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Cold War and Stagnation
April 3, 2006 14:29

Cold War Period

It was inevitable that the confrontation between the Communist regime and the Western democracies would become especially tense when the mutual enemy was destroyed. The situation led towards a long period of ideological antagonism from 1946 till 1991 - the Cold War. The confrontation was headed by two opposing countries the Soviet Union and the United States. Each Superpower fought for the ideological control over different nations in almost all parts of the world.

Thaw Period - Nikita Khrushchev

Stalins death in 1953 was followed by struggle for the Communist party leadership, which finally resulted in Nikita Khrushchevs coming to power. In 1953 Khrushchev shocked the Party Congress with his criticism of the totalitarian regime and cult of Stalin. Moreover, he initiated the rehabilitation of political prisoners. However, it was still among the major aims to surpass the US in all spheres. This time more attention was paid to the economic development and rise of living standards. This was partly achieved by administrative and agricultural reforms. House-building in 1960s reached figures never seen neither before that, nor after. First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was lunched in 1957, which signified a revolutionary advance in the space exploration.

International relations were marked by so-called "thaw period". Khrushchev undertook several diplomatic trips including visiting the USA. Among the main issues of the negotiations was stopping the arms race. Nevertheless, Khrushchevs policy led to a series of failures and among them were such serious as the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, when the world was put on an edge of the nuclear war. In 1964 Khrushchev was accused of "voluntarism" and dismissed. The power was assumed by Leonid Brezhnev, who occupied the post of general secretary of the Communist Party from 1964 to 1982.

Stagnation - Leonid Brezhnev

Having come to power on the conservative wave, Brezhnev tried to avoid any reforms as they could damage the interests of the partys bureaucracy. This policy led to negative changes in economic and social spheres. In industry, mostly military oriented, and agriculture, these decades were marked by stagnation. Scientific and technological progress also slowed down. On international arena Brezhnevs actions did not stand apart from his generally conservative policy. According to the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine, any methods could be applied to preserve the Soviet Union control over socialistic countries of Eastern Europe, even military force could be used. The policy attained a good illustration when in 1968 Czechoslovakia started reforms aimed at creation of "socialism with a human face". In fact this meant movement towards liberation from the Soviet Union influence, something that Brezhnev did not allow to happen. The invasion of armed forces stopped the process. Finally, such conservative policy led towards the situation, in which solution of the most urgent problems would inevitably lead to decisive actions.

Mikhail Gorbachov

And not a long time was required for the changes to come. Mikhail Gorbachov (1985-1991), the last USSR leader started a wide range of political, economic, and social reforms. Perestroika (meaning "restructuring") and glasnost ("openness") became world-famous terms that characterized radical reforms of the Russian totalitarian system. Perestroika meant a shift from the centralized planned economy towards the market commodity-money relations. Glasnost referred to the openness of wide range of information, including political, and freedom of speech. Among the most impressive political changes was the creation of a new supreme legislative body - the Congress of Peoples Deputies - that was for the first time elected in 1989.

In international relations, Gorbachov aimed at putting an end to the Cold War. With ideological liberalization taking place in the USSR, its pressing influence in Eastern Europe was eased. As a result, Communist governments were dismissed there by national democratic forces. Eastern Europe became open for the Western trends. Germany was unified again with the removal of the Berlin Wall in 1990. These events completely modified the world situation. Accompanied by the negotiations on friendship and cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States, these changes put an end to the arms race and the Cold War. Radical political and economical reforms carried out by Gorbachev could not but provoke an open revolt of his opponents.


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