The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

5
1990: The Battle Over the Empire

In 1990, the Soviet economy declined in absolute figures for the first time. The production of oil, coal, and several other strategic commodities fell, and output dropped in hundreds of enterprises. Inflation continued unabated, and numerous developments, including the disastrous 1990 harvest, demonstrated with crystal clarity the impossibility of "managing" an economy in which the old system had collapsed and the market had not yet taken over.

The economy's poor performance strongly influenced the country's political and ethnic conflicts. The Soviet democrats began 1990 with a stunning victory. On February 4 and 25, unprecedented mass meetings were held in Moscow in preparation for the March elections, which would determine the composition of local and republican Soviets. The pro-democratic meetings were prophetic: the democrats (or "liberals," as they were called before mid-1990) won majorities in Moscow, Leningrad, Riasan', and several other cities.

In February, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, under pressure from the masses, decided to recommend that the Soviet parliament drop Article 6 of the Constitution (which ensured the Communist party's political monopoly), and the third All-Union Congress of People's Deputies decided in March to follow the Central Committee's recommendation.

During the latter part of the year, numerous political parties emerged across the country. Among the most visible were the Russian Democratic Party, the Republican Party, the Social-Democratic Party, and the Christian Democratic Party. By late 1990, the most influential oppositional political movements were Democratic Russia, which comprised the so-called Inter- Regional Group (a loose association of deputies of the Soviet parliament

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