Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the Soviet Agriculture Minister, assumes the leadership of Politburo meetings due to the long illness of Secretary General of the Communist Party (CPSU), Konstantin Chernenko. There have recently been a number of deaths among the octogenarians on the Central Committee. Gorbachev arranges for the promotion of two men to immediately fill the vacancies. Viktor Chebrikov, like Gorbachev, is a long-time political ally of former leader Yuri Andropov. He is also Chairman for the Committee for State Security (KGB). The second promotion goes to one of the regional governors, First Secretary of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze.
Acting Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, praises the attempts of the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, to establish discussions with the United States of America, and particularly their Secretary of State, George Schultz, with a view to easing tensions in the relationship between their two countries. Gorbachev makes clear that Soviet troops will remain in Nicaragua until the United States withdraws its forces from the island of Grenada, taken during an invasion between October and December, 1983. To assist Nicaragua, Gorbachev orders the ratification of long-delayed but uncontroversial trade treaties with Brazil and Ecuador, in return for an increase in trade between those two countries and Nicaragua.
With the death of the Soviet Secretary General the previous day, Gorbachev assumes full powers. Seeking to bring pressure to bear on Pakistan so that it will cease its support of the US-backed mujahideen rebellion in neighbouring Afghanistan, he instructs that the head of the Pakistani junta, Zia ul-Haq, that the USSR will be formally downgrading relations with his country. The action comes with a warning that failure to end cooperation with the six-year resistance will result in the Soviets offering support to separatist groups within Pakistan who seek to create the independent state of Baluchistan.
Following a terrible earthquake in Chile, which destroys the city of San Antonio and severely damages the capital, Santiago, the Politburo informally discusses the potential of using the crisis to overthrow Chile’s military president, Augusto Pinochet. While there is clear antagonism against Pinochet over his leadership in the coup that overthrew the democratic, pro-Soviet government, the Politburo agree not to proceed with any immediate action.
The new Politburo meets for the first time in the Kremlin. At the insistence of the new Secretary General, it votes to sacrifice the program to place further middle-range missiles in Europe. Candidate Politburo member, Nikolai Ryzhkov, is appointed Chairman of the State Planning Commission and given responsibility for implementing the first stage of perestroika, the reformation of the Soviet economy. Gorbachev gives an “Address to the Union”, outlining that Soviet growth rates had fallen to between 2.5% and 3.5% per annum. He warns that agricultural and transportation under spending has meant the purchase of foreign grain, threatening national food security. He pledges more scientific priority will be given to the civil economy, rather than spending 15% of Gross National Income on the military and to contain the possibility of a trade deficit. Gorbachev also expresses concern about “anti-Union” behaviour, such as the approval of defective merchandise, involvement in black market rings and falsification of government records, blaming “corrupted cadres” and pledging to “root them out”, as well as pledging “administrative decentralisation”, cutting paperwork. He points out that the nation will be required to deal with a high number of retirees by the end of the century, meaning that an immigration program is necessary. He also pledges to speed up Andropov’s reforms.
Soviet Secretary General, Mikhail Gorbachev, conducts a conference call with the Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. He convinces Gandhi to open up discussions with Harchand Singh Longowal, the leader of the Sikh political party, Akali Dal, in an attempt to resolve the Punjab Insurgency. The Soviet Union also offers its assistance in combating the terrorist movement associated with the Khalistani rebellion.
The decision by the Thatcher Government to abolish the British National Oil Corporation places pressure on the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and pushes down the official prices for the commodity. OPEC nations have two-fifths of world oil production. In order to deal with the lower oil price, the Soviet Union begins to cut back on oil deals that do not produce hard currency in return. This is necessary to maximise oil income in light of falling oil prices.
Soviet Secretary General Gorbachev establishes a National Council on Energy, with East Germany acting as a full partner in development. Flue gas desulfurisation through limestone wet scrubbing is introduced in all oil and coal burning power stations. The resulting gypsum by-product is used to establish a housing products enterprise in Kiev, aimed at integrating photovoltaic cells into housing panels and tiles. It will come to be known as the Berlin Council.
Soviet diplomat Viktor Khitrichenko is assassinated in New Delhi. Mikhail Gorbachev announces that, in response to the attack, the Red Army will undertake a transfer of key forces from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, in order to consolidate control over Afghanistan and hopefully, bring the war to an end. The Soviet leader defends the war as a campaign against US-backed “terrorists”.
After two weeks of preparations, the Soviet Commission Against Corruption opens its doors for the first time. It has been charged with cleaning out “departmentalism” and protecting the “wide-ranging reconstruction of the socialist commodity economy”. In November, the commission’s report will be used as a justification for a purge of the cadres, paring back the cumbersome Soviet bureaucracy and eliminating nearly one-fifth of all administration jobs. It is projected that funding will be redirected towards increased professional education and law enforcement.
Secretary General Gorbachev officially releases the New Economic Plan, warning that the Soviet Union cannot afford to stagnate or repeat the mistakes made by the Chinese in allowing reform to be driven by ideology. He argues that Lenin foresaw the economic situation confronting the country and that the restoration of some of his policies, with modification, is the next step in Soviet economic planning. Commencing immediately will be the privatisation of the kolkhozes, reductions of obligations on enterprises to supply government below cost and a new scheme of bonuses and incentive payments for enterprises, either public or private, that can evidence they have reached particular productivity benchmarks.
Former Soviet Deputy Prime Minister, Petro Shelest, is appointed as director in charge of the establishment of a science/technology hub and investment zone in Crimea. While the primary aim is to produce the efficiency of the average Soviet worker, a secondary aim is to decrease the cost of personal computers substantially (the current price is 150% of the average annual wage). To begin the Information Revolution in the Soviet Union, it is announced that students aged fifteen or sixteen will receive free computer access over the coming year in specially-constructed and heavily-monitored computer centres. The Soviet Union will also adopt compatibility with Western standards, allowing for the construction of an export market, cheaper test machinery and the creation of an IBM clone with an 80286 processor.
Radio Moscow begins a weekly program studying contemporary foreign music; “We are the World” finishes the first program. The two most requested foreign acts during 1985 will be American performance artist, Madonna, and British pop group, WHAM!. The Soviet Union also agrees to allow admission for selected foreign films – the most popular film, in terms of receipts, will be Star Wars. Soviet media are instructed to use the popularity of the film, depicting the American President as Darth Vader, and his SDI program as the Death Star.
Premier Nikolai Tikhonov, a stalwart from the days of Stalin, advises of his retirement from that position. Almost eighty years old, it is believed that he does not have sufficient strength or time to contribute meaningfully to the new era of reform. He agrees to leave office and the Politburo, provided he can guarantee his current perks. At the same time, the Chairman of the Presidium, Vasily Kuznetsov, and the Director of the International Department of the CPSU, Boris Ponomarev, are encouraged to step aside. Their positions in the Politburo are taken by: Nikolai Ryzhkov, the Chairman of the State Planning Commission, Yegor Ligachev, the Secretary for Party Administration, Vadim Medvedev, Minister for Education and Science, and Alexander Yakovlev, former Ambassador to Canada and director of the Institute for World Economics and International Relations, Soviet Academy of Sciences. Gorbachev announces that he will visit India in June. Ligachev is appointed as the new Premier; former Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko is appointed Chairman of the Presidium.
The Soviet Union introduces graduated price inflation for alcoholic products to combat productivity losses in the workforce, after the USSR Academy of Sciences estimates losses at eighty to one hundred billion rubles per annum. The price increases were originally planned for the previous day, but were delayed to allow for the revenue opportunity arising from the previous day’s public holiday.
Following a long meeting between Secretary General Gorbachev and his Chairman of State Security, Viktor Chebrikov, the KGB agrees to stand by cuts of close to nine percent in the defence budget. As part of the agreement, the salaries of KGB staff will be among the highest in the country and the organisation itself will expand its membership by ten percent by the end of 1986.
Chairman of the State Planning Commission, Nikolai Ryzhkov, announced the details of plans to reform the Soviet economy. There will be a radical increase in production expenditure, directly boosting employment in agriculture, manufacturing, housing, mining, transportation and service sectors. In the interim, provision is made for alternate forms of ownership to still access government funding. There will be a substantial increase in the number of trading permits granted. Support for the regional governments will be quadrupled over the next five years and there will be a large budget for reform of “employment relations”. To fund these changes, he explains, there will be substantial cuts in the armed forces and in the bureaucracy. Mikhail Gorbachev states that those who are retrenched from administrative jobs will receive pensions, housing and transport services until they find new work.
A new system in relation to food prices is introduced in the Soviet Union. Price controls will be lifted on nearly two thousand items, effectively raising the price of some items by fifty percent overnight. Secretary General Gorbachev states that some “short-term shock therapy” is necessary for the economic reconstruction and that all Soviet citizens below a particular income level will be eligible for a monthly food subsidy to cover the increased costs.
Soviet Secretary General Gorbachev takes a tour of Leningrad, travelling the streets, greeting the populace and asking their view on the new alcohol policy introduced three weeks ago. During discussion with a citizen, he makes the point that Soviet life expectancy has fallen by five years in the last twenty and has cut average growth by 4.3% per annum during that time.
Raisa Gorbachev, the First Lady of the USSR, gives an interview to Pravda. Soviet citizens note that she has appeared on television three times since her husband took office and the public commentary is that she looks nice and dresses well. Other Soviet citizens state that they are proud of the fact that she is not as “glamorous and wasteful” as the US First Lady, Nancy Reagan.
The Soviet health authorities examine MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, following an American FDA ruling that makes the drug illegal. Soviet psychotherapists will argue that the drug is useful for treatment and the authorities therefore decide to make the substance available on prescription from mental health professionals.
British officials admit that East German spies have stolen a laser gyroscope made by British Aerospace. It is virtually identical to the model being used in a new US fighter, the F-15E Strike Eagle, and, in just over eighteen months, it will reappear as part of the design for the new Sukhoi Su-35. The US Administration threatens to withhold export licenses for technology if allied nations cannot show greater care about the re-export of technology to the Soviet bloc.
The Soviet Union announces a contract with the French state rail company, SNCF, to build a high speed rail service similar to the TGV network in France. The first link, between Moscow and Leningrad, is scheduled to open in 1989; the second and third lines will link Moscow to Novosibirsk by 1993 and Moscow to Gorky by 1996, respectively. The trip from Moscow to Leningrad will be cut to 2 ½ hours.
The Kremlin reports that laws introduced in May relating to alcoholic products have already achieved a substantial fall in the use of alcohol as an alternate currency. While Muscovites are pleased about the increased reliability of tradespeople, Georgians complain that the new rules are an insult to traditional hospitality.
Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev gives an address at Communist Party headquarters, at which he announces that senior members of the Party will appear before the Corruption Commission. He confirms the arrest of Petrochemical Minister Victor Fyodorov, Iron and Steel Minister Ivan Kazanets and Construction Minister Alexei Yashin. However, he states that these second-rank officers are just the beginning and confirms that the Commission is investigating former Prime Minister Nikolai Tikhonov, First Secretary of Leningrad Grigory Romanov and the former Chief of General Staff, Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov. All three will be retired from their offices within the next month.
Soviet Chief of General Staff, Marshal Sergei Akhromeev, is relieved of duties and is replaced by Marshal Viktor Kulikov, former Warsaw Pact commander and head of the Afghan Intervention Forces. This brings the war into greater focus among the citizenry. At the same time, Defence Secretary Grigory Romanov announces his resignation from the Politburo and is transferred to a sanatorium outside Leningrad. The vacancy on the Politburo is filled by the Chairman of the State Planning Commission, Nikolai Ryzhkov.
The Soviet government announces the repeal of 188-3 of the Soviet Criminal Code, which has enabled prisoners to have their sentences extended ad hoc for random violations of camp regulations. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev signs a pardon, allowing the release of Alexander Ogorodnikov, an Orthodox Christian dissident held since 1979 in a Perm labour camp, as a symbol of the new policy. He pledges a review of similar cases, but argues that the West should not assume they can “abuse the mercy of the Soviet people”.
Former Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko is promoted to the largely ceremonial position of Chairman of the Presidium, the Soviet equivalent of head of state. CIA analysis published today reports to the US Administration that Gorbachev is consolidating his power base faster than any other Soviet leader in history and notes that the removal of Romanov was the first direct demotion from the Politburo since 1982. 24 July
Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that rumours of a massive overhaul of the Soviet military leadership are untrue, but that there will be tighter examination of recurrent spending to maximise efficiency and an agreement among current senior staff to accept reductions in Soviet military expenditure over a period of five years. Asked to estimate the size of the cut over that period, he suggests “approximately one third”. In the final analysis, Gorbachev will achieve most of his aims, cutting annual defence expenditure from about $117 billion to approximately $77 billion.
Secretary General Gorbachev announces the “grand plan” for the Soviet space program will include an ambitious long-term objective: the first Soviet cosmonaut will step foot on Mars before 2020 and the establishment of a science and research base on Mars by 2030. The estimated cost of the total project is expected to exceed US$50 billion.
It is declared that Leningrad will be the new political and administrative capital of the Soviet Union from 12 March, 1988, seventy years after the original transfer of the capital to Moscow. A substantial investment in Leningrad is also outlined, a major success for new Leningrad First Secretary, Lev Zaikov, in turn demonstrating that he has not worn any of the political fallout from the corruption investigation into former Defence Secretary Grigory Romanov.
The Soviet Union announces a major environmental program. The Karakumsky Canal becomes a national priority, as does rehabilitation of other canals and the construction of a joint-ownership (partly Saudi) desalination complex in Aralsk. All of these measures are designed to save the Aral Sea from disappearing, with the long-term objective of returning it to its former size over thirty years. Cotton and flax farmers receive new priority funding, the former to move to less water-intensive cotton breeds and the latter to step-up production generally. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev also announces a clean-up of pollution produced by the Soviet Institute for Bio-Organic Chemistry and the Semipalatinsk Weapons Test Site. Environmental spending is nearly doubled.
The Soviet delegation cancels its planned attendance at an Italian conference on the effects of nuclear war as a result of their uncovering of the double agency of former KGB London Resident, Colonel Oleg Gordievsky. They state that Gordievsky has admitted spying for the British for seventeen years and has been executed after months of being debriefed in a Soviet safe house.
The Soviet Industry Ministry opens a national competition to design a new national car for the Union. The initial objective will be to build a car that will be available for export and sell abroad at a price below US$4000. It is confirmed that there will be an initial run of forty to one hundred thousand vehicles to test Soviet capacity to develop a car that can be promoted in other markets. New specifications for the car are announced in November.
The Gorbachev interview gets a full hour of coverage on Vremya Television and TASS, the state publishing house, puts out two hundred thousand copies on sale, slightly censored, for about 10 cents. The censorship removes a reference to Nikita Khrushchev, who evidently remains a non-person in the Soviet Union.
Colonel Stanislav Lunev, a member of the diplomatic staff at the Soviet Embassy in Beijing, is murdered. It is admitted that he was a high-level member of the GRU, the Soviet military’s intelligence arm. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev calls on the Chinese to investigate the death, but they fail to act promptly and much information is lost regarding the crime.
Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev stages a visit to a new “Model Enterprise Town” in his home province of Stavropol. The previous farming town now turns part of their crop into animal fodder, allowing diversification of agriculture. Some of the crops are used to press and refine plant oils, plus a soft drink and alcohol brewer has set up business. He states that these small, low-risk businesses will form a vital component of the “second age of Soviet socialism”, manageable projects where production lines and foreign business practices can be tested.
The Soviet government announces the appointment of long-disgraced poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, to a regular column in the national newsprint. He becomes a vocal critic of the sluggish bureaucracy and part of the campaign to weaken the CPSU apparatchiks. Under new party membership rules to be revealed, people with particular professions automatically became honourary party members, whether they participated or not.
“The New Future” reads the headline in the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev announces the retirement of nearly twenty percent of the CPSU Central Committee. The majority belong to the older, revolutionary generation, who controlled up to a third of the Central Committee numbers, but retain a solid rump of power, including backing from the military. The new members are to be selected by popular vote from among members of the new Communist Party subcommittees. There will be the subcommittees of production, trade, defence, aid, credit, emergency and administration, each empowered to act collectively as the Central Committee. Farmers and soldiers form the largest blocs in the new Central Committee.
The USSR introduces a property tax on private ownership of land, while at the same time capping rents. Housing cooperatives are offered attractive terms on state housing and a graduated rental subsidy established for ongoing tenancy in a housing cooperatives. New construction benchmarks double the minimum square metres of living space per person. The release of funds will see Soviet housing space expand by eight percent over the first year, enough to end the sense of crisis but not fixing the chronic shortages. The Soviets state that their new Five Year Plan will allow for a thirty percent increase in housing by the end of 1990. New laws on patents have also been implemented.
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union announces that it will reduce the membership of the Politburo to twelve members from 7 November, including Gorbachev as Secretary General. This will force out Heydar Aliyev, Dinmukhamed Kunayev, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, and Vitaly Vorotnikov, first secretaries of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia respectively, who will be given ongoing role in the Supreme Soviet as members of the Presidium.
The Soviet information agency announces the execution of former head of the KGB First Directorate and former First Secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, Colonel Vitaly Yurchenko. There is no reason given for the death of such a senior KGB member. US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) suggests that it confirms August intelligence about differences between the party leadership and the KGB.
The USSR announces success in its anti-alcohol campaign. Consumption of liquor, mainly vodka, is down by 8% and wine and champagne sales have fallen by 13%. Despite suggestions to move to further tighten alcohol restrictions, Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev states that such restrictions may encourage dangerous behaviour.
