The Soviet Union in 2021

Afghanistan didn't matter nearly as much as people think.

Comrade Dyatlov ummm yeah, ironically enough he might have being a bigger problem lol. In the sense that Chernobyl was a major reason behind why Perestroika happened.

Afghanistan made the Soviet people ask the question “What are we doing wasting so much money on a government and military that can’t even defeat illiterate sheep herders?”
 

RousseauX

Donor
And the problems that led it there were already compounding, weren't receiving proper solutions, and are unlikely to do so. Don't try to solve them at all, and they don't lead to an immediate crisis, but they will do so eventually. To my knowledge, both Romanov and Gorbachev understood this, but failed to fully understand the problems; in Gorbachev's case, he tried to solve them, but botched the execution while alienating some of his own supporters. Also note that "problems," in this case, are not only economic, but also contains a multitude of others, such as runaway military spending and corrupt or aging administrators.
Sure, there might be a crisis of some sort, after all: all economies encouter crisis. But that's very different from a collapse.

Countries with much, much worse economies than the USSR have survived economic crisis, see any number of sub-Saharan African countries.


Violence preserves authoritarian regimes until it doesn't. See both the February and October Revolutions. Usually it stops working at the worst possible times, generally because "the worst possible times" are also when the authoritarian regime's focus is divided enough between different problems that they can't put enough energy into suppressing rebellions. Of course, different authoritarian regimes over different countries are different, so the exact factors are complicated.
And neither the Feb nor October Revolutions were historical inevitibilities either.

it's 30 years since the end of the cold war, we were told Authoratarian regimes were on borrowed time, and the tools of repression were going to fall before the tide of democracy and popular protests.

The result have, shall we say, being disappointing, authoratarian regimes have shown that the tools of respression can work indefinitely, or at least for a very long time. In fact nowadays it looks like there are some areas (such as social media), where authoratarian regimes have being -better- than democracies at preventing it from becoming a source of social instability.

For all three examples, they are both smaller and more ethnically homogenous than the USSR, so are less liable to face regional agitation..
Seperatist-Nationalism was a problem which was dealt with by the KGB and media censorsip from the 1950s onwards. The Soviet state survived because it had sophiscated tools of control and repression. The point when it became a problem again was when Perestroika allowed free media and free speech to allow nationalists to openly agititate for seperation from the USSR. And allowed nationalists to hold positions of political power -within- the government of SSRs.

The PRC would probably have been a better example, especially since they probably better represent how a 21st-century USSR would look in terms of propaganda etc..
Right, the Soviets internet might look a lot like the Chinese one today for instance
 
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RousseauX

Donor
Afghanistan made the Soviet people ask the question “What are we doing wasting so much money on a government and military that can’t even defeat illiterate sheep herders?”
yeah sure, the same shit happened in USA during/after Vietnam: much more so infact.

Didn't cause the US government to fall either
 
But that's very different from a collapse.

Countries with much, much worse economies than the USSR have survived economic crisis, see any number of sub-Saharan African countries.
Maybe it's a measure of semantics, but I'd call "a civil war in which the central government loses control over large sections of its own territory" a national collapse, at least in the same terms as the peaceful dissolution of the USSR; constant shortages of randomly-varying goods do tend to promote a level of discontent. Also- again- the USSR's problems were not only economic.
it's 30 years since the end of the cold war, we were told Authoratarian regimes were on borrowed time, and the tools of repression were going to fall before the tide of democracy and popular protests.

The result have, shall we say, being disappointing, authoratarian regimes have shown that the tools of respression can work indefinitely, or at least for a very long time. In fact nowadays it looks like there are some areas (such as social media), where authoratarian regimes have being -better- than democracies at preventing it from becoming a source of social instability.
True.

