The End of the Cold War
Essential Question: How was the breakup of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc nations inevitable (not able to be stopped)? Justify your answer using the evidence from the documents.
Document A: Vaclav Havel, president of Czechoslovakia, 1990 Speech
The state, which calls itself a state of workers, is humiliating and exploiting them instead. Our outdated economy wastes energy, which we have in short supply. The country, which could once be proud of the education of its people, is spending so little on education that today, in that respect, we rank 72nd in the world. We have spoiled our land, rivers, and forests, inherited from our ancestors, and we have, today, the worst environment in the whole of Europe. Adults die here earlier than in the majority of European countries....
The USSR, which calls itself a country of the worker is putting them down and stealing their rights instead. Our economy is not modern and wastes energy which we do not have very much of. The country, which used to be proud of how educated its people were is now spending so little on education that today, we rank 72nd in the world. We have polluted our land, rivers, and forests, which we got from our grandparents and great grandparents, and we have, today, the worst environment in the whole of Europe. Adults die here earlier than in most other countries....
Source: What perspective does this document represent?
Analyze: According to Vaclav Havel, what has happened to the Communist nations?
Document B: Yuri Krotkov, “Worker’s Paradise Lost”
Our apartment contained eleven rooms. It had one kitchen, one telephone in the hall, a bath and toilet, which only the fastest were able to get get to in the morning (many just stopped in the public restrooms on their way to work). There were 18 people in the apartment. There was not a single washing machine in the apartment; we had never even heard of a clothes-drier. But there were three TV sets and 2 radios. Furthermore, all eighteen people ate at home. They never went to even the cheapest cafeteria, much less a restaurant. It was the expense. My apartment was somewhat typical. But at the same time we were exceptional, in that each resident could say with satisfaction: “it’s crowded, but the people, thank the lord, are decent. They don’t spit in their neighbor’s soup, as they do in Apartment 5.
Document C: The End of the Cold War, 1995
By 1989 a number of startling facts about life in the USSR had emerged. 28% of Soviets lived below the official poverty line which was the equivalent of just $1920 a year. Industries poisoned the environment with widespread pollution. 30 million Soviets drank unsafe water. The average Russian earned 200 rubles ($320). While rents and food prices were set officially low, other prices put many products far beyond the reach of the common person. A pair of blue jeans cost between 200 and 400 rubles, a used foreign car between 50,000 and 100000 and a pair of shoes between 400 and 500 rubles. The average citizen in an Easter bloc country could lonely dream of goods and services Westerners took for granted.
Analyze :According to the documents what was the standard of living of people living in the USSR during this time.
Document D: Mikhail S. Gorbachev, speech from the Socialist Idea and Revolutionary Perestroika
....At the present stage…. the (Communist) Party will promote the development of opinions in society and the broadening of glasnost in the interests of democracy and the people.
At this time…the Communist Party will now allow people to have their own opinions and encourage them to express them through the program called glasnost, because this is better for democracy and the people.
Analyze: What changes is Gorbachev going to allow?
Document E: CIA Report, February 1988: USSR: Domestic Fallout From the Afghan War
Military involvement in Afghanistan has lasted longer than any previous Soviet war and, we estimate, has cost the USSR more than 12,000 lives and 15 billion rubles, approximately 3% of the Soviet Defense budget.... The war has intensified some societal and health problems. Returning combat veterans have spread infectious diseases, especially hepatitis, and drug usage....most soldiers in Afghanistan experiment with various types of drugs and at least 10% returned addicted to hashish.
Analyze: How was the war in Afghanistan a drain on Soviet resources?
Document F: The Afghan War and Breakdown of the Soviet Union by Rafael Reuvny and Aseem Prakash, Review of International Studies, 1999.
We view 1986 as the turning point in the Afghanistan war and, accordingly, as marking the second phase of Gorbachev’s reform agenda. In 1986, the Mujaheddin (Afghan freedom fighters), now well armed with US-supplied surface-to-air missiles, rockets, mortars, and communication equipment, won many confrontations with the Soviet army. As successful ambushes of Soviet convoys became a daily phenomenon, the number of Soviet casualties mounted, the number of disabled soldiers seen in Soviet cities grew substantially, and the war veterans (Afgantsy) increasingly became part of the Soviet urban landscape. Since many Afgantsy belonged to the non-Russian nationalities (of the Soviet Union), opposition to the war from citizens in non-Russian Soviet republics increased. Since their presence often was not acknowledged by the authorities, who wished to play down Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, these Afgantsy became bitter and openly critical of the Soviet leaders.
We view 1986 as the turning point in the Afghan war. It is also the year Gorbachev started the second phase of his political reforms. In 1986, the Afghani freedom fighters, now armed with American weapons and communication equipment, won many battles with the Soviet army. They successfully attacked Soviet trucks carrying soldiers and supplies, and the number of injured Soviet soldiers began to go up. The number of disabled soldiers seen back in the USSR also went up, especially in the cities. Many of these disabled soldiers (veterans known as Afghantsy) were not from Russia, but were citizens of the countries Russia controlled through the USSR (like Czechoslovakia and Romania). These people became more and more angry about the war and said bitter and critical things about the Soviet Leaders.