For the first time in its history, Pravda begins to contain reports on the closing prices of key capital exchanges around the world, as well as quote for the market price of gold, silver and US treasury bonds. This decision is made as a “response to the changing needs of the readership”.
Soviet Prime Minister Yegor Ligachev announces that, in the coming economic plan, the nation will allocate new funding to monitor the health of minorities. He states that the plan to address disadvantaged communities will eliminate tens of thousands of “unnecessary deaths”. He also suggests that there will be no other additional funding for health, despite the waiting lists for basic medical treatment, arguing the Politburo view that the crisis in health is due to other factors.
The Soviet Planning Commission, currently preparing the next Five Year Plan, states that, by the end of 1987, the USSR will once again eclipse Japan to become the second largest economy in the world and will remain there until at least the turn of the century. After that, it is expected that China will eclipse the USSR.
The details of the Soviet Union Economic Plan for 1986-90 are leaked by the Kremlin. Reports indicate a plan to increase production spending by 70% over the next five years. Agriculture, the largest production area, will rise from 30% of economic output to 34% of economic output. It is also projected that the loosening of trade restrictions will lead to a 63% rise in international trade, while retaining a trade surplus. It will create 40 million new jobs over five years, compared to a projected population rise of 14 million. The national research budget will rise from under $23 billion to $66 billion, while education will rise from $51 billion to $87 billion – indicating a massive campaign to improve education.
Soviet Defence Minister Sergei Sokholov announces the reorganisation of the Frunze Military Academy to increase the professionalism of the Soviet armed forces. Cadets will serve four years, during which they will be expected to complete a university-level degree. To compensate for the additional cost to the military, conscription will be abolished, with the Red Army allowed to reduce its personnel by two-fifths over the next five years. The Soviets admit that this is due to conscript defections on the Afghan front. Secretary General Gorbachev also states that he will use his discretionary spending budget to boost benefits for veterans.
Queries are made discreetly to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, as to whether he might be prepared to grant an audience with the Secretary General of the CPSU, Mikhail Gorbachev. The official communication is that Gorbachev wishes to “clarify” certain positions taken during the Pontiff’s 1979 meeting with the now-President, Andrei Gromyko. After months of discussions, the Pope will agree to invite Gorbachev to the Vatican, and a date is set for 4 May, 1987.
Soviet State Planning Chairman, Nikolai Ryzhkov, visits Washington, meeting with Congressman Jack Kemp (R-NY) and Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) to discuss international currency fluctuations and to learn how Soviet exposure to international currency markets can change budgetary planning. Ryzhkov will also meet with the French Ambassador to the USA, members of the board of an investment bank, Lazare Freres, and the chairman of the Bank of Tokyo, Yusuke Kashiwagi.
Hundreds of students from Moscow State University march on Red Square to protest that the opening of limited markets, which they believe will allow the Soviet Union to be flooded with defective and over-priced goods. There is particular concern over the way in which advertising will be structured in this new market. General demands are that commercials should not interrupt programming and should be limited to announcements of new products.
Explosion of new Energia rocket design at Kasputin Yar kills three research scientists. Details about the testing are not revealed to the public, nor are the deaths of the members of the scientific community on grounds of national security.
Jaime Lerner, the renowned Brazilian architect and urban planner, is offered the contract by the Soviet government for the revitalisation of the city of Leningrad. He accepts and will develop a plan for Leningrad as the Soviet capital. The future city will be renowned for the cleanest air and lowest per capita petrol consumption in the USSR. Among the items coming out of the Secretary General’s discretionary account is the rejuvenation of the old Constantine Palace at Strelna as his new official residence.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko uses his Pravda column to praise the attack on sluggish bureaucrats (the government has confirmed that one in five will be “retrained”). He also calls for the end to closed food and commodity distribution among the Party elite and denounces the Stalinist reign of terror. When there are questions about allowing complaint, Secretary General Gorbachev states: “We are striving to improve and purify the Soviet state. Lenin understood that our journals must do more than record and extol government actions.” Nonetheless, strict controls will remain on Soviet artists, journalists and writers.
Soviet Secretary for Administrative Affairs, Vadim Medvedev, establishes a commission to investigate complaints arising within new private enterprises, particularly to establish lines of control for the management and party representatives within these institutions. It will lead to the establishment of the Private Cooperative Enterprises Congress, with elected worker delegates from each industrial sector providing management support, and each enterprise having “Worker Council President” as assistant manager. While this person must be a Party member, he or she is appointed by the workers, not the Party.
New Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev announces the development of new rapid transit systems to complement those already built in Moscow and Leningrad. The sites selected are Novosibirsk, Gorky, Sverdlovsk and Kuibyshev. These systems are being covered by a massive increase in transportation expenditure under the Five Year Plan.
Unrest spreads across the USSR as new regulations affecting Communist Party members come into effect. They re-instate mandatory attendance at party meetings for party members in return for fee exemptions introduced in November. This causes even more discomfort than usual due to the honourary memberships given out to whole sections of society with the fee exemptions.
72-year-old Mikhail Solomentsev, Chairman of the USSR Communist Party Control Committee, agrees to retire on May Day to “allow a new perspective”. Soviet President Andrei Gromyko will publicly praise Solomentsev on May Day for his contribution as Prime Minister of Russia for twelve years. The retirement creates a vacancy on the Politburo, which will be filled by Anatoly Dobrynin, former Soviet Ambassador to the United States.
Pravda, the leading Soviet daily, announces that Premier Yegor Ligachev, Secretary for Administrative Affairs Vadim Medvedev and Deputy Premier Viktor Grishin have been appointed to oversee an investigation into party membership regulations. Written submissions are invited from all party soviets about what should constitute party member duties and responsibilities. In the interim, the new regulations will be suspended.
Soviet President Andrei Gromyko, with the Politburo in attendance, launches the new Soviet flagship, the Admiral Kuznetsov, at the Nikolayev Shipyard on the Black Sea. This symbolises the posthumous restoration of Kuznetsov to his former status as Admiral of the Fleet. The new aircraft carrier is expected to be in full service by 1989, with a second aircraft carrier in service by 1991.
The Soviet Union announces the creation of the Holod program to design the world’s first scramjet, but projects that it will be mid-1988 before the first tests can be conducted on any rudimentary design. This is seen as a response to the recent joint announcement of the US Defence Department and NASA of its work on the X-30 National Aerospace Plane.
A new Soviet government-owned soviet cooperative enterprise, Emergence Technologies, is formed. In the coming years, it will become the leading European manufacturer of fridges, washing machines, dryers and other large household appliances. It will specialise in producing energy efficient goods, such that the average Western family using ET products will be able to save up to $100 a month in electricity costs. ET will be promoted initially in the Soviet Union, through use of the Spielberg film, dolls, lollies and toys, clear breaches of intellectual property that will ultimately come to American attention.
Chairman of the Soviet Planning Commission, Nikolai Ryzhkov, announces that a crackdown on “tax criminals” has brought in almost $4.3 billion in additional revenue. The targets are generally common citizens getting used to taxation regulations and reporting demands of the new paradigm. He states that no prosecutions will be conducted on the instructions of the Secretary General.
Soviet Communist Party Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that his investigation into party membership regulations has resulted in a decision to uphold them. In compensation, the budget for benefits to party members will be substantially increased, in a major amendment to the Five Year Plan. Compulsory attendance at party meetings are replaced with demands that members must attend at least one local Soviet meeting every four months to retain the right to vote for Communist Party candidates. It did not need to be said that allowing rights to lapse would be inadvisable.
Soviet General Mikhail Gorbachev authorises freedom of information for all government records from 1917 up until 1953. These will become available as part an official denunciation of Stalin on the thirtieth anniversary of Nikita Khrushchev’s speech on the personality cult. Lenin remains on all the party icons with Marx. Gorbachev also authorises the release of all government records from the Khrushchev period, but with an order activation date in 1989.
XXVII Soviet Communist Party Congress is convened in Moscow, among the special guests is Sweden’s long-serving leftist Prime Minister Olof Palme. It is projected as the most important Party congress since Stalin, and a landmark day in Soviet history. Over 35% of the last Congress have been removed and party Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev warns that those party officials who resist membership reforms should “get out of the way”. He announces also the end of the Five-Year-Plan, arguing it encourages waste. He stresses the integration of computers into Soviet society. He states he will encourage export diversification due to the flat prices of oil and retracting market, but projects the USSR will reach food security and be exporting within five years. US analysis is that Gorbachev’s hold over the party apparatus is strong and, in some cases, brutal. 1 March
Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR gives a keynote address to the CPSU Congress, in which he states that there are more efficient ways of achieving the tenets of the Communist Manifesto than were presently pursued by the country. He calls for “change within continuity”. He pledges to improve relations abroad. When he coughs, shortly before the end of a 5 ½ hour address, he remarks to his audience, “I am coming to an end.” The rippling of laughter through the Kremlin Palace of Congresses broke the mood after Gorbachev constructed an acid appraisal of the Brezhnev years, US capitalism and the urgency of the food situation.
The Communist Party’s XXVIIth Congress votes an additional taskforce of three thousand inspectors in Moscow, to prevent violent crime. The Congress has been advised of the rise of gang activity associated with the economic reforms and the need to bring legitimate businesses into line with government regulation. Judges are also warned that they must demonstrate equality in their decisions, after forty-eight of the worst cases of regional abuse are removed by the Congress.
Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev announces plans for a large public tennis facility to be constructed in Moscow, with a total of thirty grand slam courts. He is joined by a young Natasha Zvereva, the great Soviet hope for this year’s Wimbledon junior competition. Ligachev states that when the project is completed in 1989, the Soviet Union will have the third largest tennis training centre in the world.
Foreign analysis of the recent Soviet Communist Party Congress indicate that the reformists are clearly in charge of the Politburo and popular among the general populace. There were nearly seven thousand attendees. Secretary General Gorbachev’s final statement was “the work we have done is only the beginning” as the congress has rubber-stamped the plan designed by Gorbachev and his economics guru, Nikolai Ryzhkov.
Soviet Planning Commissioner, Nikolai Ryzhkov, announces that the USSR is prepared to talk to the Americans about a deal on oil. They will offer future oil output at today’s price of US$20.60 to provide world markets with certainty through until the end of the century and to guarantee Soviet income at the same time. With no guarantee that the standard oil price will remain below the current OPEC floor, the Soviet contractual offer is highly popular with companies seeking long-term stability. However, the price is 20% lower than the value of oil on 1 January, and is down 40% since 1981.
During his May Day address, Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev expresses the view that come to be known as the “Gorbachev Doctrine” – that is, that the ongoing tensions in international affairs is because the Second World War was never adequately resolved by the victorious powers. He calls for a renegotiation of the international political and economic architecture, but welcomes the recent UN cooperation in preventing the collapse of Uganda as an example of what can be achieved. He also suggests that the “German and Korean questions” need to be resolved. He also announces that a partly-appointed, partly-elected “Convention of the Union” will be held in October to discuss the drafting of a “modern constitution for our new age”. He stresses that the Soviet Union will be the future expert in electronics, production automation, nuclear power, biotechnology and raw materials. He pledges that the human genome will be decoded within ten years. He also outlined massive educational reforms, announcing plans to cooperate with Finnish experts. French experts will be cooperating to help reform the health system. West Germany has agreed to cooperate in overhauling energy systems. He also pledges that the Soviet Union will not spend more currency on “consultants” than they obtained through export generation. He confirms that, by year’s end, thirty percent of the Soviet market will be “productive cooperative enterprises”. Finally, he pledges the introduction of a new “non-inflationary trade currency” that will be used in transactions between the Soviet Union and other countries who agree to accept it rather than rubles, effectively creating a second currency for the Soviet Union as well.
The Politburo votes to reject a policy of glasnost during discussions about “restricting access to certain press publications and literature widely believed to be counter-revolutionary and/or ridden with falsehoods”. It agrees to refer the matter to a committee for further investigation as a potential matter to review for the 1988 May Day address. Reformists are disappointed at Gorbachev’s delaying tactics.
Andrei Sakharov is reunited with his wife, Yelena Bonner, in Moscow, in accordance with prior guarantees by the government. Soviet Prime Minister Yegor Ligachev states that the academician will be restored to full honours and recognised with appointment to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
Raisa Maximovna Gorbachev, First Lady of the USSR, is appointed as the Director of the new Academy of Culture and Sociology. During her interview, she states that she has requested the Government give priority release to the release of Anatoly Marchenko some time ago. She first heard of the issue, she said, at a Georgian party soviet, and found strong support for a direct approach.
The Soviet President, Andrei Gromyko, announces that he will approve the Anatoly Marchenko release if and when the Government is prepared to recommend that he do so. Premier Yegor Ligachev states that the matter of this dissident author will be given “immediate priority” and that the case will be reconsidered by himself and KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov immediately.
Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev reports that the Council of Ministers has yet to reach a consensus position on the matter of Anatoly Marchenko, but is not disagreed “on the key question”. He states that he offered his resignation on the matter of Marchenko for failing to achieve a consensus, but it has been declined by President Andrei Gromyko. He states that he believes a position will emerge over the next 48 hours.
New Soviet culture director, Raisa Gorbachev, announces that the Writers Union has recommended the publication, for the first time, of Doctor Zhivago, the Boris Pasternak novel. The news does not quite overshadow the arrival in the Kremlin of V.M. Molotov, the 96-year-old former Foreign Minister, who, it is claimed, was consulting about funeral arrangements. It will later emerge many years later that the topic of the conversation was foreign affairs, specifically a discussion on various events during his tenure.
It is announced that Anatoly Marchenko is released from prison. Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that he has completely abstained from any conversation on the matter, due to his wife’s comment. It is believed that he had approved the release of the topic into the public domain, but it is unclear whether he agreed with his wife or not.
Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev calls for a moderation in perestroika, stating that the dismantling of price controls have fed inflation, which overall is believed to be about seven percent. However, the prices of some foods are up by as much as 28% in the last year and Ligachev believes there needs to be a period of “consolidation”. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev responds by issuing new regulations urging plant managers to establish direct links with their customers and suppliers, bypassing the bureaucracy, but admits that there is a need for caution to prevent the newly stimulated economy from overheating.
A Soviet trade delegation arrives in Japan to meet with returned Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone. The visitors are keen to obtain Japanese loans for plants and equipment, arguing that Japanese capital and Soviet resources provide the opportunity for unique synchronicity. In future times, this event will be seen as the beginning of the rapprochement between the Soviet Union and Japan.
Soviet media report that the Secretary General will equip two Antonov An-124 for service. With a capacity for 94 people, they will also have an apartment, office, conference room, lounge, work stations and media communications capacity and will be ready for delivery in late 1988.
Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the restrictions on mail service within the USSR will be somewhat lifted. After fifteen months of reconstruction and automation, the service has also been transferred to its workers. Through retraining programs, all workers have found places in other areas of government. Now, instead of costing the government hundreds of millions of roubles each month, the enterprise is turning a profit. Gorbachev promises that he will control the price of mail and will not approve any rise in postage rates before 1989.
The Soviet Union settles its largest outstanding bond issue, issued by the Czarist government to the Edwardian Britain. These bonds are collector items, which have sold for, at most, 3% of face value. In return for a gold transfer of $1.35 billion, the USSR gains the right to participate, for the first time, in the capital markets of the London Stock Exchange. At the same time, the Soviets admit their efforts to break into the market in the United States have been hampered by anti-American rhetoric and they will be moving their efforts at financial investment to Europe. The Soviet International Investment Bank will divided into two banks become Union Bank International and the Soviet Credit Bank, both under the command of Gosbank. The former will issue further Soviet bonds, while the Credit Bank will undertake retail services at a national level.
Moscow News correspondent Yevgenia Albats reports that the Kremlin have failed to explain the published budgetary figures to her satisfaction, particularly in relation to the space program. She claims that the figures have been inflated by using research programs to cover military projects, possibly as high as 4%. She also appears outside a new “forbidden zone” in Kazakhstan on television. The news is quickly picked up and spread around the world. Albats is called in for questioning for fifteen hours. After this, KGB officers spend time in her apartment and conduct a two hour video-taped interview, but she is not charged with breaching espionage laws.
Soviet President Andrei Gromyko and Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev appear on Soviet state television in front of a modern press conference. Gorbachev admits that some, but not all, of the research budget has been transferred to the military “to respond to the changing global threat to security.” He insists that the figures make up the national security budget should remain classified and refuses to discuss the matter further. Both strongly defend KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov, with Gromyko stating that “he has done an exceptional job in some very difficult circumstances”.
The Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Alexander Bovin, approaches the White House to purchase wheat, stating that the restructure of much of the Soviet agricultural sector is still ongoing and that this is interrupting basic food supply. He demonstrates Soviet government figures showing projections of 40% take-up of “new enterprise” structures among formerly state-owned agricultural collectives by the end of 1987. Agreement helps the US get rid of some of its stockpile and raises food prices marginally around the globe.
Soviet citizens are offered “smoke-free” flights on Aeroflot, the Soviet air carrier. For those who wish to travel on such flights, they will be given priority over other people on the waiting list and standard fares shall be reduced by ten percent. Three hundred thousand Soviet citizens are dying every year from smoking ailments, and tobacco consumes about one seventh of national consumption spending.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev arrives in Beijing to attend a Chinese fashion show, at which Soviet textiles are being promoted. She also attends a young writers’ workshop and a performance of traditional dancing.