You've brought this up before, and I'll give you the same response: we're not talking about other authoritarian regimes, past, present, or future. We're talking about the USSR from March 10, 1985.
The Soviet state survived because it had sophiscated tools of control and repression. The point when it became a problem again was when Perestroika allowed free media and free speech to allow nationalists to openly agititate for seperation from the USSR.
To become a problem at all, nationalist sentiments would have had to have existed before then. The issue is whether many problems, peaking at about the time of the late 80s/early 90s, would have weakened the control measures- quite possibly within the governments themselves- and caused this to fail.

It's a general truism that, when harsh/legalistic/authoritarian governments try to liberalize, they face rebellion (Qin China being a good example); the flip side of the coin is that, even if the leadership wanted to retain fierce control, the problems they faced may have prevented that. Preventing perestroika and glasnost will prevent the problems they caused, but they will not prevent the problems they were meant to solve.

Also, wasn't glasnost the one that allowed for freer speech regarding political issues? I'd thought perestroika were the economic reforms.
yeah sure, the same shit happened in USA during/after Vietnam: much more so infact.
The Americans were flabbergasted when they saw they lost, when they knew that they should have won; the Soviets were flabbergasted that their ally had won, when their trust in their media was so low that it looked like they'd lost. Still a fair point about Afghanistan itself, but don't underestimate it either- the effects may simply have been overshadowed and the dissolution over too quickly.

And you still haven't answered the question: what policies will Romanov need to and be able to use in order to allow the USSR to survive until 2021?
 
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And you still haven't answered the question: what policies will Romanov need to and be able to use in order to allow the USSR to survive until 2021?
The core issue is that you can do either political liberalization or economic liberalization but not both in the same time. Gorbachev tried to do both and failed. He was succeeded by Yeltsin who learnt the lesson and shifted the focus to doing one thing and created modern Russian Federation as the result that continue to go on trucking to this day.
Solution is to keep either economic or political part of Glasnost and Perestroika combo but firmly choosing only one thing. Doing both imploded the Union on several levels.
 
He was succeeded by Yeltsin who learnt the lesson and shifted the focus to doing one thing and created modern Russian Federation as the result that continue to go on trucking to this day.
Which would be better, either for solving the problems inherent in the system or for reducing the likelihood for an increase in political instability? And which, if either, and to what degree would Romanov do? (SO far as I can tell, the answer would be "both, and minimally." He appeared to be something of a hardliner, but I'm no expert.) I'm not trying to be rhetorical, good information is surprisingly hard to find online.
 
Which would be better, either for solving the problems inherent in the system or for reducing the likelihood for an increase in political instability? And which, if either, and to what degree would Romanov do? (SO far as I can tell, the answer would be "both, and minimally." He appeared to be something of a hardliner, but I'm no expert.) I'm not trying to be rhetorical, good information is surprisingly hard to find online.
'Hardliner' term that Western analysis of Soviet politics so much loves do actually mean much because it do not goes any further than describing the foreign policy stance of the person in question. 'Hardliner' is basically a person with 'anti-Western stance' which doesn't tell you really anything about what this person thinks on how USSR should be run internally.

For example is traditional to describe people behind August Putsch in 1991 as 'hardliners'. But they really weren't and their behavior demonstrated that rather aptly. They were simply anti-Yeltsin and wanted Gorbachev to stop this guy from running amok. Gorbachev was not able or was unwilling and they tried to step in.

But I digress. Basically all people who were in Politburo by the time of Gorbachev ascension were reformists of one stripe or the other. Conservatives were slowly pushed out of the top leadership positions since at least Andropov take over. Suslov died just before Brezhnev did and it basically left orthodox faction in the Communist Party headless and greatly decreased their influence. Gorbachev during his tenure basically purged the remnants of them (non-violently I must probably point it out).

Romanov in at least my read of him was more likely to go along Chinese-like route of keeping political system mostly the same while allowing economic liberalization and reform. It is what he was more or less doing at his post in Leningrad.
 
'Hardliner' term that Western analysis of Soviet politics so much loves do actually mean much because it do not goes any further than describing the foreign policy stance of the person in question. 'Hardliner' is basically a person with 'anti-Western stance' which doesn't tell you really anything about what this person thinks on how USSR should be run internally.

