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How Far Was Gorbachev Responsible For The End Of Soviet Union?

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Introduction

How Far Was Gorbachev Responsible For The End Of Soviet Union? Many factors influenced the end of the USSR and it is far too simplistic to say that a certain factor was wholly Gorbachev's fault or was wholly free of Gorbachev's ideas. For example, the ideas of perestroika, glasnost, and his actions were generally caused by Gorbachev. However, elements of nationalism, the economy and unpopularity only contain a few examples of Gorbachev not being directly responsible. Some factors to do with the end of the Soviet Union had nothing to do with Gorbachev. There are also cases where Gorbachev is shown to be trying to keep the USSR intact. Another element to consider is that various factors affected the stability of the Soviet Union to varying degrees. It is only by debating these topics can we come to a judgement on how far he was or was not responsible for the end of the Soviet Union. There are examples of Gorbachev weakening the Soviet Union. Zubok in particular argues that Gorbachev's personality helped to destabilize the USSR. This is a valid argument because the strength of a nation to prosper is dependent on the strength of character of its leader, for example Stalin was a leader of strong personality (for all his flaws) and his country did prosper for a short time. There is the belief that Gorbachev was of "weak character" (ZA P62). This quote is particularly useful because it is a quote of Chernyaev, a strong supporter of Gorbachev who is now arguing the opposite of what someone with his ideals of Gorbachev would be. The piece is corroborated to some extent by Yeltsin who says Gorbachev was the lover of "half measures and half steps" (AtG P262), which infers that Gorbachev would not commit fully. Zubok also gives the prevailing view that Gorbachev suffered "naivety" (ZA P73) and that he had "overreached himself" (ZA P73). ...read more.

Middle

This would stress an already weakened system due to perestroika to the point of breaking. Following the fall of the Berlin wall, the "self confidence of people power [was] immeasurably enhanced" (R+FotSE P131) and this would encourage more demonstrations, as people knew they had a chance to succeed. Because of glasnost, the Afghan war became televised and this galvanized the government's unpopularity, just as the televised Vietnam War had a detrimental effect on the US administration. Historical research permitted by glasnost had a negative impact on the Soviet Union, strengthening hostility to the regime. The massacres of poles at Katyn, and the discovery of mass graves in the Ukraine and Belorussia all alienated people from the regime, which weakened the USSR because the government no longer had a strong power base. The Nazi-Soviet Pact "galvanized Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into nationalist protest" (R+FotSE P119). Other examples of the "excesses of the Stalin era" had the effect of reviving the "nationalist campaigns of the non-Russian bloc" (R+FotSE P119). The rise of nationalist movements in a country is not a sign of strength but of weakness. Following the broadcasting of the Supreme Soviet on television, an "entire population awakened" (AtG P246) politically. This population had access to western thought because of openness, such as human rights and democracy. The principle of democracy undermined the Soviet position because it advocates the creation of more than one party, which goes against the basis of Soviet power. These examples show glasnost having a negative impact on the USSR. It can be debated that glasnost had decisive advantages, such as politicians actions would now be open to the public to view, making leaders accountable to the people. This is a vital element to democracy and in this respect glasnost would strengthen the new democracy in the USSR, making the country more stable. Also openness is beneficial in exposing corruption, as in the Tehelka case in India. ...read more.

Conclusion

These demonstrate that Gorbachev was deeply concerned with keeping the USSR intact. This can be further demonstrated by the Union Treaty in which he tries to preserve the USSR. Another example would be the economic blockade of Lithuania following its calls for independence, a measure designed to force it to stay in the Union. These measures do demonstrate that Gorbachev tried to keep the USSR intact, but for all this, it still broke up. His policies weakened the Union but did not cause the USSR to break-up directly. Gorbachev certainly caused the weakening of the USSR, in the form of his actions, perestroika and glasnost. Other factors such as nationalism, economic factors and unpopularity also contributed to the weakening of the Soviet state. However these factors did not cause the immediate end of the USSR. Rather the end of the Soviet Union can be attributed to the failure of the August coup and the subsequent of Yeltsin. Gorbachev did not cause the coup directly, so the end of the USSR cannot be attributed to him. In this respect, the opinion of Zubok: "without Gorbachev, the dismantling of the cold war could not have happened as quickly as it did" (ZA P93) is not valid. The quote can be inferred to say that Gorbachev created the conditions for the coup, but the actual act in itself Gorbachev was not associated with. It is interesting to note that had the August coup not occurred, the Union Treaty would have come into effect and the USSR would have strengthened, perhaps enough to silence separatist voices in the Baltic states, though this would be an extreme case. The failed coup itself lead to the break-up of the Soviet Union as it secured the rise of anti-Soviet forces such as Yeltsin, who subsequently went on to abolish key aspects of the USSR such as the CPSU. Gorbachev was not responsible for the end of the USSR, only responsible for the weakening of the Soviet Union, it was the coup that gave the "final blow" to break-up the USSR. 15th January 2004 1 of 7 ...read more.

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