An independent investigation into the KAL Flight 007 disaster of 1983, during which the Soviets shot down a South Korean airliner, is published. It finds that 1) the Soviets were unaware of what they were destroying and had a breakdown in communications; 2) the pilot had breached protocols to save time and fuel; and 3) US spy planes had been in the region.
Chinese Secretary General Hu Yaobang meets Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev to sign the Shanghai Protocols. Under the agreement, China and the USSR “agree in principle to share responsibility for security” in Mongolia and Afghanistan. China is given right to appeal for modifications to the Sino-Soviet border and enter negotiations to that effect. Tensions are reduced and China permits the Warsaw Pact to offer Afghanistan membership of the Review Committee.
The USSR announces the release of nuclear physicist Yuri Orlov, who is returned to his research at a fully-equipped lab and restored to the Soviet Academy of Sciences. KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov states Orlov has had his case reviewed and he has been given parole, due to his willingness to again “work for the Soviet people within a process of reform”.
Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev announces that his nation is adopting a two-child policy, with the aim of stabilising population and thus allowing economic growth to more strongly boost living standards. He projects that, by 2015, the Soviet population will stabilise at 283 million, before declining to 255 million by 2040.
Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that, despite tensions between the superpowers, the world should not “rule out possibilities” of a Middle East peace deal. “While a cloud hangs over relations with the United States, items that seemed insoluble only a year ago have already been solved.” He states that Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will meet with US officials in the coming week during a visit to the United Nations.
The Politburo calls the Supreme Soviet into session and gives it a twelve-month period to consider constitutional and political reform “to improve efficiency” of the Soviet Union. It is recommended that the committee responsible should prepare recommendations for the Politburo to consider by the end of September next year.
Two terrorists attempting to hijack a plane in the Soviet city of Ufa are shot dead on national television. KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov praises the efforts of the security forces and states that the attack forms part of the Soviet war on drugs, with both men allegedly attempting to seize an illegal cargo stored on the plane.
Soviet Prime Minister Yegor Ligachev announces plans to roll out a fiber-optic network across the USSR. He states that the project will cost between $4 billion and $10 billion, but that “the importance of this network to the security and competitiveness of the Soviet people cannot be overemphasised”. He also estimates that, long term, the network will pay for itself “twenty times over”.
Soviet Prime Minister Yegor Ligachev introduces individual work contracts for new employees, but retains guaranteed conditions for enterprise employees and introduces legal remediation for employee dismissals. 11 October
The Soviet Economics Minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, denies reports that he is willing to decriminalise adult prostitution. He states that the Soviet government is not changing its position on the issue, but refers it to Education Minister Alexander Yakovlev to create a “longer-term policy response”. Yakovlev is ordered to take the matter into his investigation into glasnost implications, but it will eventually be agreed that prostitution will be decriminalised but heavily regulated, but brothels and street walking will remain illegal. Effectively, this means that registered escort services and “single worker home enterprises” will be legalised in July, 1988.
Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze announces the creation of several Union Heritage Parks. Protected under the new measures will be the Caucasus forests, the East Siberian taiga, the deltas of the Danube, Volga and Lena rivers, Lake Baikal and the Sea of Okhotsk. He also calls for international cooperation to support Indonesia and Brazil in protecting their rainforests.
The USSR announces the release of Professor David Goldfarb, citing insufficient evidence to charge him with espionage, and agrees to send him to Great Britain for medical treatment for his diabetes and heart disease. Goldfarb is not approved for emigration, but there are expectations that he will not return to the Soviet Union and will move to live with his son in the United States.
Discussions commence on the future administrative and constitutional structure of the Soviet Union into the future. Much focus is given to the policy of korenizatsiya, aimed at reversing decades of Russification, which is rejected as “Stalinist chauvinism”. For the first time, there are also suggestions that the borders of the Soviet republics might be changed to allow greater autonomy to the various nationalities.
Soviet Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev meets with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Yaobang, and they jointly announce the intention of both countries to normalise relations and to prepare a trade deal between the two countries. It is perceived by both sides that China could find a significant market for its consumer goods and Moscow would gain legitimacy for its economic reform program. The Soviet Union commits, in principle, to a withdrawal from Afghanistan before the end of the decade.
The 69th anniversary of the October Revolution is marked by a further expansion in the Annual plan of production support and trade openness, increases in research and education funding and another cut in military expenditure (though ten percent less than the projected cut mentioned at the Reykjavik conference). Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that the program of the Soviet government remains “steady as she goes”. Essentially, private enterprises that have been unofficially condoned are now made legal in return for a payment of twenty percent tax on earnings. Essentially, while it has remained closed to corporations, the Soviet Union is now allowing all owner-worker enterprises, provided they are registered on the Moscow Exchange, in return for 20 percent of all income. Unfortunately for foreign business, this excludes foreign investment in anything other than Soviet government bonds. Treasury Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov states that the government will redeem more bonds this year than it issues as much of the retooling of the economy has been completed over the past two years. He states that perestroika will continue, but that the new focus of the government will be korenizatsiya. This is facilitated by a reshuffle at the top. Mikhail Gorbachev will take the title of Prime Minister, replacing Yegor Ligachev, who will be moved to the position of the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet.
Former Politburo member Mikhail Solomentsev accuses Premier Mikhail Gorbachev of “syndicalist” leanings. Gorbachev responds by expressing his regret that Solomentsev has become “bitter and visionless”, and suggesting that it was this which forced his resignation from the Politburo earlier in the year. It is the first public sign of a rift in the Soviet government on the new programs of perestroika and korenizatsiya.
Soviet Trade Minister Nikolai Slyunkov expresses disappointment at the breakdown of negotiations with McDonalds Corporation and PepsiCo. He announces that the monies provided to encourage investment will instead be allocated to establish the Institute of Food Sciences for each of the new Union Heritage Parks. Its job will be to promote local food banks, celebrate local culinary traditions, direct preservation of agricultural enterprises, control pesticide use and support organic marketplaces.
A state funeral is given to Vyacheslav Molotov, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the USSR, who died just a few days ago. He was the last of the surviving major participants in the October Revolution. He is denied a place in the Kremlin Wall, instead being buried in Novodevichy Cemetery.
The USSR begins a public education campaign on seatbelts, with vivid dramatisation of car crashes. They are viewed overseas as part of the new “ultra-realist” movement in Soviet propaganda, in which there is a large amount of shock and fear messages. It will spill over into art, and Soviet art during this period appears to be quite emotionally dark, despite improving economic and social conditions.
The Soviet Union and China sign an agreement to resolve their dispute over the borders through negotiation. As the price for ensuring the People’s Republic remains committed to long-term talks, Zhenbao Island is transferred to the sovereignty of the People’s Republic. In addition, all the Soviet Republics involved will be required to participate at Republic-level in the talks.
India and the USSR agree to open new trade terms, which will allow a further $300 million in trade between the two countries. In the long term, it will give India an assured supply of raw materials. However, the Soviets insist that India heavily promote family education and limit child numbers as much as possible, stating that “South Asia does not have the capacity for two billion people”.
Foreign journalists report on the nalevo practice, stating that it is, at its essence, a capitalist system. It allows Soviet citizens to take additional jobs in order to boost their incomes. However the journalists also point out that, with two years of accumulative economic change, there are increasing demands for social and political change within the country that, while currently silenced, may have a long-term effect on the evolution on the Soviet Union. It is projected that, during 1987, the Soviet economy will grow by a further inflation-adjusted 7.6%, but that debt will rise as a share of GDP from 10.4% to 15.9%. It is further estimated that one third of all agricultural enterprises and one fifth of all manufacturing and mining operations in the Soviet Union are “market enterprises”. Trade will rise by 13.6% and military expenditure will fall from 15.7% (1986) to 12.2% (1987). “Fully employed persons”, a test of productivity within the Soviet economy, has risen over the two years from 56.9% to 68.3% and is projected to rise to over seventy percent this year.
It is announced that the Politburo has accepted the resignation of the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, Dinmukhamed Kunayev, and has replaced him with the youthful Deputy General Prosecutor Zharmakhan Tuyakbay. This blocks the advancement of the corrupt Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is immediately placed under investigation by the new government.
Complaints are made to the Politburo regarding the price of alcohol. Over the last few years, the price of alcohol has risen considerably. Wine and champagne have become relatively cheap, despite the price rising by 36% over the last year; however, it has begun to plateau. Liquor, by contrast, has gone up 67% in the same period. As a result, many are choosing to drink wine and champagne, rather than the traditional vodka.
The Soviet Academy of Sciences instructs that contraception and abortion will be made available to teenagers through school and school referral to public health clinics. This forms part of the “250 by 2050” campaign, the population reduction and stability campaign recently launched by the Soviet government.
Supreme Soviet member Andrei Sakharov demands that the Yakovlev Report into the glasnost policy should be accelerated, so that the rights demanded by the Helsinki Group can begin to be introduced immediately. Speaker Yegor Ligachev states that, while reform will be orderly, there is room for discussion between Sakharov and other Communist Party members. It is made further clear that seeking to accelerate reform will not “derail the government from its framework” and that “Soviet people trust the Communist Party to seek an orderly reform of their society in full consultation with the workers”.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev gives a press conference to Soviet journalists. He admits that there has been bureaucratic opposition to perestroika and korenizatsiya, stating that the attack on the apparatchiks has proven necessary. He also states that the Communist Party hierarchy has produced many reports with many recommendations over many years, but that it has only been in the last two years that the Politburo has found the courage to deal with necessary reforms. He warns that reforms must follow an evolutionary and gradual process, but that those pressing for urgent changes are “naive” about the “titanic effort” facing the government. He also warns that the CIA is plotting with “sympathetic and treasonous elements”. 1987
The records of the Khrushchev era are released to the public domain in the Soviet Union. Soviet media interpret the era, stating that Khrushchev had attempted to reform Stalinism, but had incorrectly persisted with many Stalinist errors. The Ministry of Information (TASS) announces that files relating to the Brezhnev era will come up for release in 2012.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev gives a speech on religion in the Soviet Union which later becomes known as the Tashkent Declaration. He expresses support for freedom of religion within parameters. No foreigners will be permitted to undertake missionary work and religious work, parachurch organisations and independent churches are prohibited, but registered religions will be able to operate freely provided they do not attempt to raise an army, do not call for the dismantlement of the state, provide no advice that leads to physical harm to a citizen, allow people to leave, and do not discourage people from civic duties.
The US press question the functioning of new “drug prevention, education and treatment centres” in the Soviet Union. With 46,000 residents of the centres, Soviet Interior Minister Alexander Vlasov insists that this is a “relatively recent phenomenon” and is linked to koknar, an opium addiction picked up by soldiers in Afghanistan. He states that, with the ongoing withdrawals from Afghanistan, the koknar addiction should be able to be eliminated from Soviet society. The US press suggest they are new prisons.
Former Politburo member and current First Secretary of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, is arrested and charged with corruption. He is swiftly replaced with Kiev Oblast committee chairman, Oleksandr Moroz, a 44-year old former engineering teacher. KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov expresses his personal disappointment at having to detain a former colleague, who will die in prison early next year.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in Beijing to attend a special Politburo. He praises the “comradeship and mentorship” of Secretary General Hu Yaobang in the Soviet economic reform process in the Chinese press. He also suggests that the “strong personal relationship” between he and Hu will stand for future good relationship between the Soviet people and the Chinese people.
In discussions over a new Soviet constitution, it becomes clear that there is considerable satisfaction with the distribution of funds to the republics over the last two years. This has resulted in steady ongoing improvement in quality of life. It also emerges that a number of entities within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republics will be reorganised to reduce its total subjects to seventy-two. The clearest detail is that all autonomous regions have been abolished. Only one republic, Adygea, has been abolished, while others, Dagestan and Chechnya-Ingushetia, will be raised to full status as Union republics. A federal government will be joined by fifteen regional governments, with executive governors chosen by the Kremlin. Below these will be the republican governments and then local government. Republics will be entitled to a place in the new upper house, while representatives will be elected by the soviets through the regions.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and Speaker Yegor Ligachev attend the laying of the first fibre-optic cable, with Ligachev stating that Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze is negotiating with Japan to share the cost of a link from Vladivostok to Sapporo. The major cities of the Union, carrying two-thirds of potential traffic, will be linked by the end of 1989.
Armies across Europe, including the Red Army, go into emergency relief as temperatures hit their lowest levels in 25 years. Leningrad is having its coldest winter since 1743 and there are deaths across Europe, including fifty-three in the Soviet Union.
Ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov and novelist Vasily Aksyonov are both offered the opportunity to return to Moscow, with their citizenship and privileges re-instated. Along with other cultural émigrés, they are advised that the Soviet leadership is keen to reach a new understanding with the intelligentsia, something which had not occurred since Lenin. They both decline, but accept offers to tour the country, earning the government strong popular backing.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev gives an address to the Central Committee, aiming criticisms at one of his predecessors, Leonid Brezhnev. He states that, “for the past two decades”, the country lost momentum, “allowing difficulties and unresolved problems to pile up”. He criticises such “stagnation” as “alien to Communism” and states his intent to reform, over the long term, the “whole of economic, social, cultural and intellectual life”. US Secretary of State George Schultz states that the address indicates a strong need for the United States to reconsider its diplomatic stance in relation to the Soviet Union. “It appears that the rhetoric has turned serious,” he states.
The Soviet News Agency, TASS, warns foreign journalists that they will be arrested and expelled if they are found to have been involved in “activities inconsistent with the role of a journalist”. In particular, they are forbidden from meeting with students. This is seen as a measure to prevent “foreign influences” that could encourage students to follow the lead of their Chinese colleagues.
Yuri Churbanov, the son-in-law of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, is arrested in Moscow for attempts to bribe and corrupt government officials. Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who is visiting Moscow at the time, states that his meetings with the Soviet leadership have been “remarkably open”, but that Gorbachev sincerely believes that the US military industrial complex is “sowing hatred and hostility in the desire for profit”.
Soviet authorities break up a “refusenik” protest in the historic and rejuvenated Arbat Street mall, stating that the recent actions by Israeli forces in Lebanon justify a continuation of the imprisonment and denial of passports to a number of Jewish prisoners. The news is carried internationally via Vremya, the leading news program in the USSR, which has recently begun English-subtitled satellite services.
The Tesla Institute in Moscow announces that, after studying the work of the University of Alabama in laser cooling, they have developed the first superconductor able to operate at a temperature above 130° Kelvin. The Soviets speculate that this will allow incredible advances in magnetic resonance imaging, a new medical technique introduced less than a decade ago. Within days, the USSR will propose that it share the $6 billion cost of construction of a supercollider, arguing that it will begin saving money within ten years.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev visits the Latvian and Estonian SSRs, stating that “there is a lot to do”. In Riga, as Gorbachev and his wife walk among crowds on the streets, he promises a “more democratic” Soviet state, through “strong, energetic and vigorous reform”. West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl will complain to the US embassy that Gorbachev has become “the only superpower on stage, and therefore, inevitably, the one winning all the applause”. Covering the program, Soviet television shows interviews with the man in the street, with comments ranging from complaints over change to others stating he has not gone far enough; one who praises the crackdown on corruption and another who states that it is impossible to change the bureaucratic culture. During a question regarding what happens if the Communist Party refuses his agenda, Gorbachev states that he would cease working with the Party.
The strongly-supported agricultural market, thanks to the addition of enterprise cooperative markets, announces that the wheat crop will be fifteen to twenty percent above projections made only four months ago. It is announced that, to keep up with the changes in the economy, there will need to be changes to the structures of the Union to make them more efficient.
Prison reforms are announced in the Soviet Union, lifting restrictions on visitation and mail rights and introducing payments and privileges to prisoners in accordance with their “productive outcome”. Prisoners will also be able to register complaints about “severe and inhuman treatment” and, for the first time, libraries and non-political education programs become available in the gulags.
Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, become the first members of the British royal family to visit the Soviet Union since 1917. They arrive for a Kremlin ceremony to honour Russian sailors involved in the rescue of the passengers of the Herald of Free Enterprise. President Andrei Gromyko is given an invitation to a state dinner at Buckingham Palace, but the major story of the day is the way in which the Princess wins over the state media and the crowds in Red Square.
Reporting on official consumption of alcohol, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev states that general consumption has fallen by 22% and that, as a result, violent crime is down significantly over the last two years. He also announces a loosening of restrictions, allowing rural citizens to distil samogan, a cheaper homemade version of vodka, and to licenses them to sell to liquor outlets for urban consumption.
Lacking a solid response from the United States, the Soviet Union announces that it will commit US$12 billion to have a supercollider constructed in their country by the end of the century. The machine will be larger than the proposed CERN Large Electron-Positron Collider, able to undertake collisions at energy levels nearly triple that of Geneva, with an aim of isolating a Higgs boson by 2001. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev states that, from that stage, “a high level of international collaboration” will be vital to complete any further work, given an expected bill of over $20 billion.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev claims that he would like to see “complete symbiosis” between the European and Soviet space communities. “Space,” he states, “can only be managed on an international basis.” He said he would welcome US cooperation, but expressed concern about the differing cultures of the space organisations and the fact that NASA remains grounded.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces that, “while it represents no change in Soviet policy”, his country will immediately give greater attention to the processing of exit visas for Jewish citizens wishing to immigrate. He expresses regret for the backlog and a promise to clear it by the end of 1988, but warns that he does not expect the current approval rate to change. He also announces an agreement to allow consular visits between Israel and the USSR. It is the most positive development since last October, though nobody is expecting the restoration of diplomatic relations any time soon.
