Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?
HIS 127: World in the 20th Century
While political dynamics played a large role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, economic breakdown was the main cause of its deterioration. Built on the Socialist ideology of state owned and run business, the declining Soviet economy was plagued by economic inefficiencies and corruption. The country suffered from decades of being tossed on the rough seas of inconsistent and capricious political leadership. The transformative thinking of Mikhail Gorbachev brought much needed change in policies, but the very reforms of perestroika that were meant to save the country from economic disaster perpetuated its demise (Strayer, 132). Gorbachev was an honest, hardworking man with a genuine belief in the potential of socialism given the right direction. His rise in the Soviet government gave him considerable insight to the varied leadership styles of Breznev, Andropov, and Chernenko. Over time, he saw that his party’s ineffective and often corrupt leadership and failed policies called for serious reform in order to stop the threat of economic decline. He developed a plan that would provide a “qualitative new state of society” (93). He pushed for a new level of candor called glasnost, a policy largely perceived as successful, that allowed transparency of government entities and removed barriers to open communication. A second key policy called “perestroika”, or economic restructuring, was considered far less successful (115). This plan included decentralizing economic management by the state, introduction of small-scale private enterprise, and making individual enterprises responsible in part for their own products. Perestroika would change the Soviet economy, but not the way Gorbachev had hoped. Soviet industry had long depended on the state to set prices, wages, direct contracts, and determine what would be produced and in what quantity. When controls were substantially...
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