Analyze : How is the war in Afghanistan highlighting inequalities between Russia and the satellite countries of the Soviet Union?
Document G: Radio Liberty Research, ‘Pamiati A. Bennigsen, RS 58/88 (July 5, 1988)
During the Cold War, when Soviet satellite countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary had tried to break away from the Soviet Union, they had been brutally put down with Soviet tanks in the streets. Before Afghanistan, Soviet dissidents (people who opposed communism in the USSR) believed the communist government had the will and the ability to use the military to crush them. The Afghan war changed this perception. Since both the will and the ability of the leadership in Moscow were under a cloud, non-Russian movements became bold enough to publicly call for separation from Russia.
It would be demonstrated that Soviet might was not invincible and that resistance is possible. What are the Afghans for Central Asia? It is a small, wild and poor country. So then, if the Afghans could inflict a military and political defeat, then that makes anything possible. And everyone in Central Asia knows that. I think that in Soviet Russia they know it too.
It would become clear that the Soviets were not all powerful and that you could resist them (and win). Who were these Afganis from Central Asia? It is a small, wild and poor country (ie not very powerful). So, then, if the Afghans could win against the military and political power of the USSR, it made anything possible. Everyone in Central Asia knows this. I think that they know it in Soviet Russia also (especially in the countries Russia controls in the Soviet Union).
Analyze : How does the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan create problems at home for the Soviet Union?
Document H: Yegor Gaidar, acting prime minister of Russia from June of 1992 to December of 1992
During Detent, the leaders of the USSR had lifted some of the restrictions on trade with non-communists countries. Soviet oil was often in demand in nearby Europe since it was closer than Arabic oil.
Soviet agriculture had stagnated in the 1980's but the demand for grain in the cities was increasing. It was necessary to buy grain in the international market. While the price of petroleum was high, it was feasible to finance the purchase of grain from within the Soviet Bloc nations. When the price of petroleum fell in the last 1980's the Soviet Union needed to borrow the funds from Western banks to purchase the needed grain. This severely restricted the international activities of the Soviet Union. It could not send in Soviet troops to put down the rebellions against communism in Eastern Europe because such an action would have resulted in a refusal of Western sources to lend the money needed.
Soviet farming had not grown at all in the 1980's but the demand for wheat in the cities was increasing. It was necessary to buy wheat in the international market. While the price of gas was high, it was possible to buy food for the Soviet Bloc nations (by selling gas). When the price of gas fell in the late 1980's the Soviet Union needed to borrow money from Western banks to purchase the needed food. This severely limited the international activities of the Soviet Union. It could not send in Soviet troops to put down the rebellions against communism in Eastern Europe because such an action would have meant Western banks would stop lending the USSR money.
Analyze : According to Yegor Gaidar, why did the USSR allow rebellions in the Eastern Bloc nations in the 1980s?
Document I: Aleksander Yakoblev, a specialist in North American affairs
It seemed to us that all we had to do was to remove some prohibitions (resistance to change). Free everything up and it would start to work. There is a good engine there. It has got a bit old and rusty. It needs oil. Then just press the starter and it will set off down the track. And we went along under this illusion for two years.
But as soon as we began to make really radical (extreme) reforms (in Communism), we immediately came up against the resistance of the system. It began to resist. That is when we began to understand that if we wanted radical reform we would inevitably come up against the resistance of the system. And that is what happened. From that moment on people began to say that the system is un-reformable (can’t be fixed, must be thrown out)and the (Communist) Party is un-reformable. There did remain some illusions, some hopes, that it could all be done without major conflicts.
Analyze : If the communist system of the USSR can’t be reformed, what other option is there?
Document J: Letter of Transmittal from the White House to the U.S. Senate and photo: President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House. 12/8/87.
To the Senate of the United States:
I am transmitting herewith, for the advice and consent of the Senate to ratification, the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Treaty is an unprecedented (never seen before) arms control agreement in several respects. It marks the first time that the United States and the Soviet Union have agreed to eliminate (get rid of), throughout the world, an entire class of their missile systems. …
The missile systems to be eliminated consist of all U.S. and Soviet ground-launched ballistic missiles. Elimination will take place at designated locations and will be subject to on-site inspection as an aid to verifying compliance.
Analyze: Why would Gorbachev agree to reduce the size of Soviet missiles?
Document K: “The Collapse of Communism: The Winter of 1988-89”
"I hope this is for real," said Boris Mamecov, a court clerk, at his voting place in south Moscow. "We never had anything like it before: discussions, debates. Before people dropped a piece of paper in a slot. You couldn't describe it as a choice."
Document L: Pravda (newspaper) March 27, 1989
“Millions Vote for Perestroika—A Vote of Confidence for the Policy of Redeveloping Soviet Society.”
Analyze: What “unusual” event is happening in the USSR?
Big Question: How was the breakup of the USSR and the Eastern Bloc nations inevitable (not able to be stopped)? Justify your answer using the evidence from the documents.