Robert Kuok, a Chinese-Malay businessman, is welcomed to the Kremlin to consult on a new series of housing for state employees, including members of the Soviet Academy and the Committee of State Security. The plans for renovation of housing are unpopular within the nation, with Communist Party members reporting that there is a general sentiment that the program will probably be ended once the nation’s elite have been supplied with new residences.
The newly-renamed Soviet Treasury Minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, announces that those willing to take work in Magadan in the Soviet Far East will obtain “retention benefits”, pushing their salaries to around US$9000 each. The use of “retention benefits” will begin to fundamentally change the wage structure of the USSR, for while all citizens will get the same basic wage, “retention benefits” will lead to a disparity of incomes in which all workers will officially struggle on an equal wage around $3000 per annum, while the most valued workers appear to be earning about double the US average wages.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev launches Children of the Arbat, a novel by Anatoli Rybakov which takes place during the reign of terror by Stalin. It is praised by many as the literary event of the generation, as the book has been repressed since 1966. It suggests publicly in the USSR, for the first time, that Stalin murdered Sergei Kirov. While the book will sell in Moscow for the equivalent of $1.65, foreign interest will allow exported publications to demand prices as high as $75. 22 April
Soviet Commissioner into glasnost, Alexander Yakovlev, makes a formal apology to Hungary on behalf of the Soviet government for the execution of Swedish humanitarian, Raoul Wallenberg in 1947. He offers compensation for the family, funds to build a memorial in Budapest and announces the removal of the Chief of the KGB 1st Directorate, Vladimir Kryuchov, for attempting to cover up the details of the death.
The Soviet government announces the introduction of new rules relating to prisoners, recognising that sexual intercourse and drug use are taking place inside prisons. Stating the measure is a protection against AIDS, prisoners will now be given clean needles and condoms upon request.
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declares that his economic plan and progressive income tax are functioning beyond expectations during his May Day address. He states that the country has gone from $1.86 trillion in GDP during 1985 to a projected $2.45 trillion this year, raising per capita income from $6700 to $8700 per annum (comparative US figure: $21800). The highest average income is in the Baltic republics. He announces that the tax system will continue to be reformed, citing strong popular dislike of the greater intrusiveness of tax collectors. He also announces that Union Bank International’s investment fund has been experimenting with the US market over the last two years, and is averaging about $750 million per annum in returns each year.
Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the Vatican. He is met by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, who endorses the Premier as an “instigator of peace and reform”. However, the pontiff also calls for an end to the Brezhnev Doctrine and reconciliation of the Eastern bloc with the Church, particularly focusing on his homeland Poland.
Soviet psychiatrist Dr Anatoli Koryagin is permitted to go into exile in Switzerland, where he claims that Soviet reforms are cosmetic and rhetorical only. He states that the USSR is conducting scientific and medical experiments on prisoners. A Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman states that Koryagin “will easily bend reality in order to fulfil his need for attention”.
Soviet Treasurer Nikolai Ryzhkov states publicly that the economic disarray of the past is directly linked to the top-heavy bureaucratic model built during the Stalinist era. He said that it rewarded citizens for being lazy and demoralised those who “toiled industriously”. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev later clarifies the statement, saying the nation will always be thankful for Stalin’s leadership during the Great Patriotic War, but that he made “many profound mistakes which have become clear with the benefit of hindsight”.
A public opinion polls is released by the Soviet daily Izvestia, the first to be undertaken in the USSR. It shows that workers feel that they are working harder for their income, but the growth in income has not compensated. However, over ninety percent that they are strongly in support of economic reform and are prepared to continue to tolerate the associated upheavals on the promise of long-term outcomes.
A 19-year-old West German citizen, Mathias Rust, flies into Soviet airspace. He is forced into a landing outside Pskov by Soviet jets, which threaten to release missiles against him. Detained as a potential spy at Lefortovo, immediate notice is given to Bonn of his detention and queries made as to any connections with the West German government.
West German Mathias Rust is charged under Soviet law. Soviet President Andrei Gromyko travels to Bonn and advises Chancellor Helmut Kohl that Rust will be detained until his trial can be undertaken, but, if convicted, the Soviets are willing to allow him to serve out his sentence in West Germany. He will also be given the right an appeals process.
Soviet scientists unveil a new protein designed to break down blood clots and prevent stroke, allowing the introduction of a new medical technique called thrombolysis. It will allow many former lethal victims of stroke to survive.
Soviet Defence Minister Marshal Sergei Sokolov announces that he is stepping down from the Politburo, having enjoyed weeks of accolade for the containment of West German “spy”, Mathias Rust. Aged seventy-seven, the Hero of the Soviet Union and holder of the Order of Lenin appears on television to state that he expects that another military officer will be installed in his place to ensure that priority is given to military matters in the Politburo. He will be replaced by Field Marshal Viktor Kulikov, who will be transferred from his post in Kabul. The new commander of troops in Afghanistan is Colonel General Boris Gromov. Sokolov will remain an advisor to the President on national security and a life member of the Supreme Soviet.
Pravda, the Soviet news daily, gives an account of an officer in the Communist Party youth organisation, Komsomol, who committed a murder-suicide as the result of reading the German philosopher Nietzsche. “His mind was corrupted from struggle for and design of the new world, leading him to selfishness and arrogance”.
Soviet Treasurer Nikolai Ryzhkov announces a new program in the Turkmen SSR to improve child care, stating that the republic’s Communist forums have identified it as a priority. He also states that the government will consider extending parental leave from four months to six months, and will require businesses to offer child care to workers at cost.
Aeroflot flies the parents of Mathias Rust, Karl and Monica, to Moscow to meet with their son. They are granted permission to meet with him twice a week and are offered a pleasant accommodation in an apartment overlooking Taganskaya Square. They observe to the Western press that the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky was being removed from Lubyanka Square and replaced by a memorial to those who died during the Stalinist purges.
The three-day Constitutional Convention of the Soviets, a meeting of senior Communist leadership to redraft the Union treaty, opens in Leningrad. The war in Afghanistan, and implications regarding political control of the armed forces, form the centre of debate on the first day. Members suggest that there should have been greater safeguards on the power exercised by the Council of Ministers and that they must be forced to consult with the Supreme Soviet and the republics prior to use of the armed forces. There is also particular opposition to current interpretations of Article 39 of the Treaty and a call to allow greater power to the judiciary. Premier Mikhail Gorbachev insists that there must be an ongoing role for the Communist Party, which currently has membership of 29 million. He also wants a smaller role for Republican governments, but a greater role for representatives of the Republics at the national level.
The Soviet constitutional convention debates the separation of powers between the centre and the republics. Consensus seems to be that the centre will retain taxing powers, but will have greater financial commitments to the regions as determined by an independent commission. The regions will be empowered to run sanitation, municipal affairs, prisons, courts, culture and primary education. This lack of exclusive authority will be compensated with ultimate responsibility for party administration and exclusive right to taxation of mining income (currently the Soviet Union’s fourth largest economic sector after agriculture, manufacturing and transport). There also emerges a consensus for a unicameral parliament for the Republics and a bicameral parliament for the national level.
Article 39 is once again the centre of debate at the Soviet constitutional convention. Article 39 states that “Enjoyment by citizens of their rights and freedoms must not be to the detriment of the interests of the society or the state.” There are those who insist that the Soviet Supreme Court should be permitted to override Union legislation and allowed to decide, rather than the executive, when such a detriment occurs. There is also talk of a need for orderly transitions and the role for the Party in law-making.
At a meeting of the Central Committee, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev outlines his plan to structurally reform the Soviet government. In essence, Gorbachev holds that freedom of expression must be found within the Party first and then emulated in society, maintaining the leading social role for the Communist Party. Soviets will have multi-candidate secret ballot elections across six hundred and fifty districts to choose members for the Congress of the Soviets. The Republics will become, under the new Constitution, “constituent and eternal peoples of the Commonwealth” with status as a Republic for any group of people who achieves certain population size and can identify a unique culture. Anyone below that population size will need to become an autonomous region of a Republic.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces the appointment of Andrei Sakharov to work with glasnost commissioner, Alexander Yakovlev, on learning the true stories of those lost in the more repressive days of the Soviet Union. Sakharov has also been given constitutional work. He describes the heavy load as a “new form of psychological torture” and causes him to feel “constantly harassed”.
There are complaints about some Soviet workers connected to the car production and packaging industries. Claims are made that the workers have reduced their shift requirement due to robotic automation, all funded by the government, and that now some are doing next to no work at all, or taking extra work in the private sector for additional income. The Treasury Commissioner, Nikolai Ryzhkov, agrees to look into the matter.
Western analysts speculate that there is a three-way power struggle taking place under Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev, with a number of candidates vying to supplant Vice Premier Viktor Grishin as No.2 in the Politburo hierarchy. Yegor Ligachev (66), Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, is the man said to be behind the new cult of Lenin. He opposes any more economic reform without US concessions on trade and is generally wary of korenizatsiya and strongly opposed to glasnost. His faction makes up about five percent of the party’s membership. Another candidate in the troika is Soviet Treasury Commissioner Nikolai Ryzhkov, 58, who is enthused about decentralisation and environmentalism, said to be the force behind large educational and scientific budgets and a personally-publicised creator of large high-tech public works. He is said to be stretching into foreign relations through the Union Bank International, becoming a wise buyer and seller in the international market. He is regarded as Gorbachev’s closet ally and is said to have support from about a third of the Party in his own right, which also makes him Gorbachev’s greatest challenger. Alexander Yakovlev, 64, is the creator of perestroika and korenizatsiya and the chairman of the ongoing commission into glasnost. He has been a noted critic of anti-Semitism and is widely regarded as a non-interventionist in foreign policy. He is also the master of the “Gorbachev and Raisa Show”, the creation of leader as celebrity, and has some acclaim himself as the man who broke the Irangate scandal. He has the loyalty of about fifteen percent of the party. Of course, they are all avid readers of his anti-American tracts which are appearing unofficially.
Premier Mikhail Gorbachev is seen as a patron of Cafe 36, a worker enterprise restaurant in Moscow which opened fifteen months ago. It is learned that the workers are earning nearly triple the salaries they would earn in the government sector and have become renowned for their service. The manager, a former hotel director at the Metropol, states that they invested 4,500 of their own rubles, 50,000 in government grants and took a 5,000 ruble loan in order to open the restaurant. He states that perestroika is an “outstanding success”. Gorbachev expresses particular appreciation of the restaurant’s Moldavian band.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the Soviet death rate has fallen to 7.8 people per 1000 (90% the US statistics). He admits that this is much higher than it was in the 1960’s, but states that the Union has made considerable progress since 1980 due to increases in the quality of health care and the fall in alcohol consumption. However, in today’s Washington Post, the former US Ambassador, Arthur Hartman, states that there are numerous authorities who are strongly concerned at the speed of the reform and he suggests that, ultimately, Gorbachev may face the same outcome as Khrushchev did.
Joining the doctrines of what is becoming known as “gorbachevism” is the idea of novoye obshchaya bezopasnost, “a new mutual security”. In a public speech in Moscow, Gorbachev states the USSR will not achieve security by issuing threats the United States and other Western powers, but should not give up its hope that eventually they will become “sufficiently enlightened” to adopt Communism. Unlike his former changes, this is the first Gorbachev policy which runs directly counter to Leninist doctrine and the first which will significantly fail to gain support of the reformist leadership.
Soviet Treasury Commissioner, Nikolai Ryzhkov, announces an increase in veteran pensions and benefits, outlining better access to housing and medical care. In a public speech reported in Pravda, he states, “We should be ashamed for any failure to recognise the service and sacrifice of those who have restored liberty and stability to Afghanistan”.
The USSR announces a deal with Iran to create a second rail link to the country through Central Asia to assist a trade in petrochemicals and steel. It appears to confirm a significant shift in superpower policy in the region, with Soviet loyalties moving from Baghdad to Tehran. It is also revealed today that British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock has declined a Pentagon request to send a British naval contingent to the Persian Gulf to reinforce the US position.
Union Bank International’s chief economist states, despite market trends, an intention to move his market position out of stocks and into other interest-bearing securities. New York and London analysts criticise the logic of the move, pointing to higher corporate profits, growing international market investment and a shrinking stock availability. Soviet Treasury Commission Nikolai Ryzhkov explains the position, suggesting that “feverish speculation, financial deregulation, and a shaky US banking system” parallel the Roaring Twenties. He also states that America’s “extreme concentration of wealth” means that middle classes rely more on credit and that the rich have “become enamoured of speculative investment”.
Union Bank International extends a line of credit to pop culture Spin Magazine, a competitor against Rolling Stone, in return for advertising through promotion of a Gorbachev t-shirt and placement of positive stories on the Soviet reform process.
Izvestia reports Soviet authorities announce a crackdown on “unlicensed enterprises”, particularly those which have taken advantage of the ready availability of sugar to create moonshine vodka. Stolichnaya Vodka, in partnership with Hotel Moskva, retains its lucrative monopoly on the production of Soviet vodka.
The Wall Street Journal carries a glossy twelve-page supplement touting the Soviet Union as a tourist destination and advertising products created by state-owned and community-owned enterprises.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev confirms that, despite official agreement to the new constitution, pockets of disagreement had emerged within the Party over the status of one of the Soviet republics, the Lithuanian SSR. However, he states that the issue has been resolved by giving the Republics control over appointments to the new national electoral commission.
The wife of the Soviet Premier, Raisa Gorbachev, opens the Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk. Dedicated to one of the pioneers of modernism, the centre’s premiere is also attended by his wife, Valentina, who is pleased at the rehabilitation of her late husband after sixty years.
The Soviet Navy announces the end of the Akula class submarine construction, cancelling the last two planned vessels. Instead, the Delta class will be phased out from 1991 and replaced by the new Borey class ballistic missile submarine, superior to most submarines in service and equalling the capacity of the US Navy’s Ohio class.
The USSR announces the pardon of dissident Iosif Begun, a Hebrew teacher, and approves visas for his entire extended family to immigrate to Israel. The action is interpreted in light of talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders due next month, with some suggesting this is a Soviet attempt to encourage moderation among the Israeli delegation. It is also a reminder that the USSR has pledged to release refuseniks when the question of Palestine is settled.
Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov defends the recent decision to move to a new submarine class, arguing against Byelorussian Supreme Soviet chairman, Georgy Tarazevich. Tarazevich is a key supporter of the new union treaty. Kulikov suggests that such changes are vital if the nation is to afford a new aircraft carrier class and points to the clear superiority of the US Kitty Hawk class over the Kiev class. He has demanded that the Soviets return to their 1970’s Orel plan and have true supercarriers to match the Nimitz vessels.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev touts a new policy idea, stating that he wishes to allow a “new openness to invigorate our society”. Calling the idea glasnost, he states that it will mean transparency in governance, lifting of controls on public speech and a reduction of censorship in publishing and the media. He pledges to take the idea to a meeting of the Politburo next month.
At a public Party meeting, former Soviet Premier Yegor Ligachev makes a stinging attack on the idea of glasnost, arguing that public criticism will not improve the status quo. He rebukes it as “unthinkable” that government information could be released on the basis of a personal decision by a journalist and warns the country should not give way to a “bout of negativity”. Some Washington insiders interpret this as a “good cop, bad cop” routine, while others suggest that Ligachev is setting himself up to take over should the policy falter.
In the lead up to the anniversary of the October Revolution, Soviet Finance Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov releases information relating to the 1988 budget. He confirms that production will continue to increase and that the cuts in defence will come to a conclusion over the next calendar year, with a spending freeze in 1989. He also confirms that, over the next two years, the Soviet government will eradicate all outstanding debt in preparation for “the coming Western recession”. He states that figures are uncertain in the coming year, but expected GDP will be $2.67 trillion, indicating an 11% growth rate (down from 13%). However, he projects that, in 1989, growth will slow significantly, and will struggle to reach 8.5%. Ryzhkov also states that, in the coming year, the manufacturing sector will overtake the mining sector to become the third largest sector of the economy. (Economic breakdown is agriculture – 34.2%; transportation – 20.5%; manufacturing – 15.8%; mining and raw materials – 15.5%; services – 8.8%; and construction – 5.2%).
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev states that the “period of tension” between the Soviet Union and Israel is coming to an end with the agreement of Israel to recognise Palestine and to end settlements in the occupied territories. He expresses the intention to “crack open the gates” on Jewish immigrants to Israel, pledging to sign an agreement with Israel “in the immediate future” on resettlement of Soviet citizens in Israel. “We have no desire to place the State of Israel under undue stress and will negotiate with them on the numbers they are able to absorb on an annual basis.” He stresses that this will not be a Soviet restriction, but a reasonable limit to ensure that Israel can maintain employment, housing and services for the millions expected to migrate. He also states that Israel and the USSR will need to immediately restore diplomatic relations and establish direct air links between Moscow and Tel Aviv. When questioned further, he states that Soviet analysis indicates immigration will be thirty to seventy thousand each year. This figure compares most favourably with the current level of around four thousand last year.
