To What Extent was Gorbachev to blame for the Collapse of the USSR sample essay
Gorbachev was to blame for the collapse of the USSR for various reasons, mainly because of his two new policies, ‘Glasnost’ (New Freedom and Openness) and ‘Perestroika’ (Economic Restructuring). However, there were a few external factors which helped cause the collapse of the USSR, such as the effect Yeltsin had on Russia and how countries were growing tired of the whole communist system itself. Gorbachev’s intention was to make the communist system work better by allowing people to have their say in how the system could be improved and to make the Soviet system of central planning of production more efficient.
However, it just allowed people to openly criticize the system and soon people wanted to get rid of it. Firstly, the Cold War created a crisis in the USSR. The arms race with the USA had become so expensive that Soviet living standards became worse as more money was spent on weapons. Soviet Farming was inefficient; there wasn’t enough food, so tonnes of grain had to be imported from the USA. The communist government was becoming more and more corrupt and was unable to meet demands of high living standards like the west for the Soviet people. The USSR had been at war with Afghanistan since 1979.
The war was a complete disaster because it cost billions of dollars and 15 000 Soviet troops were killed. Already people ruled under Communism were beginning to feel uneasy. Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985 in the USSR and radically changed Soviet Policies. He became General Secretary of the Communist Party. He was more open to the west than previous leaders and offered a solution for the current situation. He introduced two major new policies, Glasnost and Perestroika. Glasnost meant New Freedom and Openness. In this policy the Soviet people won new rights.
Firstly thousands of political prisoners were released, including the infamous Andrei Sakharov. People were told of the atrocities committed by Stalin’s dictatorial government. Free speech was allowed and military conscription was to be abolished. Perestroika meant Economic restructuring. Gorbachev wanted to make the system of production more efficient, however corruption in the Soviet government was too great. So he was unable to see through his plans. Gorbachev changed foreign policy. In 1987, a disarmament treaty was signed, called the INF (Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces).
The USSR and the USA agreed to remove all medium range missiles from Europe within three years. In 1988, Gorbachev announced the immediate reduction in the weapons stockpile and the number of troops in the Soviet armed forces. Gorbachev tried to improve relations with the west. He met the US president Reagan several times, one of which was at the Geneva Summit in 1985. In 1988, Gorbachev abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine. He told the UN that people now had a choice in Eastern Europe and that the USSR wasn’t going to control them anymore.
Gorbachev announced the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988. In 1978, the communist Afghan government secured a treaty with the USSR that allowed them to ask for military assistance when they required it to fight against the Mujahideen rebels. In 1979, they requested for tanks and helicopters, this was approved. They then started asking for platoons. The USSR was now a bit hesitant on approving this. In July 1979, American president Jimmy Carter funded for the Afghan rebels and allowed them to buy more and better weapons. Also the CIA conducted anti communist propaganda in the vicinities.
In September, the Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan, Hafizullah Amin took power after the shooting of President Taraki. The Soviets saw this as destabilising and on December 27th they decided to invade Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilise the communist government. It lasted nine years, and was referred to as the Soviet’s Vietnam. The USSR’s invasion cost them a great deal of money. Gorbachev offered what he thought to be a solution for this. The negative affects of communism can be highlighted by looking at the prevailing conditions in Hungary and Germany.
After the war, the USSR helped put Rakosi, a brutal Stalinist in charge of Hungary. He was unpopular and in 1956, the people of Budapest protested against his government. The secret police were hunted down. Khrushchev allowed the liberal Nagy to become Prime Minister. After Austria declared itself a neutral state in 1955, Nagy hoped that Hungary could do the same. In 1956, Nagy declared the end of communism there by withdrawing from the Warsaw pact and holding free elections. In response to this, Soviet tanks invaded Hungary. 20 00 Hungarians were killed or injured.
Nagy was arrested and shot. Kadar became prime minister and ensured loyalty to the USSR. Western countries didn’t help the USSR. This was the first move made by Khrushchev to show he was tough. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961. In 1949, Stalin ended the Berlin blockade. Two new states formed were East Germany (Democratic Republic) and West Germany (Federal Republic). Between then and 1961 over two and a half million people fled to West Germany. The communist government of East Germany was worried and so made a 30-mile barrier across the city of Berlin.
It was fortified with barbed wire and machine gun posts and separated East and West Berlin. Anyone who tried to escape East Berlin was shot, so West Berliners were now separated from friends and family. More unrest continued, this time with Poland. Solidarity played a major part in 1980 when Poland’s people rebelled. Solidarity was lead by Lech Walesa and it demanded the right to strike and to be consulted on all major decisions affecting their living and working conditions. Solidarity started after the communist government decided to raise prices due to the foreign debt in Poland’s economy.
It was an anti-communist social movement, which by 1981 attracted nine million members. It was especially strong because of the support from the Catholic Church. General Jaruzelski took over the country in 1981 and declared Martial Law. Solidarity was banned and food prices were raised 40%. However, in 1989, free elections were held in Poland and Solidarity won. This was able to happen now because of Glasnost. Glasnost was helping Eastern European countries to actually turn away from Communism, this had a very negative impact on Gorbachev. The Cold War was finally over.
Communism fell all over Eastern Europe in 1989. Hungary opened its frontier with Austria in May. Poland held free elections in June. Solidarity won and a new non-communist government came to power. Many East Germans crossed through Austria and into West Germany and the Berlin wall was knocked down in November. In 1990 Germany was reunified. Anti-communist demonstrations took place in Czechoslovakia and the communist government collapsed in December. In December a revolution in Romania began against the cruel and corrupt regime with dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and he was executed on Christmas day.
The Warsaw Pact ended in 1991. Communism was rejected in the USSR. The main nationalities in the Soviet Union demanded independence, especially the Baltic republics, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Gorbachev tried to prevent the rise of nationalism in the Baltic republics with military force, but he gradually started to lose control. The anti-communist Russian president was elected in 1991. Boris Yeltsin was an opponent of Gorbachev and became powerful and popular. He demanded the end of communism domination and the splitting up of the USSR. This led to a crisis in 1991.
The old communist leaders feared the reforms, so they decided to get rid of Gorbachev; this was an attempted coup in 1991. A military group tried to seize power by capturing Gorbachev but Yeltsin rallied the Russian people to resist and the army supported him, the coup failed. The Soviet republics soon became independent and the USSR did not exist any longer. Gorbachev lost his power and had to resign. Communism in Russia was dead. To conclude, there were various factors which affected the collapse of the USSR, however I believe that Gorbachev was mainly to blame because of his new policy Glasnost.
Glasnost enabled people to have free speech. Gorbachev believed that it would help rebuild the Communist system but instead it ruined the system by allowing people to openly criticize it. Wages were very low, people could now see the differences between their lifestyle and the West’s lifestyle, especially when the uncensored Olympics were on. Communism was not offering good working conditions anymore, Soviet Youths were not allowed to see certain films, listen to certain music or Western radio stations. In the Republics people were tired of being told what to do by Russia all the time, they wanted to govern themselves.
Glasnost allowed them to criticize and protest. Eventually this got them independence and the union was deteriorating. The attempted coup of 1991 triggered the end of the Soviet Union. Yeltsin rallied the Russian people to resist with the support of the army, the coup failed and the Soviet Republics became independent and the USSR ceased to exist. Yeltsin also had a large affect on the Russian people to influence them to turn away from communism. Gorbachev allowed people to turn away from communism, which ultimately lead to the collapse of the USSR.
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