USSR between 1924 to 1991

The End of Bipolarity

What you’ll learn

  • The Soviet System and the economic and political change which happened after the Second World War..
  • The disintegration of the USSR and the reasons and repercussions which followed..
  • Tensions and conflicts in former soviet republics..
  • The Shock Therapy and its consequences..

Course Content

  • Berlin wall –> 3 lectures • 7min.
  • Union of soviet Socialist Republic 1945-1991 –> 5 lectures • 25min.
  • History of The Soviet Union –> 8 lectures • 34min.



The End of Bipolarity

1. The Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 gave birth to USSR with the inspiration of socialism, based on the following principles:-

  • To ensure a minimum standard of living for all its citizens
  • The government-subsidized basic necessities
  • Productive assets were owned and controlled by the state.

2. Russia was the only republic among fifteen republics that dominated everything, and people from other regions felt neglected and often suppressed.

3. The Soviet Union lagged behind the West in technology, and infrastructure and could not fulfill the the political aspirations of the people.

  • The Soviet system, however, became very bureaucratic and authoritarian, making life very difficult for its citizens.
  • The lack of democracy and the absence of freedom of speech stifled people who often expressed their dissent in jokes and cartoons.
  • Most of the institutions of the Soviet state needed reform: the one-party system represented by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had tight control over all institutions and was unaccountable to the people.
  • Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 also weakened the system furthermore.

4. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, initiated policies of economic and political reforms to democratize the system, which was opposed by leaders within the communist party and the contradictory views of people.

  • Reforms were necessary to keep the USSR abreast of the information and technological revolutions taking place in the West.
  • However, Gorbachev’s decision to normalize relations with the West and democratize and reform the Soviet Union had some other effects that neither he nor anyone else intended or anticipated.
  • The people in the East European countries which were part of the Soviet bloc started to protest against their own governments and Soviet control.

5. The people of the republic had been fed up with the old-style rule of the Soviet bloc, and in Dec 1991, under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin (an elected leader), Russia, Ukraine, and the Baltics declared themselves independent.
6. The formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) came as a surprise, and the exclusion of these states was resolved by making them founder members of the CIS.
7. Russia was accepted as the successor state of the Soviet Union by inheriting a Soviet seat in the UN Security Council, which accepted all international treaties and commitments of the Soviet Union and carried out some nuclear disarmament measures with the US.

8. Now the Soviet Union had disintegrated on the grounds to maintain nuclear and military arsenals, awareness of people of their backwardness from western capitalism as well as the alienation of ordinary people who were exempted from any kind of privileges.

9. The rise of nationalism and the desire for sovereignty within republics like Russia, the Baltic Republics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Ukraine, Georgia, and others proved to be the most immediate cause for the disintegration of the USSR.
10. Disintegration of the USSR resulted in the end of Cold War confrontations, created the dominant capitalist system, and emerged many new states and the advantage was taken by Central Asian countries of their geographical locations by maintaining relations with Russia, the West, the US, China and others.
11. The process of transition from an authoritarian socialist system to a democratic capitalist system in Russia, Central Asia and East Europe was influenced by World Bank and IMF came to be known as Shock Therapy.
12. Shock Therapy involved :-

  • Privatisation of property,
  • Private firms emergence,
  • Complete switch over to free trade and Foreign Direct Investment,
  • Financial opening up, Currency convertibility
  • Break up of existing trade alliances among the countries of Soviet Bloc to maintain relations directly with the West.

13. Consequences of Shock Therapy :-

  • The largest garage sale in history,
  • Declined value of Russian Currency ‘Ruble’, due to inflation, food was imported,
  • Destroyed Old Social Welfare System,
  • Migration of educated and intellectual manpower and
  • Disparities due to privatisation between rich and poorin the regions of Russia.

14. The constitution of newly democratic institutions was drafted in a hurry where strong executives appointed themselves as presidents due to weak Parliament and lack of independent judiciary as in Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
15. Revival of Russia in 2000 due to export of natural resources like oil, natural gas and minerals which were available in abundance in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. And from where these pipelines crossed, were paid on rent.
16. Most of the former Soviet Republics had civil wars and insurgencies as in Russia,

  • two republics Chechnya and Dagestan had violent secessionist movements, in Central Asia.
  • Civil War took place in Azerbaijan and Georgia.
  • Czechoslovakia was also split into two.
  • Even countries and provinces like Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia are fighting over river water leading to instability and making life difficult for ordinary people.

17. The Central Asian Republics were rich in hydrocarbon resources for economic benefit as Oil Companies and outside powers had a competition to exploit these natural resources. Also the US approached them to hire bases and territories during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
18. Russia and India share a vision of

  • Multipolar world order,
  • Collective security,
  • Greater regionalism,
  • Negotiated settlements of international conflicts,
  • On independent foreign policy
  • Decision-making through the UN.

19. India is benefitted from Russia on issues of

  • Kashmir,
  • Energy supplies,
  • Sharing information on international terrorism,
  • Access to Central Asia and balancing its relations with China.

In return, Russia has also benefited from India on the ground of the second largest arms market for Russia.

Get Tutorial