Good post! Really interesting how many seemingly distant factors attributed to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Also interesting how although Gorbachev’s policies were intended to improve and strengthen the Soviet Union it seems that everything he did (although in many cases genuinely succeeding in improving the nation) led to the opposite of his intentions. I also agree with the person who first commented on this that it seems strange that countries like Afghanistan and Vietnam can inflict such damages on the superpowers that stir up wars in them- it seems to point to a new phase in warfare post-WWII, since both the USSR and the US had atomic capabilities but instead of utilizing their full forces they restrained themselves to a more painful, drawn out war.
Nice post! I found the quote from the Russian political scientist on the passing of the Soviet Union particularly interesting. While reading one of the pages on Seventeen Moments I remember reading about the duel power struggle between Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia, and Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Soviet Union and thinking how strange it was to realize that I had been wrong to think about the Soviet Union as synonymous with Russia. The Soviet Union in my mind always appeared as some large Russian entity sort of forcing cooperation and unification from a bunch of reluctant republics, and until reading that it didn’t occur to me that some Russians felt equally used and restricted by the Soviet Union. So it was interesting to see that this fellow you’ve quoted sort of validated my previous notion of the Soviet Union as “big, old Russia” whereas others saw them as entirely separate.
Its kind of interesting that Gorbachev would include this policy in his repertoire of new reforms. All his other reforms revolved around liberalization and some privatization of industries, as well as making some amends with Western relations. This policy was obviously going to be wildly unpopular, and on top of that was removing an important industry from the legitimate economy during a time when Soviet economy needed all the help it could get. It just doesn’t seem to make any sense, political or economic.
This is a really good post. I definitely agree with you that the ultra-taboo-ness of subjects like sex and prostitution gave them greater influence throughout society. If Soviet society had been prepared to talk about these moral and social issues I certainly think the associated problems (like rise of STDs) could have been curtailed to a greater extent. I thought it was interesting while reading the Seventeen Moments page on sex or prostitution (whichever page the picture you have came from) that in an interview with Western press one Soviet interviewee actually exclaimed “Sex! We have no sex here!”. It really goes to show the lack of ability Soviet society had for talking about sensitive issues.
That was an interesting parallel you made between Vietnam vets and Afghan vets (and really, veterans from every war of this century). I agree that its kind of scary how little we seem to have learned- reminds me of a quote from I don”t know where “Men do not learn much from the lessons of history- and THAT is the biggest lesson of history”.
I had much the same idea in my post about Chernobyl! I also found it interesting that when it came down to it, despite Gorbachev writing in support of glasnost since the early 1970′s when it came down to a national disaster he made the decision to revert back to old Soviet methods of repression. I read an interesting short book for a class last year called Chernobyl: The Forbidden Truth by a Ukranian reporter named Alla Yaroshinskaya who was trying to write articles about health problems in the villages surrounding Chernobyl after the accident and her first hand experience with Soviet restriction of the media, definitely worth a look if you like this topic.
This is a good summary of the economic conditions leading up to the 500 Days Plan and the Soviet Collapse. Also I like the cartoon though I wish I could tell what those scribbles coming out of the ship meant, any idea?
Chernobyl’s costs were enormous in every aspect of the Soviet nation- cleanup efforts that have been largely internationally funded and are still continuing, 100′s of kilometers of worthless, contaminated produce and livestock, increased health problems stemming from both the radiation itself and psychological/emotional trauma from evacuation and displacement leading to higher levels of alcoholism and depression, and greater political dissatisfaction leading to the dissolution of the Soviet empire.
I thought this was a very good and succinct article about the Sino-Soviet split. I really liked the article you used from the Current Digest of the Russian Press, and I also thought your analogy about their relationship resembling those of middle school was amusing and accurate.
I just went back and read this while researching for the second midterm, and wanted to let you know that I really liked this post. I love the picture you chose which does a great job of implying the similarities between these two tyrants, and I thought the questions you posed were insightful (and clearly so did a lot of other people). Anyway, a belated good job to you!