Questions about the end of the cold war

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Why did Gorbachev feel that Perestroika and Glasnost were necessary for the Soviet Union in 1983? Explain your answer.


Gobachev felt that Perestroika and Glasnost were necessary for the USSR largely because of economic and social reasons. The economic causes were responsible for Perestroika. The social problems the USSR was responsible for Glasnost. It must however be understood that Gorbachev had introduced perestroika and glasnost because he wanted to make communism more rationale and popular.

Economically, the Soviet economy on the decline by the time Gorbachev came to power in 1985. The command economy was very inefficient and Soviet citizens found it difficult to purchase consumer goods like TV sets, washing machines and even clothes and shoes. Most resources were instead allocated more materials to strategic items like iron, coal and military industries. There was little incentive to work hard because all workers received the same incentives and were guaranteed jobs for lie. This made the economy even less efficient and weakened the Soviet economy.
To Gorbachev, Perestroika or market restructuring was necessary because these reforms aimed to improve the Soviet economy by ending the command economy and by properly allocating resources according to the forces of demand and supply. Under the Law of State Enterprise, the Central Government would not make all the key decisions about the economy. Instead managers of farms and factoris would decide what to produce and how much to produce. Gorbachev hoped these reforms would introduce capitalism and privatization to make Soviet companies more competitive, economical and profitable.
The social cause for Gorbachev’s policy of Glasnost lay in the USSR’s social condition in the 1970s and 1970s. When Gorbacehv came to power, the Soviet citizen’s attitude towards his or her work was poor. There were problems of alcoholism and little incentive to work. There seemed to be little incentive to work hard beause their pay remained low and few consumer goods were available for purchase. Even if there was money, there was little to buy. There was also corruption in the Soviet system and great inefficiency. Communist Politburo or central government officials chose leaders based on favoritism, friendship and how long they had been in the communist party. Such a system led to corruption and conservatism.
By introducing Glasnost or Openness, Gorbachev wanted more ideas and suggestions on how to improve the USSR. He wanted the Soviet Union to be more critical of herself and come up with new ways to improve their working conditions and improve the quality of life. He relaxed censorship under glasnost and allowed people to practice their individual religions. He released political prisoners and allowed historians to re-examine Soviet history to tell people the truth about the famines and purges which Stalin had introduced. Gorbachev did this because he wanted people to realize that the government was open to ideas.
The underlying and common factor which were responsible for Perestroika and Glasnost were however more ideological and basic. The common cause was to make communism more popular. Gorbachev knew that communism had become less popular than it had been since Lenin’s days. He knew that the Soviet economy was already in trouble by the 1970s. He knew that living standards and social life in the Soviet had declined in terms of morale and a sense of belonging. Therefore, Glasnost and Perestroika were reforms intended to stir the people ideologically to give them hope in a brighter future. Perestroika and Glasnost were introduced to make communism more rational and deliver it’s promises for a better life. That, ultimately, is the reason why glasnost and perestroika were introduced. It was underlying common factor because this would also later aid us in understanding why Gorbachev was so reluctant to get rid of communism in 1991. Even when communism had lost it’s appeal, Gorbachev was willing to compromise with the republics rather than disband the USSR between 1989-1991.


“The rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe was the most important consequences of Glasnost and Perestroika”. How far do you agree with this statement? Explain your answer,


The rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe was a very serious consequence of Glasnost and Perestroika. There were however other more serious long term impact which we will discuss in the essay. .

When Glasnost (Openness) and Perestroika (Restructuring) were introduced in Russia, Gorbachev encouraged the Eastern European states to develop similar reforms to make communism more appealing. He also loosened his control over Eastern Europe by withdrawing Soviet troops from Eastern Europe. He also promised not to interfere in their domestic affairs. This led to the rise of nationalism in Eastern Europe. For example, in Poland, the trade union Solidarity won popular support and free elections were held. The first non-communist government was set up in Poland In Hungary, the borders with Austria were removed and free elections were held in 1990. In Czechoslovakia, huge demonstrations were held which toppled the communist government and free election were held. Gorbachev even encouraged the Czechs to ask for more freedom. The Berlin Wall was torn down and Germany was reunified in 1990. These were all very serious consequences because political future of Eastern Europe was forever changed. Eastern Europe had become non-communist and democracy was introduced there.
There were however, also other important results of Glasnost and Perestroika. One short-term effect was the failure of the Soviet economy. The economy worsened because many communist officials did not wish to implement perestroika. Others used market reforms for profiteering and hoarded luxury goods or food to maximize profits. They had to queue in long lines to buy food and basic goods. These shortages led to strikes and demonstrations against the government. There was also inflation because the prices of basic goods became more expensive. Many workers also lost their jobs in the new market economy because state-owned companies tried to reduce their costs by retrenching their extra workers.
Other important consequences of the Soviet Union include the break-up of the USSR. Glasnost indirectly led to the break-up of the USSR because under Glasnost reforms, the Communist Party loosened its control of the country. Glasnost allowed people to criticize the government and express their opinions. It allowed them to vote for politicians from other different political parties and weakened the power of the communist party.

