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Old 08-01-2012, 02:51 AM
 
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I'm just trying to figure out the real causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is surprisingly hard to do due to everyone's own political viewpoint etc.

And I'm not just interested in the dry historical stuff - more the ideology/philosophy and economic sides of the issue.

Ok, for sure, I can see that Communism could be inefficient, but didn't the Soviets do rather well in the 50's and 60's?

and The Cold War - didn't the arms race bankrupt the country; but what if it had never occured?

any ideas?
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Old 08-01-2012, 06:40 AM
 
Location: interior Alaska
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I don't think my view is one very popular among historians but personally I think the breakup of the USSR was written from the time Lenin began the program of establishing distinct ethnic geographic states to form the various "republics." If Russian chauvinism had prevailed to establish one country-wide identity similar to how things work in the US where even if you are not a Mayflower WASP you have the shared American identity (at least since the US Civil War when the federal government broke state power and identity), well, almost certainly Moscow would have had an easier time holding power. If you are going to operate from a central authority that authority must either be psychologically accepted by the people far and wide, or it must be able to compel their acquiescence. With the reins loosed up post-Stalin it could no longer compel the people like it did at the height of the USSR, and it didn't have innate acceptance so POOF. No more control of outliers. And when you cannot control the outliers your power is weakened among your core constituency too, as they lose their fear and see a chance to profit from the downfall and think more about putting on parachutes than about keeping the plane aloft.

Of course, this is not the only multi-nation empire to fall apart in this manner. The USSR is just one among the general trend of decolonization of that time period. And the core of the USSR is still really there, even much the same bureaucratic and legal structures continue, and many authorities not at the very top quietly went on doing a slightly down-scaled version of their same routines. Same country, new management and new name, really.

Very oversimplified.

Last edited by Frostnip; 08-01-2012 at 07:01 AM..
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Old 08-01-2012, 06:17 PM
 
Location: Maryland not Murlin
8,248 posts, read 23,116,103 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
I'm just trying to figure out the real causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This is surprisingly hard to do due to everyone's own political viewpoint etc.

And I'm not just interested in the dry historical stuff - more the ideology/philosophy and economic sides of the issue.

Ok, for sure, I can see that Communism could be inefficient, but didn't the Soviets do rather well in the 50's and 60's?

and The Cold War - didn't the arms race bankrupt the country; but what if it had never occurred?

any ideas?
A few reasons: three Soviet leaders died in short succession, one right after the other, which gave an impression of "something" slipping out of control. When Gorbachev took over, he had plans to reform everything behind the Iron Curtain into something that resembled a mix of Communism and free trade. Also, at this time, Gorbachev relaxed some the censorship laws and people became "free" to criticize the government/Moscow. These were known as perestroika and glastnost. Gorbechav's plan to reform the economy was failing miserably, aggreculture was on the decline, technological advances ceased, factories where aging, etc., and many countries in Eastern Europe decided it would be better if they became independent. When Yeltsin took over in 1991, he formed the Commonwealth of Independent States, but poverty, social unrest, and general frustrations, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended. So, it was perestroika and glastnost that ended the Cold War.

Or, you can take the Ronald Reagan approach : basically, through Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, the Russians had to spend more and more money that they did not have which is what ultimately led to the economic downfall and ultimate collapse of the U.S.S.R.
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:32 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frostnip View Post
I don't think my view is one very popular among historians but personally I think the breakup of the USSR was written from the time Lenin began the program of establishing distinct ethnic geographic states to form the various "republics." If Russian chauvinism had prevailed to establish one country-wide identity similar to how things work in the US where even if you are not a Mayflower WASP you have the shared American identity (at least since the US Civil War when the federal government broke state power and identity), well, almost certainly Moscow would have had an easier time holding power.
so perhaps if Lenin had just focused on Russia only, and let the outlying states have independence, it may have worked?

Perhaps just hung on to Russia, Ukraine and the productive regions etc?
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Old 08-01-2012, 07:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by K-Luv View Post
Or, you can take the Ronald Reagan approach : basically, through Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, the Russians had to spend more and more money that they did not have which is what ultimately led to the economic downfall and ultimate collapse of the U.S.S.R.
so do you think this is a myth then?

some people say that Reagan won the cold war through outspending the Russians - true, or just propaganda?

could the SU have prospered (and still be here today) if there had not been a Cold War?
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:44 PM
 
Location: State of Transition
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Reagan didn't win the Cold War, that's just Reaganist propaganda. That oversimplifies the picture to a ridiculous degree.

The Soviet economy was already stagnating in the 70's, which, given it's oil resources, shouldn't have happened in the aftermath of the Arab Oil Embargo, when oil prices went sky-high. Economists at that time were already meeting in secret to try to figure out what the problem was. Gorbachev instituted a policy of Openness (Glasnost'), so that economists would no longer have to meet in secret, and the problem could be analyzed, discussed, and, he hoped, resolved, above-board.