Soviet Science Minister, Alexander Yakovlev, announces the establishment of a new Five Year Plan to establish a national recycling program. Its aim is to achieve 65% recycling or composting of all materials by 1992. He calls for international solidarity between the Soviet Union and green groups to demonstrate the “potential for reversing environmental abuse”. He also declares the founding of the Amber Movement, representing a colour between the traditional Soviet red and the green of nature. He states it will represent members of the Communist Party who are particularly concerned about the environment.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces changes to Communist Party rules on factionalism, passed originally by the Tenth Party Congress in 1921. He cites Lenin that bans on factionalism were only meant to be temporary and had been a response to the Kronstadt Rebellion, and demonstrates that they were used to destroy those who opposed Stalin’s increasing centralisation. However, he states that the Politburo will continue to speak with a unified voice on any matter decided by the Politburo and that those who could not endorse a unified position would be required to resign. He stresses that the Communist Party will remain the only legal political party and that attempts to form groups outside the party will be met with strict repression. He also welcomes General Viktor Kulikov to the Politburo, replacing retiring Field Marshal Sergei Sokholov.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev gives a speech insisting that there must be no “blank pages in the history of the Soviet Union” and condemning Stalin, saying “the guilt of Stalin before the Party and the people is enormous and unforgiveable”. He praises Khrushchev as a leader of “great courage” and Bukharin as an “ideological purist who frustrated ambitious and power-hungry scheming”. He calls for the establishment of a committee to review previous Soviet interventions in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, stating a personal belief that future interventions must be based upon “the will of the proletariat” and where there is “a harsh repression of the voice of the masses”.
Petras Griskevicius, the First Secretary of Lithuania, dies. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he will be replaced by Algirdas Brazauskas, who will rename the party the Lithuanian Socialist Reconstruction Party.
The Soviets announce a new steam supply system for their nuclear power plants, which can demonstrate a ten percent increase in megawatt yield. It is based on a new computer algorithm which allows higher power densities. At the same time, they confirm a deal to market the invention through two engineering multinationals, Westinghouse Electric in North America and Asea Brown Boveri in Europe.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, in his role as Secretary General, announces the removal of the First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Party Committee, Boris Yeltsin, and a number of his protégés. He states the vital need to clean out the corruption present within the region and appoints Gennady Kolbin to oversee the removal of the “mafia elite” who have come to dominate the region’s politics.
Plans are announced to close the Moscow region of Kitaigorod to automobile traffic and to restore the 1539 walls, towers and gates. Kitaigorod lies on the other side of Red Square from the Kremlin. The plan also includes a refurbishment of the Metropol Hotel and the Main Department Store (GUM), plus the demolition of the Rossiya Hotel, to be replaced with a 57-storey, 264 metre apartment building (completed in 1992). The design of the new building will be an imitation of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science.
Algirdas Brazauskas, newly-appointed First Secretary of the Lithuanian SSR, appears on Vremya with former British spy, H. Kim Philby. As Philby verifies to the Soviet public that the West is seeking to infiltrate the Baltic republics to balance out its losses elsewhere in Europe, Brazauskas states that he has guaranteed that the new Union Treaty will recognise Lithuania’s “special historic relationship” with Poland. He also confirms that he has negotiated a halt on plans to expand the Ignalina power plant.
Former First Secretary of Sverdlovsk, Boris Yeltsin, is confirmed to be in the cardiac unit of a Moscow hospital. Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze insists that Yeltsin will stand trial for corruption and that his illness is “not serious” but brought on by an alcoholic binge. He states that the Communist Party has been “unnerved” by the degree of corruption found in Sverdlovsk and expresses an expectation that Yeltsin will be imprisoned for “a period of at least fifteen to twenty years”.
Soviet President Andrei Gromyko announces the formation of the Afghani Veterans Association, claiming it is time that there was “official recognition of the sacrifices” and pledging to support funding for a permanent monument in Leningrad to recognise the war dead. The youth branch of the Communist Party, Komsomol, is credited for leading the movement for Party recognition of veterans.
The Soviet film Pokaiane is released to the West after being greeted by standing ovations in cinemas at home. Based on the life of a fictional local town mayor who bears strong physical resemblances to Stalin, the main character is given to false denunciations, mass arrests and mad ravings. In the end, his victims remove the mayor’s corpse from its resting place and dispose of it over a cliff. There is considerable anger among Soviet conservatives that it has been approved for release.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev responds to harsh criticism of his wife, Raisa, after her designer clothes as the Valletta summit see her labelled “Czarina Raisa” among some Soviet politicians. There are, however, questions raised about the sudden ferocity of the attack among Kremlin conservatives, who state Raisa is ostentatious and the antithesis of earlier First Ladies.
Executives of the world’s largest airline, Aeroflot, announce that the company will join the International Air Transport Association. It will also be purchasing thirty new Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft by 1992.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev makes a visit to the Georgian SSR and is seen laughing and singing with some women in a local gallery. Dealing with questions about recent comments on her, she admits a “tendency to be dogmatic” and states that she “talks too much”.
TASS news agency announces the details for the new administration of the Russian Federation. Many of the ethnic federal subjects and republics have been abolished, taking the eighty-nine subjects of the Russian Federative Socialist Republic have been reduced to sixty-one. The number of classifications of government types has been reduced to just two: republics (17) and oblasts (45). However, these divisions will have no effect on wider Union electoral structure, with federal districts replacing republics as the basis of elections. The Chechen-Ingushetia Federal District is created. The Kazakh SSR is divided into North and South Kazakhstan. In the Caucasus, the Georgian Federal District and the Azeri Federal District both lose territory, the former to Northern Caucasus and the latter to Armenia. The Ukraine is divided into three federal districts (North, South and Crimea) in order to provide greater representation in the new Council of Nations, while Russia is divided itself into twelve federal districts. A further change is of that the creation of the Soviet people; technically, until now, people have been Russians, Estonians or Kazakhs, but under the new constitution, there is only one nationality – Soviet. The other nationalist terminologies are retained only as names for new federal districts. At the same time, there are broader powers to the federal districts. Nonetheless, the new constitution and treaty will reserve some powers for the central government, leaving all else, including control over culture and school education in the hands of the federal district governments. Finally, the country will no longer be the Soviet Union; it will become known as the Commonwealth of Soviet Socialist Nations (CSSN) or the Soviet Commonwealth.
Chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Yegor Ligachev, accuses the Soviet health system of being “in danger of capitalist thoughts” after enterprises associated to hospitals produced four times as many latex examining gloves than were needed. KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov admits the matter had been investigated, but that “key paperwork has been lost” and “the enterprises involved are formally warned that their license to operate is now only provisional”. Soviet President Andrei Gromyko warns of “corruption potential” and suggests that it might be necessary to review perestroika before pushing further. He has been the strongest opponent of foreign credit and the strongest support of a return to a balanced budget this year.
It is announced by Vremya that the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Yegor Ligachev, has spoken out in the Politburo in protest over the dilution of centralised power implicit in the new Union Treaty and continued demilitarisation. He uses provocative language, calling “for all comrades to show strongly that they believe in the ideals of the Motherland” and “to insure a prudent and thoughtful government”. Both Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and President Andrei Gromyko are said to be unavailable for comment. US analysts are concerned by the action, stating that it could be the beginning of a move against Gorbachev’s leadership.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev appears before international press, but will only discuss reforms in the Soviet health care system and refuses to comment on the recent moves by former ally and parliamentary chairman, Yegor Ligachev. He instead criticises local police for using mental hospitals as a tool for keeping opponents in check and orders the release of twenty-four people he states have been brought to his attention. He states a new law will make it illegal to place a healthy person in a mental hospital, and he transfers control of the institutions from the Interior Ministry to the Health Ministry. He also insists that these mental health practices have “never been endorsed” by the central government.
KGB Chairman Viktor Chebrikov makes the first public comment on the recent declaration of some Communist Party soviets as supporters for Yegor Ligachev, groups which will later become known as Motherland soviets. He states that he does not support the “pro-factionalist expressions”, but also understands that Lenin said the ban on them must not be indefinite. He also praises President Andrei Gromyko, a move that is interpreted as placing himself in position for any shake-up in the Kremlin.
Premier Mikhail Gorbachev launches a new campaign against drug addiction, banning all alcohol consumption for those under the age of sixteen and capping alcohol limits for each year up to twenty-one. He also introduces a production support program for the Federal Districts of Crimea, Modolva and Northern Caucasus, where major vineyards are based.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev congratulates the house of Valentin Yudashkin on his second collection and announces that it has won the design competition for the design of the uniforms of the defence forces. Yudashkin started a trend this year with his hologram trademark.
Premier Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR announces that the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Yegor Ligachev, will be retained in his position, despite rumours to the contrary. Gorbachev states that he welcomes “the contest of socialist ideals” in the Politburo and will be spending the next few months on a listening tour, to hear feedback on the new provisional federal constitution, which will go to the various Republic presidents for ratification in less than two weeks. The Soviet media has been incredibly supportive of Gorbachev over recent days, despite his anti-drinking push.
In a street meeting, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, in a blunt response to a criticism of the new constitution, gives his later famous speech. “We have reached a point of no return. If we take fright and stop the processes which are now beginning to reward us, it will have the most serious consequences. Not only will our changes be delayed, but we will have breached the trust and confidence of the people. Change is always hard, but to stop now would be a disaster for us all.” The speech marks a turn-around in popular acceptance of the new federal constitution.
The new Soviet treaty is quickly passed by the leaderships of the individual republics, who lose status but gain power under the deal. The position of the Communist Party as the leading force in society survives, but the judiciary becomes significantly more independent. However, there are critics over the special status given to the Baltic region; Kaliningrad, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be Special Economic Zones, designed to allow experimentation with economic reform. Azerbaijan and Georgia seem particularly aggravated about their loss of territory and have allegedly been “strong-armed” into signing the deal. It is confirmed that Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will be becoming the first Federal Governor of Georgia.
After a frank Politburo discussion on hazing in the armed forces, Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov announces that the military schools will continue with their reforms, removing “military development” from the curriculum.
A once-troubled glass manufacturer in northern Russia, formerly a state enterprise but now owned by its workers, announces it will distribute profits after a 45% increase in profits for the year. It becomes news because each employee gets the same bonus, around 85% of the nation’s average national wage.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev opens the project for the rejuvenation of Kuznetsky Most as the Russian fashion district. She tells journalists that the project will be completed by 1990. She also foreshadows that the then-CSSN will host an international fashion competition in Leningrad in late August that year, open to designs from Prague, which will co-host the event.
The General Secretary of the Uzbek SSR, Inomjon Usmonxo‘jayev, is advised that he will not automatically take the position of Federal Governor as planned. President Andrei Gromyko orders the release of three members of the Union of Writers, including their president, Muhammad Salih, who will be named next month as the Federal Governor for Uzbekistan.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev addresses complaints regarding interruptions to the national telephone network. He explains that the USSR is implementing the most advanced telecommunications system in the world, and that it will absorb the equivalent of $25 billion by 1997, the projected date for finalisation of the optic fibre layout.
Soviet Minister of Education, Alexander Yakovlev, announces the first graduates from his reformed education system and awards two hundred fifty post-graduate scholarships for English-speaking America experts to study at Stanford University. He also points out that the students have guaranteed employment, with contracts signed by a garbage collection and cleaning company, a nanny service company and a landscaping firm. While the wages are minimal, the amount earned by students for their labour in the United States is about 30% more than the equivalent wage in the Soviet Union.
Soviet economics minister Nikolai Ryzhkov praises the bumper cotton crop after numbers from the November 1987 harvest are released. The Soviet Union becomes the world’s second largest exporter in a market with an ever-increasing demand.
In a dawn raid, Soviet troops move into the republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan in a military strike against “terrorist groups”. One hundred and eighty-six people are arrested and twenty-eight people killed. It is alleged that among the detainees and dead are members of the KGB. Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev appears on television and announces that the Director of the Committee of State Security, Viktor Chebrikov, has been placed under arrest.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev announces that Viktor Chebrikov has retired from the Politburo and from his position as head of the KGB. He states that Chebrikov is charged with plotting to instigate violence in the Caucasus in order to justify a budget increase for the KGB. Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov warns that the Red Army will move “swiftly and surely to root out treasonous elements”.
Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev gives a wide-ranging public address at an emergency session of the Central Committee plenum and defends his arrest of KGB Director Viktor Chebrikov. He also signals that “legitimate criticism and factionalism” will continue to be tolerated, “both within the Politburo and within the soviets”. As per usual, he praises Lenin and, uniquely, “the patriotic Soviet people of the Baltic districts”, for the honour of becoming the Special Economic Zone. Gorbachev estimates that the “economic and legal infrastructure will be in place” by the end of 1989 for the four federal Baltic districts to be special economic zones on the Baltic Sea. The funding will come from all future land duties and sales duties, the monies for which are transferred by the new constitution to the federal districts. He also announces a reshuffle at the top of the Kremlin from 13 March. Gorbachev will remain Secretary General of the CPSU and become acting chairman of state security, but will pass the Premiership to Nikolai Ryzhkov, leaving economics to former trade minister, Nikolai Slyunkov. Foreign Affairs will now pass to Alexander Yakovlev, with Shevardnadze becoming federal governor of Georgia. Trade responsibilities will go to Gorbachev protégé, Yuri Maslykov, 50.
Soviet President Andrei Gromyko releases his autobiographical memoirs. He declares that, in 1959, he had been smitten by Marilyn Monroe. He states that Franklin Roosevelt had been his favourite President and that John F. Kennedy had been the “most complex”. He also confesses his admiration of President Richard Nixon for his pragmatism and “studied approach”, as well as praising Nancy Reagan as “an energetic and confident woman”. He states that former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin “created a cruel and monstrous tyranny”. He also states that Chinese legend Mao once proposed sacrificing the east coast of China in order to drag the Americans into a war which the USSR could finish with nuclear weapons.
There is a defiant protest in the capital of the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, with hundreds gathered to protest the “annexation” of Nagorno-Karabakh into the new federal district of Armenia. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that the move to the new constitution, only six days away, cannot be delayed, but that under the new constitution, Nagorno-Karabakh has the power to petition to return to Azerbaijan.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov states that “religious groups” have pointed out incompatibilities between planned new constitution and current government regulations, and they complain that little has changed, despite the Tashkent Declaration. He states that a commission will be established to investigate the law reform necessary to bring about a change in current regulations.
The Soviet Credit Bank begins to issue credit and debit cards called Zagran in conjunction with the introduction of electronic payment and banking network. Initially, they are only usable to pay for electricity, gas, telephone and banking services, but they will spread swiftly throughout the Soviet Commonwealth.
After nine days of protest and three acts of violence in the Soviet district of Azerbaijan, pro-government supporters take to the streets in Nagorno-Karabakh, bearing signs stating that “Extremism is not self-determination”. The police and army do not move against the expressions. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev states that a proposal for a petition to return Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan will be put before the people in that region within six weeks and warns Azeris that they are displaying “primitive nationalist instincts”.
In a spectacular ceremony held in Leningrad, the USSR becomes the CSSN. President Andrei Gromyko retires as President, allowing the position to be taken by Mikhail Gorbachev. Gromyko will find a new position in the legislature, as the Chairman of the new upper house, the Soviet of the Federation. A new Treaty between the various components of the Soviet state takes effect. However, there is some admission to recent violence in Azerbaijan and Armenia which has seen four people killed. The new federal Governor of Azerbaijan is Abdulrahman Vezirov, an opponent of the Nagorno-Karabakh decision who has accepted the idea of a plebiscite in the region as a political solution there.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov announces the introduction of a graduated tax on cooperatives, justifying the action by stating that it is closing a loophole in tax law as a result of reforms. He confirms that there are now over one hundred thousand of these cooperative enterprises operating across the Soviet Commonwealth and state that, “while we want the benefits of the market, we do not require the sleazy capitalists who run the market in the West.”
Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov announces that Soviet scientists have managed to imitate the chobham armour developed by the British, the same as is being applied to the US-owned M1 Abrams and the British-owned Challenger.
While not considered of key importance at the time, tonight marks the first airing of the Mikhail Zadornov Show, a nightly satire show on Soviet television. He conducts a fake interview with an off-camera reporter, with Zardonov acting as a peasant whose city has just been visited by Gorbachev. “The place has been so spruced up since he said he was coming – they’ve done more in three days than in fifty years,” he says. “And because Gorbachev wanders off the official track, they’ve had to clean up everything. Our telephones haven’t worked since the Great Patriotic War and now suddenly, they work again.” Hard-to-get consumer goods arrive in shops overnight, goods that “we thought were entered in the Red Book,” a Soviet compendium of rare and extinct plant and animal species. The show will run for many years and become a landmark of Soviet television.
Facing allegations of regional corruption, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announces the removal of the Governor of Lativa, Boris Pugo. Pugo will commit suicide before the end of the month rather than face charges. The new Governor of Latvia, Alfred Rubiks, expresses the commitment of the new government to establishing the new “prosperity zone”.
Holod, the world’s first scramjet, is tested by Soviet and French scientists at the Sary Shagan Test Range in South Kazakhstan, achieving Mach 5.5 and predicting that they will be able to reach Mach 6.5 with further modifications. In announcing the breakthrough, Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov admits that this is in fact the sixth attempt. He predicts that the technology will allow for a generation of commercial aircraft which would fly from Moscow to New York in less than an hour.
As part of the renewed recognition of Lenin and a push by the Soviets to embrace environmental ideology, President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that the subbotnik (national volunteer day) which marks Lenin’s birthday will, in future, be a day of conservative and restoration, in conjunction with the Green Corps. Volunteers will engage in clean ups, tree planting, recycling drives, water conservation and education campaigns on the environment.
Western diplomats in Moscow state that the tensions between President Mikhail Gorbachev and Chairman Yegor Ligachev have become a significant power struggle within the Kremlin as the June 28 party conference approaches. The subject of dispute is khozraschet, or real cost accounting, and the instability in Azerbaijan over border changes. Gorbachev, however, does not publicly attack Ligachev, leaving that task to a letter to the editor which is supposedly from a teacher but bears the style and rhetoric of leading reformist, Alexander Yakovlev.
