They had given us steel plants, military aircraft and were our biggest friends. And for those of us who used to hate the Americans for their military aid to Pakistan, celebrating every success of USSR was a must! Actually, India still was a distant ally, if one were to take a look at the East European countries that USSR protected and developed like their own nation. Those who have visited the East European regions in those days, would swear that the benevolence of USSR was such that they gave those countries invariably a better standard of living than that enjoyed by the Soviet people. To understand what USSR was in all its glory and magnanimity, one really needed to compare its development with that of USA till 1989! From CIA to topmost economists and historians of that time, all used to agree then that USSR had become 40% of the Americans in terms of standards of living. What it meant in essence was that despite bearing the biggest brunt of the second world war, thereafter investing about 33% of their GDP on defense, taking care of the entire Eastern Europe – from East Germany to Poland – USSR, in a short span of 45 years, had reached the enviable position of being 40% of the American per capita income; but more importantly, absolutely equal, if not superior, as far as military might and space war were concerned. It also meant that it was technologically extremely advanced, just that it had not yet started using that ability to make the consumer’s life more luxurious. But on the streets of USSR you could never spot a malnutritioned child, someone without full access to education or healthcare! That was USSR, the saviour of the world from greedy capitalist aggression, humane in terms of its development priorities and a country that was reason why the world spent 45 years in complete peace; compare that with the next 20 years that we have seen of unbridled capitalist greed driven aggression.
This difference between the far, far more peaceful time post the second world war and now, is a direct result of what happened exactly twenty years back! History was literally rewritten on December 25, 1991, at 7:20 pm when Mikhail Gorbachev – doubted by many as an ideological spy of CIA, if not an actual one – aired his speech announcing his resignation as President of the Soviet Union. A couple of minutes later, the flag of the Soviet Union from Kremlin was replaced with a new tricoloured flag of Russia. And thus, the whole world map was reconstructed with a demise of not only a union, but the demise of a political ideology in itself. The massive Soviet Union that had stood tall for seventy four years acting as a bulwark to the hegemony of United States and its allies, was broken to pieces as Mikhail Gorbachev (the General Secretary or the first secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union) could not handle a pro-democratic wave in the streets of Moscow and elsewhere led by Boris Yeltsin – later clearly branded as a fun-loving drunkard devoid of any ideology. Boris Yeltsin aspired to become the President of independent Russia, a country which till then was ruled by a spate of extremely ideologically driven leaders, who, albeit authoritarianism, were committed to not just their country but the globe on the whole.
During Gorbachev’s rule, the iron curtain and strict state control of political, economic and administrative machinery that was beyond all pedestal of criticism was liberalized under the set of reforms Gorbachev named “Perestroika" (restructuring) and "Glasnost" (openness); these were brought into the Soviet system in 1985. Concurrently, the oil prices dropped sharply in 1985 and 1986, thus lowering the country’s revenue and foreign exchange reserves that led to the import crisis of grains, attracting widespread public ire. The dried up revenue stream eventually portended the country’s bankruptcy and the end of the regime! In a nutshell, the bumbling rush to enjoy the glitters of prosperity that the US-led West enjoyed, along with the influence of Yeltsin who was a diehard crusader of democracy, brought the Soviet era to an unfortunate end.
Contrary to the popular belief, and despite him being a key factor in the disintegration of USSR, Gorbachev did try to keep Soviet Union united and bring in a transition through economic, social and cultural reforms – but was thwarted by Yeltsin’s intent who wanted a drastic change to democratization – the pro-West groups keep on hammering the point that it was an inevitable trajectory; yet, one should take lessons from China on how they managed the transition that the Soviet Union couldn’t. Gorbachev concurred with this point as he emphasized again and again on August 21, 1991 (the day the coup was orchestrated) that the Union could be preserved! Even though the coup didn’t last more than two days, it brought in the death knell for the Communist Party and demise of Soviet Union. Gorbachev couldn’t prevent the Soviet Union from being splintered, and history was made. Read More....
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