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216-218 Soviet Union and Central Europe 2

216-218 Soviet Union and Central Europe 2 - Gorbachev and...

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Gorbachev and the End of the Soviet Union (so2) [Gorbachev] arrives by limousine at a Pizza Hut and some patrons notice him. An older man grumbles, `Because of him, we have economic confusion.’ A younger man disagrees, saying, `Because of him we have opportunity’. Patrons continue to argue, until an older woman pipes up, `Because of him we have things like Pizza Hut.’ The patrons rise and give a standing ovation to their former leader, holding pizza slices aloft in tribute. --Gorbachev in Russian Pizza Hut commercials (1) 1. The Soviet Union Gorbachev Inherited Khrushchev was removed from office by the party in 1964, victim of internal economic failures and foreign policy fiascos like the Cuban Missile Crisis. In stark contrast to the Stalin era, the party was now strong enough to rid itself of an unwanted leader. The triumphs of the Khrushchev years like beating the U.S. in the space race dissipated in the almost two decades of his successor Leonid Brezhnev. The "new class" of party bureaucrats and industrial managers solidified its hold over Soviet society. The social mobility that had characterized the Stalinist era ended, fostering apathy among the mass of Soviet citizens. In the 1980s the Soviet Union: appeared to be internationally regressing. In 1960 its major exports had been machinery, equipment, means of transport, and metals or metal articles, but in 1985 it relied for its exports primarily (53%) on energy (i.e., oil and gas). Conversely, almost 60% of its imports consisted of machinery, metals etc. and industrial consumer articles. It had become something like an energy-producing colony of more advanced industrial economies--i.e. in practice largely its own Western satellites, notably Czechoslovakia and the German Democratic Republic, whose industries could rely on the unlimited and undemanding market of the USSR without doing much to improve their own deficiencies. Historian Stephen Kotkin has argued that the dramatic rise in oil prices after 1973 forced Western economies to transform their industrial economies, but the Soviet Union’s abundant oil insulated it from this incentive to rethink its economy. Declining world oil prices in the 1980s left the aging Soviet
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economy Gorbachev inherited to face a revitalized West. Mikhail Gorbachev recognized that the Soviet Union was falling further and further behind Japan and the West and made one final effort to revivify the Soviet project. When he came to power in 1985, the USSR was still saddled with the economic system it had developed during the Stalinist period--centralized planning, collectivized agriculture, and the drain of an expensive military. These took their toll on Soviets' health and their environment. Centralized Planning . The legacy of state planning was stultifying. The Soviet Union had proved able to concentrate resources to accomplish specific missions (i.e., space exploration and armaments development), but economic development was characterized by stasis and chaos rather than planning.
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