In the late 1980s, even states like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia (The Baltic States) demanding independence from the Soviet Union. (The Baltic States had been invaded in 1939 by the USSR and remembered that their independence during the inter-war years between 1917 to 1938. They wanted to be free of Soviet rule.) This sense of nationalism in the USSR spread to other Soviet states like Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

The crises in the end resulted in the August coup of 1991 where communist hardliners tried to use the army to take complete control of the USSR, placing Gorbachev under house arrest. The coup failed and resulted in the victory of anti-communists like Boris Yeltsin. However, the coup had so thoroughly disgraced and discredited the Communist Party that Gorbachev resigned as president and the USSR dissolved itself on Christmas Day, 1991. Gorbachev found that he did not have the support of the communists or the anti-communists and the USSR broke up to become the Commonwealth of Independent States or CIS.
I have discussed 3 consequences of Glasnost and Perestroika – Rise of nationalism in E Europe; Breakup of the USSR; Failure of the Soviet Economy and Breakup of the USSR. Although I think that the rise of nationalism in E Europe is very important. I feel that it is not important as the breakup of the USSR.
The rise of nationalism had resulted in the political structure and economy of Eastern Europe becoming forever changed. It had become capitalist and democratic. However compared to the breakup of the USSR, it was not as important because the breakup of the USSR had a very serious impact all around the world. The USSR was the largest country in the world. It had been in existence for 70 years and it had a worldwide impact on world events since the beginning of the Cold War (1945-1991). The many events of the 20th century - the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War, the Berlin Crisis and Airlift – they all had to take into consideration the Soviet view point. However, with the breakup and end of the USSR, a superpower had come to an end. That explains why I feel that the impact of the end of the USSR is the most serious consequence of glasnost and perestroika.
The economic impact of the USSR also pales in comparison because the USSR economy was a short-term impact. The economic failure of the USSR was felt from 1991 to 1996. Once the USSR was part of the global economy, the economy began to improve and basic food was once again available. The food shortages were also not so bad that it killed millions like in the days of Stalin or Lenin. Therefore, it is not as serious a consequence as the breakup of the USSR.

a. Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe between 1989-1991?

Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe between 1989-1991 mainly because of external factors. Firstly, Gorbachev decided to loosen his control over Eastern Europe. In the past, the communist governments in Eastern Europe had relied on Soviet troops and secret police to hold on to power. However, when Gorbachev decided to withdraw his troops from the USSR and adopt a policy of non-interfere in Eastern Europe, it led to the decline of communism in Eastern Europe. With time, this led to the collapse of communism.
Secondly, Gorbachev encouraged the promotion of Glasnost in Eastern Europe. This again, was the second external factor which led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. When Gorbachev encouraged the policy of glasnost in the USSR, people in Eastern Europe also began to become less afraid to speak out against their communist rulers. For example, in Eastern Europe, the people organized protests and strikes calling for a change in government. In countries like Poland, worker unions like Solidarity were so powerful that they forced the government to hold free elections. This led to the set-up of the first non-communist government in Eastern Europe in 1989. With time, this led to similar strikes and demonstrations in Czechoslovakia, which led to free elections in June 1990.
There were however internal factors which help explain the nature of how communism collapsed in eastern Europe. For example, in East Germany which had been unnaturally divided at the Potsdam and Yalta Treaty back in 1945, the collapse of communism took the form of calls for reunification and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. This was finally achieved in October 1990. The collapse of communism in Germany took the form of reunification.
Another example is the case of Romania where Romanian leader Nikolai Ceausescu and his wife had ruled by using Stalinist methods. When they refused to introduce reforms, the army joined in a rebellion which had started out in the capital city of Bucharest. The Romanian leader were shot by firing squad and overthrown. The collapse of communism took the form of a civil war and the overthrow of the leader.
In retrospect, the nature of how communism collapsed in the Eastern Europe was determined by the characteristics and internal characteristics, a well as history of the East European states. The reasons why communism collapsed are different. They are largely external – Gobachev’s decision to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe, as well as his promotion of glasnost and pererstroika

  1. To what extent was the end of communism in the USSR

caused by the August Coup of 1991? Explain your answer. [13]
I believe that the August Coup of 1991 was a catalyst which hastened the end of communism and more importantly demonstrated that communism was no longer a popular ideology. The causes for the end of communism in the USSR however are far more deep-rooted.
The long-term and deep-rooted cause for the end of communism in the USSR like in the failure of the communist system which were as clearly evident as in the 1970s. The command economy was inefficient in allocating resources. There was a disincentive to hard work and chronic alcoholism. There was also to much resources devoted to the military at the expense of the production of consumer goods and economic reforms. This is a deep rooted cause for the end of communism because it demonstrated that since 19187, the communism had failed in the long run to improve the livelihood of it’s citizens.
Even the spark which led to the end of communism in the USSR is related to the failure of the communist system. Gorbacehv introduced his reforms of peretroika and glasnost to improve the communist system. He ended central planning and introduced perestroika or restructuring to have a more market economy. Unknowingly however, his reforms stirred the Russians to demand for greater change. It released more than 70 years of hatred against an oppressive and authoritarian government which made communism very unpopular.
When the communist hard-liners decided to seize power in August 1991 by placing Gorbachev under house arrest and declaring emergency powers, their actions demonstrated the unpopularity and hopelessness of communism as an ideology. When citizens and the army rallied to the cause of Boris Yeltsin, calling for the end of communism and for the release of Gorbachev in August 1991, these were just symptoms that communism was an unpopular ideology. The actions of August 1991 demonstrated the failings of the communist system, totally discrediting Gobachev and his inability to control his party which ultimately led to the end of communism in the USSR. It should however be noted that these failings were evident from as early as the 1960s and 1970s. The events of August 1991 were therefore just symptoms of the last gasp of communism in the USSR. It was their last desperate and feeble attempt to hold on to power in a process which had long since seen the failings of the communist system from as early as the 1970s.

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