What I read was that the Berlin Wall came down due to a mistranslation of a statement Gorbachev made while being interviewed on the radio in Berlin. What the public heard was that Germany was free, or Russia would no longer dominate, or something of that nature, and the public went wild. That started a sort of domino effect throughout the Eastern Bloc.

I think there was enough inefficiency built into the planned economy, that even without Cold War expenses, the system would have collapsed eventually. It never did thrive, though people of the 60's and 70's generation say the standard of living was better, people were able to buy cars (after being put on a factory waiting list for 10 years), and have a decent standard of living. It was still absurdly behind the West, especially European countries, which like the Soviet system, offered free health care and university education.

The USSR didn't unravel due to the ethnic issue. The republics in the Russ. Federation area all ethnic republics today. Still there, not going anywhere.
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Old 08-01-2012, 09:56 PM
 
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Unstoppable spread of the western consumerist goals & meanings among soviet citizenry is the reason #1, Soviet "elite' " betrayal of the Soviet project/state is the distant reason #2, everything else is quite secondary. Of course, "the spread" was heavily assisted by US and its allies, but I'm more or less certain that Western consumerism would have put Soviets six feet under regardless of the US military and propaganda expenditures.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenneth-Kaunda View Post
so perhaps if Lenin had just focused on Russia only, and let the outlying states have independence, it may have worked?

Perhaps just hung on to Russia, Ukraine and the productive regions etc?
There were no outlying states, those areas were part of the Russian Empire, some for hundreds of years. Statehood and state-citizen identity by the indigenous inhabitants in many of those present day countries was a product of the USSR; as they never had the concept before.

The calls for independence during the formation of the USSR were relatively small, as many groups played vital roles in the formation. Of all oppositions, the Cossacks were the largest threat and statehood was never even a consideration before the revolution.

It is impossible to answer your original post about the USSR because there are many factors involved, too many to list here and explain out. There are volumes of books on the subject, I have been reading them for 20 years and there are still items that mystify me, and items that my opinion changes on from one day to the next.

To know why the USSR collapsed, you need to know about the USSR, its pre-Soviet history, and its people. One quick intro book is The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union by Richard Sakwa. This is a nice, brief overview in which you can then dive off into other subjects from.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:29 PM
 
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Ok, just to change tack for a minute.

how do you think life was for the average citizen in say the 70's, 80's and 90's?

I mean, what were the wages like, and how about the healthcare, education, leisure, shopping, housing, crime , and general happiness of the people?

I've found it very hard to find unbiased books, info on these things.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:40 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ruth4Truth View Post
The Soviet economy was already stagnating in the 70's,
Wrong. It's not soviet economy was stagnating, it's consumer appetites of the younger Soviet citizenry were exploding beyond the wildest dreams of older generations and soviet planners. For a soviet youngster lack of a bubble gum was a tragedy you cannot imagine, for his parents ..., well, they simply could not understand those consumer sufferings and longings, they went through wars and horror and they didn't take food, clothing and shelter for granted. It's hard for the westerners to understand (since you've lost your traditional societies 300+ years ago), but USSR was rooted in the peasant traditional cultures that "constrained" consumer whims and wants by providing some sort of "alternative" meanings and goals to the people. Soviet governments foolishly decided to catch up with USA and "progress" by launching accelerated urbanization programs. Peasant cultures and values were slowly dying off on their own, enormous casualties that mostly peasant Soviet infantry sustained during WWII definitely accelerated the decay, but soviet comrades decided to push Urbanization+Russification=.New Soviet Identity.

It didn't work out. Let's face it, for an uprooted urban dweller there is only one goal and meaning in life (regardless of his nationality, origin and his country' political system) - climbing up social, career & wealth ladder. There is NOTHING else. So, soviets created urban environment BUT soviet system by design was incapable of providing numerous outlets of the social status and wealth accumulating kind to its urban dwellers. Mass urbanization of the ostentatiously "communal" USSR was a recipe for a disaster. Soviet urban dwellers (not without help of the western psych op specialists) increasingly despised their country, their country's ostentatious ideals, their goods & services, their industry, their EVERYTHING because "the system" didn't provide nascent soviet consumers with bubble gum and jeans, everything else they had be damned. It was sort of mass insanity that most people are ashamed of (today). There are some parallels between Soviet citizenry circa 1989 and North American Indians circa 1650. Indians didn't have immunity to germs and alcohol, nascent Soviet "consumers" didn't have immunity to the Western propaganda, suggestive advertising and flashy packaging.

Again, I don't blame the "West", there is definitively something in the "air" of history, human kind goes through atomized, manipulated "Consumer" stage of its evolution. As we can now see, iron curtain couldn't stop the trend.
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