For example is traditional to describe people behind August Putsch in 1991 as 'hardliners'. But they really weren't and their behavior demonstrated that rather aptly. They were simply anti-Yeltsin and wanted Gorbachev to stop this guy from running amok. Gorbachev was not able or was unwilling and they tried to step in.

But I digress. Basically all people who were in Politburo by the time of Gorbachev ascension were reformists of one stripe or the other. Conservatives were slowly pushed out of the top leadership positions since at least Andropov take over. Suslov died just before Brezhnev did and it basically left orthodox faction in the Communist Party headless and greatly decreased their influence. Gorbachev during his tenure basically purged the remnants of them (non-violently I must probably point it out).

Romanov in at least my read of him was more likely to go along Chinese-like route of keeping political system mostly the same while allowing economic liberalization and reform. It is what he was more or less doing at his post in Leningrad.
Andropov living longer is one potential PoD here; he groomed a whole phalanx of young reformists but Gorby may not have been his precise choice
 
'Hardliner' term that Western analysis of Soviet politics so much loves do actually mean much because it do not goes any further than describing the foreign policy stance of the person in question. 'Hardliner' is basically a person with 'anti-Western stance' which doesn't tell you really anything about what this person thinks on how USSR should be run internally.

For example is traditional to describe people behind August Putsch in 1991 as 'hardliners'. But they really weren't and their behavior demonstrated that rather aptly. They were simply anti-Yeltsin and wanted Gorbachev to stop this guy from running amok.
This is what I mean by "can't find any good information."
  1. You said that either perestroika or glasnost (at least, as I understand them) would save the USSR, but neither both nor neither, correct? How likely/difficult would this be?
  2. Would Romanov, in going for perestroika but not glasnost (did I understand you correctly?) be sufficient for a USSR survival into the 21st Century?
  3. What would be good online resources for learning more about the USSR?
 
I was under the impression that 9/11 was motivated by American support for Israel, not American policies in Afghanistan. I doubt that would change.
Sorry for not catching that earlier. By "the region" I meant pretty much everything in the Middle East; Israel might have played a part, though I'd thought that American involvement in Saudi Arabia had more to do with it. Might be wrong, though.
 
This question/challenge presumably has a POD no later than 1985 - it is absolutely fair game to talk about here.
I would think even 2010 is fair game or even 2015 .. or even yesterday as long as you keep the politics out

The later questions inwould think are fair game and were answered. 9/11 doesn't happen probably

Fries is correct rot started with brezhnev .. of not alot earlier . Post war rebuild kept things chugging.

Everyone says the soviet union can't reform.. bleh.

It can just not all at once. But the soviet union both internally and externally needed to adapt.

It's a massive nation. With a fair number of people. They were not fully in the dark they heard about the west.

Stop the tech gap
Get the user to open import and export some. Hey 70 years and no communism yet .. might as well at least feed the people

Not only that.. it's not just the soviets that need to get a grip.. the whole eastern Europe gig has to change.

How.. that will need alot of luck.

But even at new union treaty time most states were willing to stay.. hell it was the Russians that actually killed it
 
yeah sure, the same shit happened in USA during/after Vietnam: much more so infact.

Didn't cause the US government to fall either

lit definitely toppled the governments that promoted war in Vietnam.

In a democracy, that just means a new government gets elected.

Authoritarian states aren’t so resilient when it comes to withstanding regime change.
 
Screenshot_20220103-151347_Chrome.jpg

I dont know if a collapse is inevitable. I think it was likely given the circumstances, and regional conflicts were probably inevitable - any amount of freedom will mean the Baltic States declare independence, as well as the Caucasus, Central Asia...with Ukraine and Kazakhstan as question marks.
 
