25 Dec 2021 9:19 pm
an analysis by Wladislaw Sankin
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR for short, was a state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. At the time of its collapse, the USSR, with a population of 293 million, claimed almost a sixth of the world’s inhabited landmass and was the world’s second largest industrial producer – 16.5 percent of world production.
The Soviet Union was officially dissolved by the Alma Ata Declaration on December 21, 1991 as a union consisting of 15 union republics. It said: “With the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceases to exist.” However, December 25th was the last day in the public consciousness.
On December 25th at 7 p.m. the President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev resigned his office in a televised address and handed over control of the atomic case to the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin. A few hours earlier, the Russian Federal Soviet Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was renamed the Russian Federation. Immediately after Gorbachev’s speech, the world-famous state symbol of the Soviet Union, the red flag with hammer and sickle, on the mast of the Senate Palace in the Moscow Kremlin was replaced by the Russian tricolor.
But the dissolution of the multinational superstate cannot be pinpointed in one day. As early as the late 1980s, the centrifugal tendencies in the republics of the Soviet Union and its constituent republics were clearly evident again and ultimately proved to be unstoppable.
The underlying national resentment had already reported back beforehand. To a large extent, this had to do with the crisis of the prevailing ideology, the essential parts of which were on the one hand the praise of friendship between peoples and on the other hand the creation of a new character – the Soviet man.
The regime change in the socialist camp and the rapid geopolitical withdrawal from Eastern Europe intensified the domino effect in their own country. Supply problems and the so-called “deficit” accompanied the collapse of the alliance, which had been so powerful just a short time before. All of these problems were blamed on the inefficiency of the socialist economic system, the so-called “command economy”.
The freed press quickly smashed the former heroes of Soviet history and replaced them with new antiheroes. Since one could now write about anything, the media competed in the problematization of all areas of life, which reinforced the impression that everything was bad in the Soviet Union. Art also reacted immediately to the new moods with the genre of “black painting”, which found its way into music, film, visual arts and literature. The society celebrated the “festival of disobedience”.
As the old ties began to break, new ones were instantly created. In almost every republic, including Russia, nationalisms rose their heads within a few months. The hour of the various popular and national fronts had come. The local elites found themselves in the state structures created by the Soviet leadership with their supreme councils, ministries, security authorities and academies of science.
From this position they felt called to solve the economic problems by cutting off economic relations with the “center”. According to the regulars’ table, it was said: “Let’s stop feeding Moscow”. In Moscow it was said again: “We no longer feed any peripheral areas”. A huge self-sufficient domestic market quickly began to collapse.
Events developed rapidly and it is difficult to say in retrospect whether people really knew what was happening before their eyes that they were just before what Vladimir Putin called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” Century “stand. Indeed, in the fateful year of 1991, the mood fluctuated very much.
In the first and last referendum of the USSR on March 17, 1991, 76 percent of the votes with a turnout of 80 percent said they wanted to see the reformed Soviet Union preserved. The residents of Ukraine voted with 70% for Ukraine to remain in the USSR, albeit “on the basis of sovereignty”.
After the declaration of independence in August 1991, however, the Ukrainian leadership held its own referendum on December 1st, asking whether the residents of Ukraine would prefer to live in an independent state. 90 percent of those questioned voted in favor, even in Crimea there was a slim majority. On March 17, 1991, 70% of Ukrainians voted to keep the Soviet Union. That said, while people questioned the Soviet Union as such, it did not question its close ties to Russia and other republics of the Soviet Union.
For the politicians, who had already dreamed of being greeted by other heads of state on an equal footing, it did not matter what the people really thought when they voted. The President of Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, inspired by the results of the referendum, invited the representatives from Belarus and Russia to Kiev for secret negotiations on the modalities of the dissolution.
The supranational Soviet state structures with their highest representative Mikhail Gorbachev as president should be ignored. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who was elected in June 1991, was particularly interested in this. The conflict between him and Gorbachev is legendary and gives many analysts an opportunity to see the events of that time through the prism of interpersonal feuds and the power struggle.
But the reasons for the failure of Soviet socialism and the collapse of the Soviet Union – after all, two different, albeit interrelated, processes – were numerous and varied. Against this background, the actions of top politicians at the time are only significant in terms of a technical process.
On December 8, 1991, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislau Schuschkewitsch, signed the so-called Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreements. These agreements suspended the Union Treaty of December 1922, on the basis of which the Soviet Union was first created, and proclaimed the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose state alliance that to this day only functions as a platform for occasional meetings of heads of state.
This made Gorbachev and his office superfluous. With his televised address on December 25th, he put it down. His attempt to save face by standing in the speech Expressed his disagreement, on the contrary, should only reinforce the impression of complete helplessness. The USSR would only exist on paper for six days, until December 31, 1991.
Not all heads of state in the republics welcomed the dissolution. The Central Asian republics in particular hesitated until the last moment to support this process. The irony of history is that the then opponent of the dissolution and later mastermind of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is the one who remained in power longest of all the heads of state of the successor states of the Soviet Union until 2019.
Since then, the process of decay has been both a legend and a mystery. As contradictory as the moods were at that time, which alternated between the end of the world and optimism, the assessment of the consequences of the end of the Soviet Union in the successor states to this day is also contradictory.
more on the subject – Survey: Only eleven percent of Russians associate negative things with the USSR