At May Day celebrations, former President Andrei Gromyko is feted and is the clear centre of ceremonies. It emerges later in the week that he has asked to be allowed to retire and that his successor, Mikhail Gorbachev, has agreed to let him depart in style during the 70th anniversary celebrations.
Pravda announces a Soviet proposal for an experimental nuclear reactor outside Shevchenko on the Caspian Sea. Predicted to take eight years to construct, this “fast breeder reactor” will be completed two years after a similar planned reactor in Idaho. However, Soviet scientists state the greatest value comes from the potential the reactor will be able to reprocess nuclear waste so that, instead of being dangerous for tens of thousands of years, they will stabilise at a low level of radioactivity within two hundred. This makes storage of nuclear waste a more reasonable medium-term prospect.
There are increasingly tense arguments occurring within the Communist Party newspaper, Pravda, as supporters of Yegor Ligachev and Alexander Yakovlev take up the fight against each other in letters. The debate points to the situation as it is developing in Poland, with one group suggesting that they are better to follow this course and get all the pain out of the way, while the other suggests that reforms have to be given time to work before the next steps are taken. The same paper carries a death notice for former British intelligence officer, Kim Philby.
A public state funeral with full military honours is held in Moscow for General Kim Philby (KGB), the former British intelligence agent who provided highly valuable information to, and then defected to, the USSR. It is agreed that he will be buried among the Soviet elite in the cemetery adjoining Novodevichy Convent.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov states that, with increased levels of merchandise in stores, there has also been an increase in theft and that prosecution is similarly expensive. He implements new rules which make theft of less than 150 rubles value the responsibility of store managers rather than police. When shoplifters are caught, they are released once the store manager has collected their identification numbers and passed them on to the KGB, who will send a demand for payment to the shoplifter and expunge criminal records where the payment is received.
Soviet researchers announce through the journal Science that they have isolated Hepatitis-C virus and have developed a new drug to assist in treatment. They recommend, however, that it be taken in conjunction with ribavirin, a drug isolated by a Californian pharmaceutical company in the 1970’s for treatment of influenza. The US Food and Drug Administration agrees to examine the matter, but will ultimately not approve the recommendations until 1994.
The showdowns within the Communist Party hierarchy appear to be coming to a head as TASS reports that over one hundred senior members of the Party have held a meeting at a dacha outside Moscow, including Alexander Yakovlev. President Mikhail Gorbachev calls for members to stop “divisive scandal-mongering” and warns that “reform can only go so far in tolerating dissidence”. He proposes that candidates for the upcoming elections should identify themselves by faction, so as to allow a “democratic indication” of the future of the Party that will “end the debate”.
Moscow Zoo pays US$5 million to China for the loan of two pandas for a year. As part of the deal, $1m of the funds will be directly allocated to the new Chengdu Research Base in Sichuan and another $1m will go toward the expansion of the sanctuary program. The director admits that he does not expect to completely recover costs, and confesses that the central government has funded the overwhelming majority of the zoo’s expenses.
A Soviet company founded in early 1986, Emergence Technologies, announces a deal with the Soviet government to supply washing machines and electric mixers to every home in the country. At a press conference, First Lady Raisa Gorbachyova projects that the task will take three years, but expects that it should be completed by the end of 1991. She also uses the occasion to outline her “demands by Soviet women” for the next Congress. She calls for a minimum wage increase, as well as increases for doctors, teachers and child care workers, pointing to a shortage of 2.7 million places in child care centres. She states that, in future, women seeking abortion should be given anesthesia, arguing that the restrictions on pain treatment are “inhuman”. She calls for subsidies on birth control pills, tampons and condoms and an additional 2 billion rubles for maternity hospitals.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov criticises immigration applicants for their complaints about the queue to get into Israel, stating that they were “heartless and hopeless creatures” and that Israel might regret taking them. He also questions why some refuseniks now wish to fly directly to meet their families in the United States, when their families had stated their destination was Israel, and threatens to shut down the pipeline if it continue to be a back-door immigration into the United States.
British Prime Minister Neil Kinnock visits Leningrad, meeting with his Soviet counterpart, Nikolai Ryzhkov on the eve of openly-contested Communist Party elections. The vote will elect the Communist Party Conference, which will elect the Congress of Soviets to consider new proposed reforms. There are three clear factions of support developing, those who oppose further reform, reformists, and those who believe reformists are being too conservative. The first faction is based on the Rodina groups of Yegor Ligachev. The second have accumulated around the Premier and President and are known as the Khozraschet, which, while it is the name of a current issue, will come over time to mean “accountant” and fit the popular perception of these technocratic group. The third faction, criticised by Rodina groups as Luxemburgist, are known as the Uskoreniye group, from the Russian word for “acceleration”.
On the eve of elections for his parliament, Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov refuses to issue a license that would allow the promotion of a competition for “Miss CSSN”. The Premier defends his country as the “foremost proponent of rights for women” and states that such a competition will subject them to “ugly Western deviances”.
The soviets elect a new Central Committee for the Communist Party. The clear majority of candidates chosen are members of the khozraschet faction, at least two-thirds of the total number. It ensures that the new Soviet parliament to be elected at the end of the month will also be dominated by the faction loyal to Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov. The smallest faction is the hardline rodina faction, which returns support from less than one eighth of soviets.
Agostino Cardinal Casaroli, the Vatican Secretary of State, arrives in Leningrad with a personal letter for the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Casaroli is on his way to Moscow to attend a council of leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first permitted since the Communist Revolution which was not specifically to elect a new Patriarch. Gorbachev speaks to the Council, stating that it has been decided that Communist Party lay delegates, who currently have full management over each parish, will be withdrawn over the next three years. He also states that regular councils will be permitted without seeking prior consent of the Kremlin and the 11th century Monastery of the Caves, in Kiev, will be returned to the Church. It is the first official meeting of a Soviet leader and a head of the Orthodox Church since 1943.
After negotiations in Florence, the Union Bank International buys a 48% stake in fashion house Gucci for $130 million. The company has been in dire trouble, but UBI has offered firm support to save it from almost certain bankruptcy. It recommends the hire of a new executive team and the hiring of a young designer, Tom Ford, who has recently left a sportswear company. Ford will take over as creative director in four years and will double the company’s turnover within his first year in the role.
President Mikhail Gorbachev criticises those he calls the “oikers”, that majority of citizens who have not participated in the Communist Party election process. He states that they have become victims of priterpelost, the servile nature of the Soviet citizen from years of repression and the feudalist basis of society at the time of the Revolution. He calls for an increase in participation and registration of Party membership in order to participate in future votes.
Over five thousand delegates begin to arrive in Leningrad for the upcoming 19th All-Union Party Conference. The event is arousing political passion among ordinary Soviets for the first time. Various media cover delegates talking about removing all limitations on the press and free speech, engaging in fights with other delegates, insisting on secret ballots and joining in unofficial round-table debates. These delegates have had to campaign for their position and some seasoned Communist politicians have been ousted. The Conferences was a regular feature of Lenin’s rule, but were cancelled by Stalin from 1941 onwards.
The All Union Conference takes place in the Soviet Commonwealth, electing members of the new Soviet Congress. Of the 525 members, the khozraschet faction of Nikolai Ryzhkov takes 326 seats, while the uskoreniye faction takes 137 seats. The rodina faction, those opposing change, get only 62 seats. It indicates a strong embrace of ongoing perestroika.
Federal Governor of Azerbaijan, Abdulrahman Vezirov, expresses “profound disappointment” over warnings from Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov. Ryzhkov has stated that, unless Azeris cease resisting the result of the referendum which approved Armenian control of Nagorno-Karabakh, he will ask President Mikhail Gorbachev to dismiss Vezirov and assume federal control of the province.
Elton John opens the first international art auction in the Soviet Commonwealth, hosted by Sotheby’s, where bidding is made in British pounds. When the final gavel falls, the 120 works have tipped the scale at the equivalent of $4 million. The hottest buy of the show is an early Rodchenko.
The Peoples Republic of China and the Soviet Commonwealth sign a new agreement to deepen trade relations, with Secretary General Zhao Ziyang stating that Vietnam’s moves to withdraw from Cambodia finally settles the “Three Obstacles” and allows “normalised relations” between the two Communist Powers
A Soviet enterprise, called Go, attempts to release a new dual-deck video cassette recorder into the US market. The Japanese and South Koreans threaten law suits against the company for use of their technology outside the terms of the contract for technology exchange, while US movie makers states that the machine violate acceptable use terms outlined by the US Supreme Court in 1984. As a result, the attempts at international marketing are dumped and the dual-deck VCR are sold at subsidised prices within the Soviet Commonwealth. The enterprise, Go, has its license to trade revoked and Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov explains, via the Vremya’s late night news show, that “there will always be those who will abuse the privileges of perestroika”.
Soviet state chemical company, Excursus, announces the purchase of a 10% stake in BASF Chemicals for $115 million through a holding company. Excursus has an institutional relationship with majority government-owned energy giant, Gazprom. Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany states that this foreign investment will be reviewed over the next ninety days and that a recommendation will be made to the new unified German government on whether or not to approve the sale. President Gregor Gysi of East Germany welcomes integration of the Soviet and German economies, but calls for limitations on foreign ownership of German companies.
The first sitting of the new Soviet of the Commonwealth sees Nikolai Ryzhkov elected to a three-year term as Premier. The first Premier to take power under the new constitution treaty, he is eligible to seek re-election in 1991 and 1994. On the same day, Mikhail Gorbachev is elected as President of the Commonwealth (and Chairman of State Security) by the Soviet of the Federation, many of whom he has appointed either directly or indirectly.
Two hundred protestors gather outside Baku Airport, in the Azeri Federal District, and cause the cancellation of six flights before they are removed. The resultant clash with police sees four protestors hospitalised. Local police state that these four were known troublemakers within the group and that they were targeted to prevent paralysis of a vital facility.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov proclaims the success of the Zagran credit card, with two million distributed in three months and acceptance by over 20% of private merchants. His praise for the officials of the Soviet Credit Bank is marked by media criticism, pointing out that the program is officially nearly $20 million in the red, largely due to a massive government-underwritten advertising budget and bureaucratic overheads. Slyunkov states that they have nonetheless created a consumer boom for new Soviet products.
Federal governor of Azerbaijan, Abdulrahman Vezirov, announces the arrest of three individuals for “encouraging nationalist ideas”, including private businessman Surat Huseynov. He confirms the deportation of the individuals to labour camps, stating that they were “unacceptably endangering the revitalisation of Soviet society”.
Soviet auto manufacturer GAZ spends $80 million to promote their new vehicle, the Soglas, to European markets. The Sog, available as a three door hatchback subcompact, is the first Soviet car to use double-wishbone suspension and a single overhead camshaft, and runs on a 1.6 litre engine. Experts point out numerous appearance similarities with the 1986 Honda Civic, but state the Sog has a wider range of options. It is also backed by a twelve-month warranty covering all parts and maintenance, all reasonably priced at the equivalent of US$4000.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in a sign of communism’s new tolerance of religion, presses a button to demolish Moskva Pool. The land is handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church with plans for the re-construction of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which had been destroyed on Stalin’s orders in 1931. The new Cathedral is scheduled to be completed by the end of 1994.
Soviet Defence Minister, Viktor Kulikov, addresses the Council of Soviets to talk about plans for military reform. The new T-90 battle tank will be constructed in Omsk and Nizhny Tagil, two key industrial centres, with a plan to add three hundred new tanks (five new battalions) by 1993 and seven hundred twenty by the turn of the century. In addition, six hundred T-72’s will be upgraded to become T-90’s. The cost of building the tanks will be offset by sales to Poland, Yugoslavia, India and Czechoslovakia. To afford this cost, the Soviet Commonwealth will retire all older tanks. As previously announced, the Delta submarine will be phased out from 1991. He also states that future construction of the new MiG-29 and MiG-31, first launched in 1982, will be cancelled, leaving Sukhoi and Tupelov as the sole suppliers to the VVS (the Soviet Air Force).
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev announces that the government has imposed a ban on drift net fishing and has reversed the Soviet position on whaling, arguing that a recent scientific mission off the coast of Norway is indicative of the success of the whaling moratorium. He announces a new ten-ship fleet to monitor the use of drift nets and whaling around the globe.
A bronze statue of Marshal Georgy Zhukov is unveiled in front of the State Historical Museum on Manege Square in Moscow. The square is rechristened to bear the name of the great Soviet general and will be closed to traffic as part of a five-year renovation of the area, ably directed by the new head of the Moscow Central Committee and former Industry Minister, Yury Luzhkov.
In response to complaints about shoddy work in the accelerated expansion of new Soviet housing, rules are imposed by the Soviet government on future construction activities. The average Western home can lose up to 200kwh of heat per square metre per year; the new Soviet standard is 60kwh/m2y. Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov announces that the government will offer a two percent subsidy on interest rates for the first year to allow owners to cover the additional costs of energy efficient features and equivalent grants to allow houses to be retrofitted. He predicts that energy savings alone will pay entirely for any new construction within forty years.
A monument is unveiled in Vorkuta to commemorate the life and work of poet Anna Akhmatova, who spent her last two decades under persecution by Soviet authorities. Opening the monument, President Mikhail Gorbachev cites the epilogue to her famous Requiem, written between 1935 and 1940 and previously banned in the Soviet Commonwealth.
The KGB announces a crackdown on those abusing the new perestroika regulations, stating that corruption will not be allowed to establish itself in the Soviet Commonwealth. Among those arrested are businessman Semion Mogilevich, who has been offering to turn assets into hard cash for new immigrants to Israel, then pocketing the proceeds; nightclub owner Vladimir Kumarin; and sports club entrepreneur Sergei Timofeyev. Some are killed in the operation, including restaurateur Sergei Mikhailov. US authorities express concern that rogue elements within the KGB may be attempting to destroy some successful capitalist elements in order to prevent a free market from gaining a hold. Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov states that he will investigate the establishment of an independent commission investigating corruption.
The Soviet Commonwealth releases a new official atlas for the country. When comprehensive differences are pointed out between the atlas and prior maps, a government spokesman sheepishly admits that all maps of the country since 1940 have been deliberately falsified under an order from Stalin in order to “confuse enemies of the Motherland” and nobody had bothered to rescind it.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, attending Krasnoyarsk to inspect progress on the deep space tracking radar station, talks with gathering crowds. He wins acclaim for improved bureaucratic performance and for exceptional progress in health and food, but admits complaints are justified over slow progress in housing and shortages in consumer goods. He calls for people to continue to be patient and encourages them to become politically active, bringing their concerns to the local party authorities and agreeing they should bypass their local officials if necessary. “We are winning the war, but we aren’t winning all the battles yet,” he says.
The Soviet Treasury Minister, Nikolai Slyunkov, announces that the Soviet national bank has turned up a large number of $10 gold eagles, the youngest of them dating back to 1933. The rare coins, inspected by experts, are confirmed to be worth at least $75 million. Slyunkov admits that the bank has no way of tracing when and where the coins made their way to Moscow, where the headquarters of the bank remains.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov announces the restoration of the national lottery, abolished in 1957. Draws will be held once a month and will cost 20 rubles per ticket. Slyunkov states that the monies from ticket sales will be invested into infrastructure projects and projected earnings are expected to exceed 4 billion rubles each year. The first payout will be more than twice average annual income, but this figure will rise over time until the average payout by 1992 will be four times that size.
The Soviet Air Force admits that their stealth jet prototype has crashed in South Ukraine during a test flight. The pilot survives, telling on-ground crew that the onboard computers, supposed to control the speed of the jet, malfunctioned and the pilot had to attempt to take over the jet manually. As a result, the prototypes taken on the nickname “Shatkij”, the Russian word for jelly.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov announces that the tight restrictions on alcohol imposed over three years ago will be loosened and that supermarkets will now be allowed to once again carry most alcoholic products. He also announced the introduction of a public information campaign to discourage drinking, earning him the nickname “Comrade Cognac”.
Citizens of the Federal District of Azerbaijan awake to find armoured vehicles on the streets of Baku and members of the Red Army enforcing a standing evening curfew. President Mikhail Gorbachev states that the troops were requested by the Federal Governor after “criminal elements” set fire to cars and houses belonging to Armenian residents. President Gorbachev and Governor Abdulrahman Vezirov state that this is an interim measure which will not last more than six weeks and that, once the criminals have been removed to Leningrad, life will return to normal in the federal district. However, among those detained are members of the Communist Party, suggesting a split within the ruling party is the real cause of action.
In a surprising vote, the Congress of Soviets votes to elect a new chairperson, Alexandra Biryukova, making her the most senior woman in the country in thirty years. Former Prime Minister Yegor Ligachev, who has supposedly requested retirement, is moved into the position of deputy chairman of the parliamentary agricultural committee.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov launches Monopoliia, the Soviet version of Parkers Brothers classic board game, with the Arbat replacing Boardwalk as the most prestigious property. Under a new deal signed in London, Tonka Toys, who own Parker Brothers, will begin manufacturing in the Soviet Commonwealth, making it the first large Western company to be permitted to operate in the CSSN.