This is what I mean by "can't find any good information."
  1. You said that either perestroika or glasnost (at least, as I understand them) would save the USSR, but neither both nor neither, correct? How likely/difficult would this be?
  2. Would Romanov, in going for perestroika but not glasnost (did I understand you correctly?) be sufficient for a USSR survival into the 21st Century?
  3. What would be good online resources for learning more about the USSR?
I need to explain the term firstly: Glasnost was basically a tacit permission that everyone is now can talk reasonable smack about Communist party and a promise that no one will go after them for that. And some general liberalization on what you can publish overall (like a lot of literature was unbanned and Western media products began to arrive en masse legally and extra-legally into the country and authorities didn't try to clamp down on that). Perestroika was basically everything else, it was a comprehensive (but in the same time almost schizophrenic in its lack of focus) set of political and economic reforms.

Also I think there was another way our for the USSR. Not a Chinese stealth-adoption of capitalism under communist leadership, not a Gorbachev's misguided efforts to fix everything and not clamping down on the change that orthodoxes were doing under Brezhnev.

And this way is about who and what was the foundation of political power in the Soviet Union. Party was indeed at the helm at basically every level from the all-Union to the smallest township council in the bumfucknowhere. But you cannot really rule by giving speeches and quoting Lenin at the appropriate occasions. Foundation of power is always economical and so industry was a kingmaker in the Soviet politics. Not in a sense of factory executives being able to choose who would lead the Soviet Union but in a sense of economical performance (be it fudged or real) of curated sector or geographical area was very important for the political influence of any given Party functionary. It is of course a simplification because inter-party politics/intrigue also played a role and important one.

A lot of interesting things stemmed out of this fact. For example it is widely enough known (enough for Tom Clancy picking it up for his Red Storm Rising) that overseeing agriculture was almost a political suicide for a Politburo member. But why? Because USSR agriculture was bad? Kinda, but not only. It was bad in the late 70s and 80s for a very specific reason - Soviet leadership decided to unilaterally compete with United States in food consumption and basically threw the whole agriculture sector out of whack for the purpose of increasing meat production as much as possible to beat these pesky Americans and their love of beef. And it was basically the core of Soviet food problem - cattle require feedstock, more cattle is more feedstock, more feedstock is less grain for bread production, therefore USSR needed to import more and more grain from abroad as both feedstock and to keep up with the bread production demands. And this debacle is basically a blueprint for what Gorbachev later did for USSR economy as a whole.

So how it relates to the politics and power dynamics in the party? Well, heavy industries and especially military had much easier time in such informal competitions because when people have not enough bread it is obvious and everyone is upset. What happens if people have not enough tanks? Or there is not enough metal-cutting machines produced? The effect is not immediate or obvious and in case of lack of tanks is probably even beneficial for the overall economy. So for the people who were overseeing big industries, military or resource extraction it was much more difficult to fuck up in the ways that were immediately noticeable. While people who were doing agriculture, high-tech, consumer goods and so on were rather vulnerable to criticism because of their apparent inability to keep up with the collective West.

As the result Soviet internal politics was dominated by heavy industry and military industry (note that it is industry, not military itself. Soviet generals and admirals had little to none political power) because they simply appeared the best on spreadsheets. And MIC have another boost factor in form of permanent trauma from WW2 and 'never again' syndrome that basically everyone had in the Soviet Union and continue to have in modern Russia. And because Soviet Union economy was centrally planned it created an inherent bias towards these industries. Any sort of bottlenecks, shortages or logistical/maintenance troubles were consistently resolved in favor of MIC, heavy industry, energy sector or resource extraction, you name it. High-tech existed basically as an extension of military industry, while lighter consumer-oriented industries and agriculture were scrounging for whatever was left after the big boys ate.

And Gorbachev in his wisdom kinda solved this issue. Introduction of free market elements and especially a deregulation of financial transactions between organizations broke that hierarchy rather completely. But it didn't help struggling industries that much because only sectors which were able to reliably generate convertible cash (energy and resource extraction more or less) via export were able to truly benefit from it for a variety of reasons (and general economic conditions on the world market at the time weren't even that favorable for energy and mineral export anyway) and deregulation crippled the most ways how resources could redistributed towards struggling economy sectors. And this is how Soviet economy collapsed in the late 80s.

