The Soviet Union DeclinesPerestroika and glasnostFailed reformationChanges Transform Eastern EuropeCommunism Declines Around the World
Signs of weakness had been clear from the beginning. The Russian people had long been subjugated by their leaders. Few personal or individual benefits were ever received by Russian citizens. Punishments were more common and more severe than rewards.
Stalin’s successor Greater political expression and freedom Freed critics from prisons and labor camps Shifted the economy away from heavy industry and toward consumer goods. Still supported a command economy. Enforced obedience of satellite states with tanks and aggressive action. Wanted the Soviet Union to remain united.
Collectivized agriculture was so unproductive that grain had to be imported to prevent people from starving. Consumer goods like shoes or television could not compete in terms of quality with countries with market-based economies. Led to inefficiency and waste. Central powers who tried to control the market were unaware of local needs and concerns. Workers had lifetime job security so were not incentivized to produce quality products. Standard of living did not improve over the generations.
From what you experienced during the Soviet economy exercise when you sold cars in exchanged for rubles…why do you think a command economy proved ineffectual in the long run? Explain your c reasoning. (Five points)
Mikhail Gorbachev came to power with the Soviet economy already in bad shape. He was eager to introduce reforms and avoided further Cold War confrontations with the United States. Established glasnost or “openness” and encouraged people to discuss the country’s problem openly.
Gorbachev’s reforms also included perestroika or restructuring of the government and the economy. He allowed limited private enterprise, allowed farmers to sell on the free market and made local managers (not central planners) responsible for decision making. The reforms, however, brought chaos. Shortages grew, prices soared and unemployment was high. People who were at risk of now losing their jobs denounced the reforms. The spirit of glasnost inspired people from the satellite countries to speak out and lobby for independence.
The Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were the first to receive full independence in the beginning of 1991. Large Slavic states such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia also moved toward independence in 1991 and maps of Europe and Asia had to be redrawn. After nearly 70 years, the Soviet Union ceased to exist.
When Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union, eastern Europeans began to seek greater freedom in their own countries. Resistance groups erupted in Poland, led by Lech Walesa, as well as in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.
In 1988, East Germany banned Soviet glasnost publications because they considered it to be subversive. East Germans knew that great prosperity and political freedom lay on the other side of the Berlin Wall. Thousands of East Berliners held demonstrations and protests across East Germany, demanding change.
What did the fall of the Berlin Wall mean to West and East Berliners? What did the fall of the Berlin Wall mean to the rest of the world? Be specific. (Five points).
Gorbachev inspired other leaders to consider economic and political changes. Command economies were suffering all around the world and free-markets were being re-examined by leaders. China and Vietnam made changes to their economy but North Korea and Cuba stayed firm within their economic ideologies.
With the collapse of its rival, the U.S. was widely recognized as the only remaining superpower. Americans and others around the world had mixed reactions. When the Soviet state had seemed threatening, the U.S. was welcomed as a counterweight. However, now the U.S. had no one to compete with and would have much more influence.
Decide which analogy you think is most fitting when discussing what role the United States played during the Cold War. 1) A police officer on a school campus 2) A bully on the playground 3) A referee in a basketball game 4) A gunfighter in the Wild West Cite specific historical events to support your position. (10 points)