Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union

Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union

Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union

Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union

Synopsis

Based on archival evidence and other sources, these essays examine the power structures, communication channels and mechanisms of decision making within the Soviet political system.

Excerpt

Mechanisms of Power in the Soviet Union grew out of an international conference held in Copenhagen in 1998 under the leadership of Professor Niels Erik Rosenfeldt at the University of Copenhagen, and Professors Bent Jensen and Erik Kulavig from the University of Southern Denmark at Odense. Twelve of the papers presented by scholars from Russia, Western Europe, Australia and the United States of America have been selected and edited for this book.

Rarely has a collection of historical essays had such topical relevance. For it appears at a time when, for lack of effective mechanisms of power, the post-Soviet Russian Federation, although possessed of an enormous bureaucracy, is in virtual collapse. The strong centralized form of statehood that existed in Tsarist Russia and again under Soviet Communist rule in the twentieth century is no more, and in 1998 the country is in a state of semi-anarchy, with the danger of a full-scale takeover of political power by criminal bands. Russians characterize the situation as one of bespredel, meaning total lawlessness when, as it were, anything goes. Others speak of a smutnoe vremya, a Time of Troubles, recalling the breakdown of statehood that occurred soon after the end of the original Rurikid Russian dynasty with the death in 1598 of the sole surviving son of Ivan the Terrible. Some who lived through the breakdown of Russian statehood following the end of the Romanov dynasty with the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 also spoke of a Time of Troubles. The present such period, we may add, was presaged by the end of the Leninist ideological dynasty with the expulsion from the Kremlin in late 1991 of the last of the Soviet rulers, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the abolition of the Soviet Union as a state formation.

A basic contention of all the contributions to the collection is that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) became the lynchpin of the system, its tentacles firmly tying all parts of the diverse country and its burgeoning politico-administrative structure into the one integrated and disciplined apparatus. In other words, the CPSU became the core of statehood itself in the Party-state system. Hence the banning of the CPSU, the decrees by Boris Yeltsin of August and November 1991 disbanding its leadership structures and taking over its property, necessarily deprived the post-Soviet Russian Federation of a functioning state system, except in so far as authority could for a time be exercised by such . . .

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