To provide the example what this reform did on the lower scale. Imagine a food store, as most enterprises in the USSR it is of course state-owned and supplied with certain amount of goods on state-regulated prices that this store than sells to the populace on another set of slightly higher state-regulated prices. It is how system worked for decades. Then Gorbachev came and introduced market elements into the socialist economy. What it did to our store? Our store now have competition in form of so-called cooperatives that were essentially private enterprises that have either no price regulation or limited price regulation. And both this store and a cooperative acquire their supply of goods from the same source and cooperative can afford and most importantly allowed to pay more to the suppliers, while state-owned store is stuck with fixed prices.

This decision alone basically killed centralized system of supplying the regions with consumer goods and foodstuff. If in the bigger cities it was always possible to circumvented now mostly empty state-owned store system with buying from cooperatives and on markets. Remote and poorer areas not only were usually cash-starved but also rarely attracted a lot of the privatized enterprise, as supply was more and more redirected towards areas with larger concentrations of paying customers.

And of course the new system was even more vulnerable to the corruption than the older one. State-owned enterprises of all kinds (from above-mentioned food stores to giant steel mills) simply began to divert supply to the cooperatives for profit. "Last package of meat that we got was mostly spoiled and we threw it away", but in reality the best meat was simply resold to some enterprising individual who would sell it on the local farmer market and the profits would be split between store director and reseller. Such operations were was possible even before but financial transactions were tightly regulated and it was hard to pull something like that in bulk. So petty graft of such kind existed. But post-85 corruption was on the whole new level. Stuff was getting lost not even by truckloads, but by whole trains.

It is what economic liberalization by Gorbachev did. But it was also unnecessary. Most likely a simple shift of focus from MIC and heavy industry towards consumer goods production and agriculture would be probably sufficient for USSR to survive and continue to exist until hydrocarbon prices change and then USSR would have the access to all the money that Russia did out of that in the 00s without also enduring a lost decade.

P.S. Sorry for the longread.
 

RousseauX

Donor
lit definitely toppled the governments that promoted war in Vietnam.

In a democracy, that just means a new government gets elected.

Authoritarian states aren’t so resilient when it comes to withstanding regime change.
Popular discontent occurs all the time in authoratarian regimes, yet authoratarian regimes continue to flourish. The Soviet regime in particular, have suppressed far -worse- discontent in the past.

They seem pretty resilient to me. They have tools of repressing popular discontent, and in the USSR those tools worked very well.
 
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RousseauX

Donor
Maybe it's a measure of semantics, but I'd call "a civil war in which the central government loses control over large sections of its own territory" a national collapse, at least in the same terms as the peaceful dissolution of the USSR; constant shortages of randomly-varying goods do tend to promote a level of discontent. Also- again- the USSR's problems were not only economic.
Yes, I'm glad we agree on the definition of collapse.

My point is that countries with far worse economic problems than the USSR in 1985, and are far poorer, with far worse governance, seem perfect capable of continuing to avoid collapse.

You've brought this up before, and I'll give you the same response: we're not talking about other authoritarian regimes, past, present, or future. We're talking about the USSR from March 10, 1985.
Yes, but there are similarities between those regimes, and the USSR. So comparisons are obviously useful.

The mechanisms of control over the population for instance: the secret police, state propaganda, censorship etc exist in every authoratarian regime. Since we seem to be talking about the -effectiveness- ofthose measures in sustaining the regime in the face of certain crisis, thsoe comparisons seem particularly invaluable.

To become a problem at all, nationalist sentiments would have had to have existed before then. The issue is whether many problems, peaking at about the time of the late 80s/early 90s, would have weakened the control measures- quite possibly within the governments themselves- and caused this to fail.