Mikhail Zadornov, Soviet television’s top rated talk host, launches two new programs. The first is an international late night news and talk program designed to follow his popular show. It also includes light-hearted stories, comedy and music variety. Both are beaten in their viewer size by “Hip”, a cocky and edgy show running from late Friday night to early Saturday morning which resembles a cross between MTV and a not-so-serious Sixty Minutes. Co-hosted by a gender-balanced, young and attractive duo, it is promoted as a music video show, but it also has commentary on crime and veterans, large snippets of foreign films, mockery of Stalinist-era newsreels and performances by live music acts. Hip becomes the highest rating show on Soviet television, in which both Ostankino 1 and Ostankino 2 channels are now twenty-four hour stations, and average television audiences have risen from 63% of the population to 86%.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev points to the newest annual report by Amnesty International as a sign of progress. The overwhelming majority of countries, over 80%, are criticised, but there are three hundred individual cases of the Soviet Commonwealth compared to over two thousand individual cases in the United States. “Leningrad now has a better human rights record than Washington,” he proclaims.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov announces that the Federal District of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will be moved from the Moscow time zone into Leningrad’s, one hour farther west. He states that it will be just one of the changes to strike the Baltic districts and he projects that an agreement on the special status of these districts could now be completed by June next year “at the latest”.
Having allowed foreign companies to buy stock in British Petroleum during last year’s stock market crash, it is today announced that Gazprom, the Soviet national oil company, has taken a $1.25 billion stake (4.95% of the company’s shares). While legislation allows the British Monopolies and Mergers Commission to force companies to divest investments which are against “public interest”, Acting Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown states that he will fly to Leningrad to discuss the reasoning behind the investment with his Soviet counterpart. Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov defends the purchase, stating that the British can hardly demand the Soviet release a stake which is half the size of Kuwait’s and a quarter of the size of OPEC members collectively.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announces the complete renovation of the KGB, stating that it is vital to establish clear “lines of control”. The National Guard and National Protective Services had already been broken off and another two of the thirteen directorates moved to military control under the Chebrikov reforms. Under these new changes, the KGB is split into the Foreign Intelligence Service and the Soviet Internal Security Organisation. Gorbachev assures the nation that no jobs will be lost, but transfers are likely within the former directorates.
Marking a year after the stock market crash, Union Bank International releases a report analysing the event. It announces that it has increased its capitalisation by a third over the past year, admitting that it cashed out in the months before the crash and then bought for nine straight days after Black Monday. The number of foreign investor accounts has increased by 90% in the same time, due to what is perceived as a superior understanding of the market. Their report also recommends that, in future, purchasers of financial instruments should not be permitted to buy unless they have at least part of the capital in “real money”. They also call for the establishment of an international capital gains tax system, penalising all investments held for less than one year, but general elimination of capital gains on all long-term assets (more than five years), and asks the US Treasury to end its double tax on dividend payments. Lastly, it criticises other commercial banks for “choking the world economy” with debt and suggest that a recognition of the size of probable defaults will cost the world economy between $50 and $70 billion.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev stages a visit of the Baltic federal districts, expressing concern that their infrastructure will not be sufficiently prepared for their establishment as special economic zones, due to kick during the coming year. He calls for community mobilisation, stating that “perestroika does not, and cannot, begin in Leningrad, but here, on the ground, with the workers”. He expresses particular concern about the slow rate of the fibre optic cable roll out, and within a day, a new grassroots movement has sprung up, numbering in the thousands, to volunteer to dig the trenches.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov praises the success of the agricultural reforms in his country, pointing out that within the last two years, agricultural outputs on some land is up by as much as 600%. Conspicuously absent from the press conference is the new parliamentary deputy chairman on agriculture, Yegor Ligachev, but Ryzhkov suggests his absence is the result of a vacation.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that his government will remove all travel restrictions for most Soviet citizens over the coming two months, allowing travel abroad from 1 January. Potential migrants will no longer be required to quit their jobs, but migrants must be under the age of 45, be fluent in the national language of the country to which they wish to immigrate, be of good health, have a clean criminal record, have recent work experience and be sponsored by an employer in the future country of residence. He also expresses expectation that, with increased reforms in the Soviet Commonwealth, good relations with Leningrad would be damaged by any nation who took in citizens as refugees.
Soviet Finance Minister Boris Gostev announces the Soviet economy during 1988 once again shows signs of overheating, with projections that the economy will grow by nearly 7% this year to reach $2.513 trillion (by comparison, the 1985 figure was $1.863 trillion). He states that, while 42 million new jobs have been created, job growth is slowing and it is hoped that this will contain inflation.
On the anniversary of the Revolution, popular flags bear the pictures of Marx, Lenin and Khrushchev. During his speech, Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov announces a new national holiday on 15 April to be named after Nikita Khrushchev. With the agreement of his son, on that day next year, the remains of the former First Secretary are to be removed from Novodevichy Convent, given a state funeral and then interned in the Kremlin Wall.
Zenit Football Club in Leningrad offers a contract to Brazilian soccer player Romario Farias and wins acceptance after the club offers $4.9 million for a two-year contract. It is hoped that the winner of the Olympic silver medal will build a decent Leningrad football club in a competition dominated by Moscow teams. The government has invested heavily in football clubs in hope of defending over the last few years, both in the Commonwealth and in Eastern Europe, with paypackets of $10,000 per game now becoming common for some players.
The Union Bank International, the Soviet’s London-based investment bank, offers $20.8 billion for RJR Nabisco on behalf of a consortium of Western investors, enough to allow it to proceed directly to shareholders without management input. They offer a guarantee that no Soviet government funds will be used in the buyout. This is $3.2 billion higher than management’s bid for taking the company private.
There are disputes in Leningrad about use of symbols and flags by the Federal Districts of the Soviet Commonwealth. It is agreed that the Districts will have the right to design their own heraldry, provided there is no “nationalistic tendencies” under display and that the hammer and sickle continue to be used.
The Soviet Trade Ministry announces that the nation will introduce new regulations from year end regarding asbestos. As the largest producer and exporter of the building product, they admit that developing concerns about health and environmental impacts mean they will cease all manufacturing, processing and export of the hazardous material over the first eight months of 1989.
During talks on the future rights of the planned autonomous Baltic districts, there are claims by their representatives that various pan-Soviet organisations have too much influence in Leningrad. They complain that the broader membership of the Congress of Soviets pay greater attention to trade unions, veterans groups and the Kosmosol than those making representations on this key issue. Nonetheless, Governor Karl Vaino of Estonia points out clear plans to increase local ownership of assets and economic management authority, the new district flag with traditional colours, improved environmental controls and the recognition of Estonian as an official language. Vaino promises to take concerns to Leningrad, but predicts that, provided there is no attempt at violent opposition, the central government will remain open to change.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov announces the expansion of the radio telescope site at Nizhny Arkhyz with a design similar to, but larger than, the Effelsburg Radio Telescope in Germany. The project will take nine years to construct and, when complete, will be the largest fully steerable telescope in the world for five years (until the US completes the soon-to-be announced Green Bank Telescope). Ryzhkov states that his country remains committed to the SETI Project.
Soviet computers based on a reduced power version of the Intel 80386 chips hit the market. Roughly one in five Soviet citizens is now a regular user of the personal computer, though most of them access the technology through their neighbourhood centres with less than five percent of the population having a PC at home. The new chip is the first 32-bit microprocessor constructed by the Soviets, but will be eclipsed by Intel’s new 80486, which will go into production in the West during April next year.
President Mikhail Gorbachev endorses modifications to the Soviet national anthem to remove reference to “Great Russia” and to “republics”, noting that only half of the population are Russian, that only twelve of the thirty federal districts have a Russian majority and that the republics have now sought “a more perfect union”. The first verse of the Gimn Sovyetskogo Soyuza now read: “United, unbreakable are our free-born peoples, And welded together forever we’ll stand, Created in struggle by the strength of the workers, United and mighty, our Soviet land.
There are rumours that Kohlberg Kravis Robert is about to outbid the Union Bank bid to takeover RJR Nabisco. It is confirmed later in the afternoon when the market is offered $100 per share, a ten percent premium on the most recent price for the conglomerate. UBI declines to discuss whether it will consider a higher bid, but the Nabisco management team indicate they are already preparing a counter offer.
Soviet physicians develop a new tool to allow for laparoscopic gall bladder removal, which will then go on to be used for many types of abdominal surgery. By 1990, Soviet Surgery Cooperative will have global sales exceeding $300 million and, from 1992 to 1998, when the Soviet patent runs out, they will be a billion dollar organisation, with annual profits exceeding $70 million. The stakeholders will eventually sell to Tyco International for $3.2 billion.
For the third time this year, Soviet troops return to Baku, capital of the Azeri Federal District. Curfews are installed in Kirovabad and the Nakhichevan districts as well. Seven people are killed in the violence as the main square is cleared of an estimated fifteen thousand demonstrators. Over fifty people are hospitalised and sixty people are arrested. The most recent protests were sparked by the decision of Armenia’s Supreme Soviet to pass an economic development plan for Nagorno-Karabakh. President Mikhail Gorbachev declares Azeri nationalists as “persisting in grave error” and warns that “the interests of all peoples living in our country will be respected voluntarily, or else they will be respected through the imposition of legal force. Either way,” he states, “they will be respected.”
At 11:41am local time, an earthquake registering 6.9 on the Richter scale devastates the Spitak region of the Soviet district of Armenia. At least twenty thousand people have been killed and three cities destroyed. Fortunately, the large numbers of Soviet troops in the area are available to begin immediate relief and rescue work. President Mikhail Gorbachev flies directly to the earthquake zone and asks the international community for assistance, suspending his scheduled trip to the United Nations for a second time. Fortunately, school children had been delayed going to recess by a special schools address by the President earlier in the day, and it is estimated that this saved the lives of thousands. The US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia, Sweden and Switzerland all respond to calls for help.
A Soviet informer tells the CIA that, in the recent reorganisation of the Soviet intelligence services, nine personnel files were directly transferred to the office of the Soviet President. According to the source, only three files were known to him. These were in the names of the recently-appointed Deputy Procurator General, the Deputy Governor of Leningrad Capital District and the President’s own personal secretary. It is assumed that politically embarrassing material is being covered up.
President Mikhail Gorbachev, responding to concerns in the Baltic districts in a speech to the Congress of Soviets, blasts the Soviet districts for “not taking advantage of their constitutional rights and then complaining when the central government exercises them on your behalf”. He warns Azerbaijan that any attempt to take advantage of the Armenian crisis by “sabotaging the official status” of Nagorno-Karabakh will result in the federal district coming under “the protection of the central government”.
Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov states that he does not fear the B-2 stealth bomber being promoted by the US. He expresses the hope that the Soviets will test their first stealth bomber early in 1990 and that air defences are already being reorganised to respond to the new American capacity. He states that recent modifications to the SS-18 Satan missiles have improved yield, accuracy and distance.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov offers trade unions the opportunity to borrow money against the assets they hold in trust for their members in order to create subsidies for workers who wish to buy their own homes. The unions will act as conduits for the Soviet Mutual Credit Bank, providing downpayments on the creation of private residences.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declares a federal takeover of the Azeri Federal District, removing the regional governor after it is leaked he suggested a district holiday to celebrate the Armenian earthquake. Other stories are of a Muslim cleric calling the earthquake the “work of Allah” and of pro-earthquake, anti-Armenian graffiti being written on an inter-district train. Gorbachev states that he will only use force in the event of a threat to life as he installs political and economic sanctions. Over the next two days, thirteen people are killed as Soviet troops enforce order.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov confirms that seventy thousand people have been evacuated from the Armenian earthquake zone into vacation villas in Georgi and the Crimea, but admits that many have refused to leave. These have been provided with all-weather tents. He also attributes the major damage to shoddy Brezhnev-era construction, pointing out that all of the more modern buildings have survived. He states that a “compassionate West, sharing its technology and charity” mark a new era in the view of the outside world by the Soviet people and estimates the cleanup will cost $8.4 billion. The whole event has raised Ryzhkov’s profile considerably, making him a well-liked official, viewed as strong and compassionate.
The first Ilyushin Il-96, manufactured by Voronezh Aircraft, is transferred to Aeroflot. In the coming years, Ilyushin will be one of three major airline manufacturers in the world, joining Airbus and Boeing as the global industry leaders.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev arrives in the United States, where it is confirmed he will be “having informal discussions on the global environment” with US President George Bush. The two presidential couples will spend the next three days at the Bush retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine, where, according to Bush, they are studying “future environmental threats”.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov meets with Mother Theresa in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The renowned nun is there as part of a volunteer relief effort for earthquake victims. Sixteen thousand people have been pulled from the rubble; death toll is now confirmed at approximately nineteen thousand five hundred. Ryzhkov has limited all future housing construction in earthquake zones to five storeys. He refuses to comment on the twenty-five thousand new troops in Azerbaijan, stating it will be handled by the President on his return. He confirms fifteen arrests, including seven belonging to a “known terrorist group” who are threatening violence in Karabakh.
The Soviet President outlines his response to his meeting with President Bush. He points to a massive industrial retrofit in Nizhny Tagil, where toxic output has fallen by twenty percent, and Lake Baikal, where the Baikalsh pulp mill has been shut down, as an example of where the Soviets are headed. He announces plans to clean up the Neva and Volga Rivers, as well as infrastructure to deal with Black Sea sewage. He admits that the Soviet Commonwealth remains “a good five to ten years” behind the West and thus that his country has asked for technical assistance on pollution control and energy conservation.
Andrei Sakharov is appointed as the head of a new presidential commission, investigating ethnic unrest in Azerbaijan and the effectiveness of responses to the recent earthquake in Armenia. Some note the strangeness of a man who was a political prisoner only four years ago now being the trusted envoy of the head of state.
The most recent Soviet budget, made public on New Years Day, is analysed by the US intelligence agencies. The Soviets have started up a new state enterprise. Pelmeni, whose logo is П, is a new “student food” restaurant chain, with plans to have one hundred restaurants built in three years. Each restaurant will have a seating capacity of 700, with plans to be serving 1,500,000 Pelmeni meals per day by the end of 1991.
The Kremlin issues a blanket amnesty for everyone convicted by the infamous troika courts of the Stalin era, describing the courts as the “primary instrument of mass terror during the age of the absolute dictator”. It also acknowledges that Stalin ordered the murder of Leon Trotsky in 1940, giving details of the killing for the first time.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov gives a report on the progress of perestroika. He suggests that it is time to wind back price controls even further than has previously been undertaken, and also proposes that it may be necessary to devalue the ruble. The Soviet currency is currently trading at $1.60 officially, which is at least double the black market rate. He admits that the influx of consumer goods is the result of a growing trade deficit and expenditure of some of the national gold reserves.
Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov condemns elements of the Soviet media for their “sensationalist” treatment of some stories relating to the Armenian earthquake. He praises Izvestia for its efforts to confirm the authenticity of stories prior to publication, warning new tabloids that they may face a return to restrictions unless they can “deal with their new freedoms responsibly”.
Soviet Treasurer Nikolai Slyunkov announces that he has achieved an agreement with the United States for the repayment of Czarist-era bonds (an agreement was achieved with the rest of the world in July 1986). The settlement will be worth $900 million. The largest beneficiary is New Hampshire Governor Judd Gregg (R), whose state bought large numbers of Russian bonds from the 1820’s unti the Revolution.
Stating that the Soviet Commonwealth can no longer afford to “maintain an economic fiction”, Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov announces that the ruble will be devalued. He explains that the Soviets have been engaging in foreign exchange trading in an attempt to maintain the fixed rate and has adopted a new policy of seeking to use foreign reserve holdings for other purposes. The new exchange rate is 1.25 rubles to each US dollar and 2 rubles to each British pound. Analysts express the hope that the action will significantly boost Soviet exports.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announces two new additions to the Politburo. Dr Vitaly Korotich, 53, is a former journalist and medical specialist from the Ukraine, who has become increasingly vocal as a spokesman of the uskoreniye group. The other is Yevgeny Primakov, 59, a protégé of Yakovlev. Both are members of the Soviet Congress.
Western media reports that the Tajik federal district of the Soviet Commonwealth suffered an earthquake last week. Local governor, Otakhon Latifi, states that at least 300 people have died in landslides.
Answering recent complaints regarding a lack of meat, Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov states that meat consumption has risen considerably since the 1950s and that cattle feed has formed a large component of Soviet grain imports. He expresses the belief that meat consumption is too high in the West and well above World Health Organisation guidelines. He states that meat availability will not significantly change into the future.
Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev arrives in Beijing for talks with his counterpart, Qian Qichen. They are meeting to discuss the possibility of a Sino-Soviet summit later in May. The two men declare themselves “comrades” as Qian confirms that China has decided to reduce the size of the Peoples Liberation Army over three years from the current four million troops to three million troops, taking advantage of the dividend of peace.
Soviet Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin is named as the new head of the Soviet Internal Security Organisation (SISO), while Trade Minister Yuri Maslykov assumes responsibility for the Foreign Intelligence Service (FIS). President Mikhail Gorbachev states that he will retain titular control of both organisations but the day-to-day operations will now be managed externally to his office.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev agrees to open up all Soviet files on the Cuban Missile Crisis if the White House is prepared to do so the same, so that both nations can understand what occurred. It emerges that the Soviets were convinced Cuba was about to be invaded, even though President Kennedy had refused to consider the option. It is confirmed that nuclear warheads were hours from launch and that the Soviets and Cubans were far better prepared than US intelligence had indicated, meaning any invasion would have been a bloodbath. It is also revealed that Kennedy had refused to be evacuated in the event of a nuclear attack and had instructed that Vice President Johnson should be sent to the Blue Ridge command bunker instead.
