Hard Times: Impoverishment and Protest in the Perestroika Years: the Soviet Union 1985-1991

Hard Times: Impoverishment and Protest in the Perestroika Years: the Soviet Union 1985-1991

Hard Times: Impoverishment and Protest in the Perestroika Years: the Soviet Union 1985-1991

Hard Times: Impoverishment and Protest in the Perestroika Years: the Soviet Union 1985-1991

Excerpt

The nearly seven years that Mikhail Gorbachev held office in the Soviet Union were remarkable. They were the years when the Communist party surrendered its monopoly over political life in the Soviet Union and the spirit of intellectual and political discourse arose as never before. During this period the great divide between the west and the east disappeared when the iron curtain melted away in 1989. The long suppressed nationalities militantly began to assert their belief that they had a fundamental right to self-determination.

But these were also the years when the pretense that central planning was the most efficient way to organize the Soviet economy was essentially relinquished. Gorbachev and others frankly declared to the whole world that the economy was really in desperate condition, that it was hopelessly inefficient, and that in its existing state it was incapable of achieving the lofty goals promised for so long by the communist regime. Change, Gorbachev said, had to come soon or the Soviet Union would fall forever behind the advanced nations. People were more shocked by the messenger's public admission than they were by the message, because they had been living with a stagnant economy for at least a decade.

The recognition that the Soviet economy was in trouble meant that alternative ways had to be found to run it. But it was not a . . .

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