The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union

By William E. Watson | Go to book overview

2
The Evolution of Perestroika

One of the principal doctrines of Soviet leaders, put forth from the moment Lenin took power in 1917, was that the Soviet citizenry could expect the party to bring about in the near future a utopian "dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry" in which the economic and social injustices of the tsarist era would be corrected. This would be accomplished by state control over the "means of production" and by coercion. However, as Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev presided over the Russian Civil War, World War II, and the early crises of the Cold War, respectively, the party rankand-file realized that fulfillment of the utopian promise made in 1917 would be postponed. 1 Faced with a chronic shortage of housing and consumer goods, the Soviet public could only hope that better circumstances might prevail in the future.

The Communists had faced opposition to their policies as early as Lenin's time. The Civil War ( 1918-1920) would not have occurred without the presence of a large number of dissatisfied non-Communists in the country. Lenin's experiment with small-scale capitalism, the New Economic Policy ( 1921-1928), was successful precisely because the peasants and small entrepreneurs had monetary incentives. Many of the millions of people whom Stalin "purged" and sent off to the Gulag Archipelago in the 1930s were peasants opposed to forced collectivization. By 1940, however, with all of Stalin's real and perceived opponents having been removed, there was no hope of a successful opposition group forming within the Soviet Union. During World War II the Germans found among their Eastern Front POWs (prisoners of war) about 50,000 soldiers of the Red Army who were willing to fight against Stalin. These men became the socalled army of General Andrei Vlasov. However, Vlasov went down in

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The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ADVISORY BOARD v
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Chronology of Events xv
  • The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union Explained 1
  • 1 - Narrative Overview 3
  • 2 - The Evolution of Perestroika 19
  • Notes 25
  • 3 - The Brezhnev Doctrine and the Afghan War 26
  • 4 - Nationalism and the End of the Soviet Empire 35
  • Notes 46
  • 5 - Russia after the Collapse of Communism 47
  • Biographies of the Collapse of Communism 57
  • Primary Documents of the Collapse of Communism 85
  • Glossary of Selected Terms 149
  • Annotated Bibliography 157
  • Index 171
  • About the Author *
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