Fiat and Chrysler signs an agreement with GAZ, the Soviet automobile maker, to begin importing the Soglas motor vehicle into the United States. The car will be rebranded as Chrysler City and will directly compete against Hyundai’s Excel. Over the next three years, the company will export nearly four hundred thousand units to the US.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev admits that the NKVD was responsible for a number of massacres in Poland during World War II, including the one at Katyn, and expresses “profound regret” for the events of 1940. He states that, during his time managing the intelligence service, he identified over sixty documents which related to the incidents which had been classified for no other reason than the embarrassment they posed to the Soviet state, and he announces his intention to transfer them immediately to Warsaw. He also expresses his intent to establish a top-level criminal investigation to determine if any person currently alive should face charges over the “murders”.
The Soviet Commonwealth launches the Public Electronic Network, or PEN, allowing citizens to communicate with Communist Party headquarters and various officials through modems set up in the community computer centres established four years ago. Only active in the two largest cities, it is intended to roll out with the fibre optic network and will make email the standard communication medium.
The new Soviet Information Minister, Vitaly Korotich, announces the opening of nominations for candidates for the Congress, scheduled to fall in two years. He points out that, at the last elections, one quarter of members were elected with only one candidate on the local ballot and that the country is broadening the duration of the pre-selection process for Communist Party candidates to ensure that every seat is contested.
Following a meeting at Constantine Palace, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he has finalised an agreement between the federal government and the district administrations on the Baltic. It will define their future powers as a special economic zone. There is no tax on a business with less than 300 local employees; foreign investment must be limited to 49% of a company’s share registry; the region will be “export-replacement-oriented”; and there must be a common market between the three districts of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The economic zone will have the right to individually negotiate trade relationships with Finland and Poland due to their “unique historical ties”.
After a three-month review of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, Soviet officials confirm their intention to continue retaining legal prohibitions on the sale of the drug without prescription, but will not introduce prohibitions on possession as demanded. They also state their intent to remove all penalties for use of cannabis in licensed premises similar to the Netherlands, with the hope of founding Dutch-style coffee shops, but leaving licensing in the hands of local authorities.
The Soviet Premier, Nikolai Ryzhkov, declares that it is time for a review of Union Heritage Park management, admitting to allegations of corruption. He lays out some fundamental principles for the new Soviet agricultural system, pointing out that, with the country facing food security for the first time in many years, it is time to make plans for the future. He lays out a completely “organic” future for the Soviet agricultural system.
The Soviet Trade Minister Yuri Maslykov announces that the Union Bank International has invested $13 million in Sony to establish joint funding of high definition television research institute. Sony spokesmen state that they welcome Soviet support in creating what they believe will be a “$40 billion market”.
Andrei Sakharov calls for an international effort to build the first commercial fusion reactor. He sets out a timetable for conceptual planning, with conceptual and engineering design to be completed by the end of the century and the reactor to be constructed and operational before 2010. President Mikhail Gorbachev sends invitations to all nations to join and will receive expressions of interest from the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany, the UK, France, Italy, Australia, Czechoslovakia and South Korea.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzkhov announces that, with the success of the private farming enterprises, farmers will now be able to apply to extend their leaseholds for a period of fifty years. In addition, they will have the ability to register their children to take over their leaseholds, should they wish to continue operating in the family business. While it stops short of privatisation, it provides the Soviet farming community the strongest confidence of continued tenure.
It is confirmed that Union Bank International has retained the services of Saatchi & Saatchi, at a cost of $115 million, to create its new international image. Executive creative director, Paul Arden, will launch a new campaign under the slogan “UBI: a new bank for a new world”.
Addressing a sitting of the Congress, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev begins his campaign to be retained as Secretary General when the Party Central Committee is elected next March. He states that his nation is in the middle of a Second Soviet Revolution in its move to a “socialist market” and “pluralism within one party”. He states that the action is “as audacious as Deng Xiaoping’s Four Modernisations and FDR’s New Deal”. He states that the Soviet state has already so majorly reformed that “it can never be the same again”. He states that his second term will be completing six strategic goals: to highly develop Soviet economic infrastructure, to continue reconstruction of industrial capacity, to finalise the “enterprising” of the agricultural sector, to deregulate the retail market, to focus capital spending on communications and transport infrastructure and to gradually review and deregulate capital markets. He outlines a military doctrine of “reasonably sufficient for security”, rejecting “passing or surpassing the West” as a “relic of Stalinism”.
Addressing the Congress, Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov makes an apology on behalf of the Soviet people to the Crimean Tatars, who were resettled in the gulags by Stalin. He states that the government will form a commission to address the needs of those who wish to resettle in South Ukraine and those who want compensation for lost property and personal harm.
Moscow police release details of an energy station fitter/machinist who was found murdered in the underground. The 35-year-old male went by the name of Alexander Barkashov. Police state he was known to them as the member of an “anti-Jewish organisation” which had disrupted a recent beauty pageant, but say there is no evidence of “foreign involvement” in his death.
Soviet Interior Minister, Vitaly Korotich, announces that a new faction of the Communist Party has formed on the insistence of Soviets from the west of the Commonwealth. The original three factions were conservative, liberal and radical; the newest faction, the environmentalist, which will be obliged to provide candidates in all regional elections to receive formal recognition on the ballot paper.
After meetings with a number of foreign business executives, Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyukov announces that Leningrad will get its own stock exchange. He states that this is necessary for raising capital for new enterprises and that, with the ruble at a historic low, increases the value of foreign investment in new Soviet businesses. He appoints a new head of the Soviet National Bank, Nikolai Shmelev. He also warns that the Soviet economy is now slowing off its initial investment boom and will enter a period of low growth into the next year, but it will allow in the longer-term for price reform and full convertibility of the ruble.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev leaves for a trip to Spain, Yugoslavia and the United States. Arriving in Belgrade, he criticises “popular front” actions, the protests for and against Serbian dominance of Montenegro, as “Stalinist”. He supports Trotsky’s criticisms of popular front organisations but states that it is acceptable for Communist parties to enter coalition governments in multi-party political systems, a key exception to that criticism.
Under pressure from popular demands to contain materialism, Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov asks the Congress to pass a law restricting the salary the new cooperatives are able to pay to any member. The figure is established at the equivalent of US$1,000 per week, nearly fifteen times the average Soviet salary. Resentment has emerged as some members of the nalevo are indulgent, with newly-furbished apartments complete with colour television and video systems, imported clothing and high technology items.
Georgian Federal Governor Eduard Schevardnadze tells the Supreme Soviet that he believes the chamber should have the right to debate any foreign political or military involvement. Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov expresses concern that it may result in a risk to national security and warns that there needs to be some limitations to freedom of information.
Governor of Estonia, Karl Vaino, announces that he is stepping down to take up a post as Ambassador to Nicaragua. He is replaced by Arnold Ruutel, who will be sworn in six days later after Gorbachev returns from his overseas trip. It is also confirmed that Gavriil Popov will be appointed as the new Federal Governor of Moscow and Vladimir Ivashko as the new Federal Governor of North Ukraine.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov announces the formation of the Soviet Competition and Consumer Commission to protect the rights of consumers. It will intervene to stop price-fixing cartels, misuse of market power and misleading or deceptive conduct. Five subcommissions are to be established as part of the apparatus, specifically to deal with food products, transport, pharmaceuticals, agricultural and veterinary products, and electrical and gas appliances. However, while detailing the story on Good Evening Moscow, he is questioned probingly over a newly emerged shortage on toothpaste and over new regulations which prevent cooperatives in the sensitive areas of medicine, education and publishing. He argues that, since enterprises are no longer answerable to the state, they need to be more accountable to consumers.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov states that further information about former leader Joseph Stalin has come to light with the exhumation of a mass grave in the Belarus Federal District. He admits that seven thousand political prisoners and Jews were executed in the Kurapaty Forest between 1937 and 1941 by the NKVD (later the KGB) and pledges to give the Federal District access to a compensation and commemoration fund. Vice Premier Yegor Ligachev warns that the Secretary General and the Premier are “shaking the faith of our comrades” and states his opposition to “sympathy with Trotskyite ideas”.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev declares to US audiences that “scholarship is not just there to perpetuate useful historical myth”, but that it must “search out and find the painful truths in the blank spots of our official history”. He states that his own grandfather was subjected to Stalinist victimisation and Trotsky was “imperfect”, but “must be a subject of some sympathy”. He states that the Stalinist death camps saw perhaps twenty million dead and “we cannot begin to compensate the Soviet citizens for the darkest days of Stalin’s experimentation with fascism”. He adds that “Stalin’s purges damaged all of us.”
Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov announces that he will step down from the ministry and the Politburo on the day of the next congressional elections. He will instead contest a position in the Council of Nations as the senator for the Central Russian Federal District. He confirms, at his press conference, that all Soviet troops will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan over the next seven weeks.
The Soviet daily Pravda issues an opinion poll taken, with Soviet permission, by foreign experts. It shows that 84% of the population believe Mikhail Gorbachev should be given a second term as Secretary General, with 9% opposing his re-election. 66% believe that the Gorbachev reform program is encountering difficulties within the Party and 17% believe that the reform program has been halted. Only 7% agree with the argument that Gorbachev’s changes are a deviation to Marxism-Leninism. 30% say that there has life has improved over the past four years, while 20% suggest that things are worse. 5% believe that Gorbachev has made too many changes, while 42% believe that change should be accelerated. 31% of the population express the belief the party will eventually splinter and 53% declare that there is no longer any reason why Communist Party members should not be actively religious believers.
Soviet Defence Minister Viktor Kulikov gives a report on the status of the Soviet Navy and the scale of its decommissioning. By next year, the surface fleet of 328 ships inherited in March, 1985, will be reduced to 216 vessels (including three carriers, twenty-one cruisers, twenty-one frigates and forty-nine destroyers). The submarine fleet, previously totalled at 366 boats, has been reduced to 241 boats (of which fifty-five are SSBNs). All of the ships retired have had at least fifteen years of active service and some considerably older.
Commonwealth Communications, the new corporatised version of the Soviet Ministry of Information, also offers to buy British Satellite Broadcasting services to join their range of product lines, taking on the Sports Channel and the Movie Channel, but declining the light entertainment, lifestyle and music channels.
Stolichnaya Vodka begins production and bottling of a range of flavoured fruit vodkas from a new plant in Lithuania, making it the first state industry to sign a contract to begin operations in the new Baltic economic zone.
Two leading dissident writers from the Georgian Federal District, Zviad Gamsakhurdia and Merab Kostava, are killed in a car accident outside Tbilisi. Local governor Eduard Schevardnadze declares the incident “horrific” and states that, knowing both men, he is “deeply grieved” by their death, having recently lobbied for their release in a move towards increased political openness. He says that the deaths “cannot be allowed to deal a blow to the reform process and the brotherhood of the CSSN”.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzkhoz signs a deal for the construction of a wide network of new mobile telephone towers across the country, with a network to be operational in all cities within two years and nationwide within five years. Commonwealth Communications, the state enterprise, gets the deal.
Soviet Trade Minister Nikolai Slyunkov praises Ektran, a state collective enterprise handed over to its workers in 1985, for massive improvements in output and quality since the change. Ekran and EE are the two largest competitors in the Soviet consumer goods market, with Ekran specialising in electronics, radios, televisions and sewing machines, while EE dominates washing machines and refrigerators.
A report on a community hospital program in the Soviet Commonwealth shows a computer which dials telephone numbers each morning to ensure that elderly people living alone are well. A “Yes” response ends the call, while a negative or no response forwards the address details for daily patrols.
The Union Bank-controlled ETA Systems announces the release of ETA-11, which at 10.3 GFLOPS, is the largest and fastest vector supercomputer in the world, along a plan to develop a computer with three times the capacity. The machine will only eventually sell to twenty-seven customers, mostly based in the US and Germany, before becoming obsolete in late 1991.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev states that a “short hardship” is ahead for the people of the Commonwealth during his May Day address. Some areas of the economy were growing well as a result of perestroika, but it had not worked everywhere. He also admitted that the government had reduced spending too quickly in their drive to be free of foreign debt and contain inflation. He promises that the new Moscow exchange will resolve the investment shortage later this year.
The 301-member Soviet Communist Party Central Committee holds a plenary session. Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev confirms twenty-four new members to replace retiring members as it is the first meeting of the Committee since parliamentary elections. He addresses the need for generational change and states that “the elections unequivocally said yes to reform”. He thanks all those who have contributed in bringing the food shortages to an end and pledges that “consumer goods are catching up soon”. He is criticised from the floor by a delegate from the District of Northwestern Russia, who states that Gorbachev is protected from information by a clique of aides.
The first stage of the Soviet fibre optic network comes online. It links sixty thousand computers, connected by high speed data and telephone. Former Premier Yegor Ligachev gives credit for the “driving force behind the project” to the Federal Governor of North Ukraine, Vladimir Ivashko.
The Soviet Congress passes new legislation which enshrines, for the first time, the right of trade unions to call a strike after Leningrad police threaten to walk off over demands that they be upgraded to a higher pay scale. However, it limits strikes to 24 hours duration, with Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov stating that strikes should only be an attempt to get central government attention to an issue neglected by local authorities.
Aeroflot, the Soviet national airline, announces that it is moving to a computerised reservation system, similar to those adopted by most American airlines about six or seven years ago. Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzkhov states that his government was convinced that failure to modernise would leave Aeroflot as a “sitting duck among ravenous foreign eagles” in a future global air market.
Omnicom Group admits that it has been retained by the Soviet gas industry to develop a new corporate image as part of the corporatisation of Soviet state assets. The industry accounts for 8% of Soviet GDP. The new company, which will become the largest enterprise in the Soviet Commonwealth, will become known as Gazprom.
Christian Dior become the first major Western fashion house to sign up for the 1990 Prague/Leningrad Fashion Week. It will be the first major prêt-a-porter collection from new artistic director, Gianfranco Ferre.
Soviet First Lady Raisa Gorbachev celebrates the formation of the multi-enterprise cooperative, Union Heritage Park/Farmers Cooperative. The cooperative has established enough of a capital base to begin to invest abroad, announcing immediate intentions to buy a French cold truck transport company to help with product distribution. It expresses intent to issue bonds when the Moscow Financial Exchange opens in December.
The House of Faberge is recreated as a brand, with its old stores being reopened on Kuznetsky Most and in Leningrad. The multinational corporation, Unilever, states that it has just bought the right to use the Faberge brand as the result of a 1945 US court case, but according to Soviet law, the trademarks and licenses belongs to Theo Faberge, with a reversal of the regulation which shut down the original House in 1917.
Chinese General Secretary Zhao Ziyang arrives in Leningrad for talks with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on joint industrial projects and discussing “synchronicity” between political and economic reforms. It is later learned that Zhao gave Gorbachev a Chinese calligraphy of an Alexis de Tocqueville quote. It states that “it is not always when things go from bad to worse that revolutions break out. More often, the people take up arms when an oppressive regime that has been tolerated without protest for a long period suddenly relaxes its pressure.” He also notes that both economies are growing strongly, the Soviets by 34% and the Chinese by twice that, in the last half decade.
On the day before the Helsinki summit, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev addresses the nation to discuss the finding of a corruption commission inquiry into former Defence Minister Grigory Romanov. It recommends charges against Romanov, former party chief of ideology, Mikhail Solomentsev and current leader of the Rodina faction, Yegor Ligachev. Gorbachev states that he will be asking a special judicial committee to go over the evidence, but that, in the interim, no charges will be laid and that he retains confidence in the integrity of all three men.
Soviet parliamentarian Andrei Sakharov expresses his support for the re-election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Communist Party in March next year, because “I do not see any other person capable of leading our country”. He is backed by Lithuanian governor, Algirdas Brazauskas, who states that Gorbachev is “attempting to be democratic in a nation without democratic tradition”. The Congress also discusses creating an office of Vice President to serve as head of state in the absence of the President.
Soviet Premier Nikolai Ryzkhov announces budget cuts to the Soviet space program, stating that, following the delivery of the second space shuttle in December, all further spending on the Soviet shuttle program will cease. He also states that military spending will be cut further to $227 billion, or 7% of GDP, which is less than half the 1985 levels.
Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzkhov releases new figures which show that 8% of the population live below the official poverty line. He states that, in order to increase revenue, the government will be rationalising nearly fifty ministries to just twenty-eight. He also announces the formation of the Baltic Zone Economic Authority, a six-member Council which will manage operations in the special economic zone. It will have two representatives from the central government, with the other four appointed by the Federal District legislatures.
Two Soviet mathematicians take jingoistic pride when they calculate the value of pi into the hundreds of millions of digits. “The Yankees and Japanese may have faster computers,” they say, “but they don’t have our Soviet know-how”. Columbia University will later confirm the accuracy of their efforts.
Federal Governor of Uzbekistan, Muhammad Salih, expresses concern about ethnic tensions between locals and Meskhetian Turks resettled in the territory over the decades. He suggests to the Congress of Nations that Azerbaijan should allow the Turks to return to their homeland, sparking outrage from Azeri and Georgian representatives. Nonetheless, the call is supported by the central government, who offer to relocate any person who wishes to go, but it is suggested that few will want to move to a federal district currently under martial law.
At a conference in Bonn, Soviet Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev expresses the belief that, by the turn of the century, “the old divisions of Europe will be history”. The statement is in response to questions about reforms in Hungary. It opens speculation that some elements within the Soviet Commonwealth are prepared to embrace democratic pluralism, especially when Yakovlev argues that the continent will “embrace a common direction for our common home”.
Soviet Treasury Minister Nikolai Slyunkov admits that his country is lacking in “managerial savvy”, but has a strong skill and engineering base which has ensured continued growth. He suggests the introduction of licensing agreements under which the import of components will not have to be paid for by government in hard currency.