It's a general truism that, when harsh/legalistic/authoritarian governments try to liberalize, they face rebellion (Qin China being a good example); the flip side of the coin is that, even if the leadership wanted to retain fierce control, the problems they faced may have prevented that. Preventing perestroika and glasnost will prevent the problems they caused, but they will not prevent the problems they were meant to solve.
My basic opinion is that you should read The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union by Serhii Plokhy and Soviet Fates and Lost alternatives by Stephen Cohn

Before I actually read a few books about the USSR, 1985-91, I was basically of the same opinion as you, it's only after I read books on the subject written after the 90s-early 2000s, when we got much more objective reading of the Soviet collapse, that I started changing my mind.

Like I get what you are trying to say, it's just that it would take way too long to type up an answer and frankly other people have done a better job anyway.

Also, wasn't glasnost the one that allowed for freer speech regarding political issues? I'd thought perestroika were the economic reforms.
The two were mixed together: because Gorbachev thought a freer media would help resolve the issue of corruption. The idea was that citizens would be free to critierize corrupt party officials and thus bring more accountability to them.

In reality though what actually happened was for seperatists to use it to agitiate for independence and for dissatified elements of the party itself to use it to attack the Soviet state itself. Because doing so was a path to power for elements of the Soviet political elite: Boris Yeltsin being the most important case.
 
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Darzin

Banned
North Korea exists despite everything dysfunctional about their economy. The Soviet Union was not doomed to collapse anymore than Cuba or North Korea.
 

RousseauX

Donor
For example is traditional to describe people behind August Putsch in 1991 as 'hardliners'. But they really weren't and their behavior demonstrated that rather aptly. They were simply anti-Yeltsin and wanted Gorbachev to stop this guy from running amok. Gorbachev was not able or was unwilling and they tried to step in.
Actually, funny thing: they were not anti-Yeltsin, they were anti-Gorbachev.

They actually thougth Yeltsin was a potential ally because he was anti-Gorbachev, even though he was to the right. That was one of the reasons why Yeltsin was never arrested during the coup
 
Actually, funny thing: they were not anti-Yeltsin, they were anti-Gorbachev.

They actually thougth Yeltsin was a potential ally because he was anti-Gorbachev, even though he was to the right. That was one of the reasons why Yeltsin was never arrested during the coup
Yeltsin wasn't arrested because Kryuchkov at that point entirely lost control over central offices of the KGB to Yeltsin supporters and MVD was already on his side.
 
This thread is actually just repeating theories that have been debunked for years:

1. The division of the Soviet bureaucracy into "hardliners" and "reformers" is a Western division that attempts to classify internal power struggles and alliances as roughly as possible. The fact that this classification is completely useless from a scientific point of view can be seen from the fact that, for example, a Suslov, who is called "hardliner" and even "neo-Stalinist", was against the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, while some "reformers" were for it.

2. In Gorbachev's time, nobody was convinced that everything was better under Brezhnev. Kryuchkov, for example, was a comrade-in-arms with Gorbachev until 1991, as were the other August coup plotters. These people said nothing when Gorbachev allowed other parties in 1987. These people said nothing when, from 1989/1990, the Warsaw Pact had non-socialist members. They weren't making plans even when Gorbachev threw East Germany under the bus without conditions. They only started making plans after two years, when the supply crisis only got worse and separatism was eating away at the country from within.

3. The Soviet Union did not perish from stagnation (which was in reality low growth). It went down because Gorbachev wanted to change everything within a short period of time and in doing so wiped out the foundations of the Soviet state, ultimately even the monopoly on the use of force. A state that gives up its monopoly on the use of force or does not enforce it will not last long.

Gorbachev could have saved the Soviet Union, only he would have had to have a plan. He didn't have one: in 1985 he started as an orthodox communist, in 1987 he was already an unorthodox communist, in 1989 a democratic socialist and in 1991 he was a social democrat.
 
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