … ... Whilst in the short term it lead to equipment shortages once the factories were re-assembled, the Soviet Union had a strong manufacturing base to fuel their military resurgence. On the other end were those who believed that if sweeping reforms were undertaken, the USSR could have been saved. Few foresaw then that it would collapse early in the following decade. We need only look to the Chinese example for what can happen when a dictatorship remains in full control of the public sphere. Even in the midst of conflict between the two countries, Russian military is still reliant on Ukrainian military products, and Ukrainian factories and industrial conglomerates still reap dividends by selling their technology to the Russians. He was defeated by a conservative establishment, an intractable economy and an unsustainable imperial burden. No one has suggested a convincing alternative scenario. If this sounds a lot like China today, that’s probably the case—the Chinese economic miracle took place under the strict control of the Communist Party that tolerated no political dissent in any form. It was the fatal moment, identified by the 19th-century French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, when a decaying regime tries to reform – and disintegrates. The Soviet Union bene... Word Count: 2415; Approx Pages: 10 Could the Soviet Union have won the Cold War? Is the Story of ‘The Few’ More Myth Than Reality? As the author of Vodka and Gorbachev, Alexander Nikishin, later asked: ‘Did he understand who he was getting into a fight with?’ The question could be applied to Gorbachev’s wider strategy. Conventional wisdom discounting a collapse U.S. analysts. As March 1991 vote showed, plenty across USSR still believed in being part of one united state. For such a scenario to succeed in late 1980s, Gorbachev would need to convince his fellow Communists that his new policies would not erode the party’s standing and reputation. I paid more for the plastic bag to carry it in than for the actual record. Glasnost had permitted dissenting voices to be heard and political movements that had once been suppressed to gain traction and support. But the rejection of high-handed colonial rule by other nations in the Soviet Union, who were unofficially expected to kowtow to Russian superiority while officially all the USSR’s peoples were equal, soon became a driving force in the country’s collapse. We ask four historians whether the demise of one of the 20th century’s superpowers was as inevitable as it now seems. The Soviet Union, meanwhile, embraced free speech and multiparty elections even as it plunged into a devastating economic depression before breaking apart into 15 separate countries. In hindsight, the bulk of the Soviet population wanted to preserve USSR in some shape or form. On my first trip to Moscow, as a language student in the 1980s, I bought a record of that Soviet national anthem. The breakup of the Soviet Union in December 1991 was arguably one of the most pivotal and surprising events of the twentieth century. Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet dissident scientist, foresaw it decades before it happened. 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