6.2 The Collapse of Communism in Russia
Germany invaded the U.S.S.R during the Second Great War, precipitating the Soviet Union’s entry into the war on the Allies’ side. In the Allied victory, the Soviet Union was confirmed as a world power. USSR controlled a cordon of satellite states in Eastern Europe and challenged the West in the Cold War. Somehow the economy stagnated and the nation was drained by the burden of an impoverished and overstretched empire. Brezhnev, the Russian dictator who ruled from 1964-82 reversed the brief thaw that was experienced under Nikita Khruschev (leader 1956-64). Reforms had to await the policies of Mikhail Gorbachov after 1985.
The concepts of Perestroika and Glasnost in the latter half of ’80s brought many significant changes in the Soviet Union. The leading role that the communist party had played came to an end and the parliamentary system rose to prominence. An executive presidency was formed and wide powers were given to the government machinery.
The Communist Party was abolished in February 1990. The elected Congress of People’s Deputies quickly came to assume a prominence in Soviet political life. The procedure was abolished by which 1/3 of the members of the Congress were indirectly elected by the communist party and other social organizations (December 1989). This enhanced the autonomy of the Congress of People’s Deputies. In March 1990, the Congress voted to create the office of executive presidency. Gorbachev agreed to this. He was later elected to this office.
A group of communist hard-liners made an attempt to depose Gorbachev (August 1991). Their attempt was defeated when the President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin disallowed the army from taking action against unarmed civilian protesters. Yeltsin and the Russian Parliament opposed the coup greatly. This enhanced the status and the powers of Russia and 14 other Union Republics, which went ahead and declared their independence. The secession of the three Baltic republics was also recognized internationally. Gorbachev along with Yeltsin initiated far-reaching reforms in the political and economic areas. Gorbachev also suspended the communist party. Despite all his efforts the Soviet Union could not be saved. Ukraine refused to participate in the new looser union proposed by Gorbachev.
Boris Yeltsin and Mikhail Gorbachev read out a statement calling for the disbandment of the Communist Party.
By the end of 1991, the initiative was in the hands of Yeltsin. He was mainly responsible for establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The CIS was a military and economic group of sovereign states. It included the majority of the former union republics.
Russia took over the international responsibilities of the
U.S.S.R, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. After Gorbachev
resigned, the U.N. Security Council seat was taken over by Russia.
The communist economy was replaced by a market economy. However,
Russia still faces a severe economic crisis. Moreover, Russia faces
disputes concerning the future of the CIS forces and potential territorial
claims on other former Soviet republics on the external front.
6.2a Peace in Chechnya
In Chechnya, Alexander Lebed, the Russian Security Chief, convinced the rebels to put off their independence bid for 5 years. This ended a War that had lasted 20 months. Both the leaders Mr. Lebed and Mr. Arlan Maskhadov (the rebel commander signed an agreement and put an end to the fight and killing. But still the future of this pact is not clear. Moreover, all previous accords had failed.
This document called for a joint commission which was created on 1st October 1996. They could be led by governing officials from Russia and Chechnya. Aslan Maskhalov won the elections of 1997 and he vowed to fight for total independence.
6.2b Elections in Russia (1996)
Mr. Yeltsin won over his communist challenger, Gennady Iyuganav. According to Yeltsin, "Russia should not be divided into winners and losers."
Yeltsin's victory in Russia's free presidential elections as a sovereign state was a historic and remarkable comeback. Due to a complex heart surgery in 1996, the parliament attempted to relieve him of his presidential duties. At present, some of his supporters are quickly getting away from him, and others are shifting towards leaders like Alexander Lebed, Yuri Luzhkov. The Russian economy continues to slide. As many as 30 million people earn even less than Russia's minimum wages. Russia has still to overcome the throes of the breakup.