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The USSR & Eastern Europe From Khrushchev to Gorbachev Kevin J. Benoy.

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Presentation on theme: "The USSR & Eastern Europe From Khrushchev to Gorbachev Kevin J. Benoy."— Presentation transcript:

1 The USSR & Eastern Europe From Khrushchev to Gorbachev Kevin J. Benoy

2 Conflicting Pressures There were two conflicting pressures in the USSR since the death of Stalin: –Party conservatives and bureaucrats sought to preserve their privileged positions by opposing any changes that might threaten them or the position of the CPSU. –Reformers saw stagnation, so felt it necessary to change the system to make it work. Because of the closed system of the USSR, most of this conflict happened behind closed doors.

3 Conflicting Pressures It was not until Mikhail Gorbachev introduced Glasnost (openness) that this dispute became clear. Underneath all of this also simmered the discontent of national minorities in the USSR.

4 The Fall of Khrushchev Khrushchev created many party enemies with his 20 th Party Congress speech. His attempts to reform agriculture in the late 1950s and early 60s increased opposition.

5 The Fall of Khrushchev Positively, more funds were made available for agriculture, allowing for pensions for Kholkhoz workers and more and better equipment.

6 The Fall of Khrushchev On the other hand, significant problems arose: –Bad advice led to planting Maize – a thirsty crop unsuited to the Virgin Lands. –Labour problems arose as workers did not want to move to the area. Appeals to patriotism were not enough. Few women moved to the area. Though early crops were good, later crops failed miserably.

7 The Fall of Khrushchev In foreign affairs, Khrushchev’s blustering brought little. Kennedy’s forcing him to back down over the Cuban Missile Crisis was an embarrassment. His failure in regard to Berlin was also noted.

8 The Fall of Khrushchev Khrushchev was accused of fostering a personality cult not unlike that which he criticized Stalin for encouraging.

9 The Fall of Khrushchev Within the politburo the opposition grew as other leaders came to resent Khruschchev’s colourful personal leadership and reckless style. In the end it seems that Suslov and Brezhnev played key roles in his downfall.

10 The Fall of Khrushchev On October 14, 1964, the world was shocked to hear that Khrushchev had resigned. Overnight he went from leader of the world’s second most powerful nation to ordinary pensioner.

11 The Brezhnev Era Brezhnev became titular head of the USSR. In fact, it appears that there was a greater degree of collective leadership exercised than at any other time in Soviet History.

12 The Brezhnev Era Brezhnev’s time was marked by extreme conservatism. DeStalinzation was dropped in 1965 and most criticism of Stalin ceased. There was no question of further liberalization in the USSR. New 5 year plans called for increases in consumer production, but the only progress seemed to happen on paper and not in the real world.

13 The Brezhnev Era Under Brezhnev corruption was rife. Government bureaucrats and managers of state enterprises carved out private empires at public expense. Graft became deeply ingrained in the Soviet economy.

14 Foreign Affairs Under Brezhnev The chief problems of the Soviets were the continuing rivalry with China, maintaining control of Eastern European Satellites, and avoiding conflict with the United States

15 Foreign Affairs Under Brezhnev Despite Soviet support for North Vietnam, the Soviets did not allow rhetoric to get in the way of Soviet-American relations. This seems to be because the Soviets were coming to see Mao’s China as a bigger threat than the USA, particularly after China tested its first nuclear weapons.

16 Foreign Affairs Under Brezhnev It is generally believed that in 1968-9 the Soviets considered launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the Chinese, holding back only because the US refused to commit to neutrality. Some believe the KGB also tried to create a Sino-American war by launching a nuclear attack on the US from a Soviet submarine, feigning to be a Chinese vessel – K169.

17 Foreign Affairs Under Brezhnev The Soviets tried to manipulate the overthrow of Mao during the mid 1960s by encouraging Mao’s opponents in China. The result was one of the most horrific events of the 20 th Century – the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution – Mao’s radicalization of China to win back control.

18 Foreign Affairs Under Brezhnev In Eastern Europe, the Soviets resisted fragmentation. Yugoslavia left the fold in 1948 and Albania followed – having the audacity to ally itself with China. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War it seemed that Romania was making independent noises – refusing to break off diplomatic relations with Israel.

19 The Czechoslovak Crisis The conservative-reformer struggle in the USSR was paralleled in Czechoslovakia. In 1967, reformer Alexander Dubcek challenged Antonin Navotny for the leadership of the Czechoslovak Communist Party. In January, 1968 he was chosen First Secretary. General Ludwig Svoboda became President.

20 The Czechoslovak Crisis Some freedom of the press was introduced for the first time since 1948. Civil liberties were proclaimed. Dubcek said he wanted to create “Socialism with a human face.”

21 The Czechoslovak Crisis Cooperatives were to be established. Workers would get a greater say in running their factories. Travel restrictions to the West were lifted.

22 The Czechoslovak Crisis Carried along by a wave of enthusiastic support, Dubcek seemed to be willing to allow opposition groups to form in the country. This was too much for Brezhnev and other Eastern European communist countries to accept. On July 14-15, Soviet, Polish, Hungarian, E. German and Bulgarian leaders warned Dubcek of being “pushed off the road to Socialism.” They demanded he end press freedom.

23 The Czechoslovak Crisis Dubcek tried to convince Warsaw Pact leaders that he had no intention of changing Czechoslovak foreign policy. Between July 29 and August 1, the Politburos of Czechoslovakia and the USSR met at their countries’ common border. On August 3, they met again, along with other Warsaw Pact leaders.

24 The Czechoslovak Crisis At first it seemed Dubcek had won. Warsaw Pact forces on maneuver in Czechoslovakia withdrew. Visits from Jugoslavia’s Tito and Romania’s Ceaucescu further bolstered Czechoslovak morale.

25 The Czechoslovak Crisis Suddenly, on the night of August 20, 1968, Soviet & other Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia.

26 The Czechoslovak Crisis The Czechoslovak leadership asked the public & military to not fight back. They did not want a repeat of Hungary, 1956.

27 The Czechoslovak Crisis The population adopted passive resistance tactics. –Street signs were changed to confuse the invaders. –Students, who learned Russian at school, argued with invading troops. –Some risked their lives to plug tank barrels with flowers.

28 The Czechoslovak Crisis Dubcek and Svoboda were arrested and spirited out of the country. Soviet ambassadorial staff around the world argued the Czechoslovak case. Even western communist parties protested against the attack, splitting them from the Soviets and creating a new term – Eurocommunism. “Is this what our Lenin ordered you to do?”

29 The Czechoslovak Crisis Ultimately the Czechoslovak leadership was placed in more compliant hands – Dubcek gave way to Gustav Husak. However, Dubcek and Svoboda were not executed like Imre Nagy.

30 The Czechoslovak Crisis In September, Pravda published a retroactive justification for the invasion that came to be known as the Brezhnev Doctrine. Claiming he was “resolutely opposed to interference in the affairs of any state” he went on to insist that “when a threat arises to the cause of socialism” in any socialist country, it becomes “also a general problem, the concern of all socialist countries.” The Chinese, Jugoslavs and Romanians all felt greater unease after this show of Soviet force.

31 The Czechoslovak Crisis Interestingly, the Soviets did not act with such force elsewhere. The key appears to be the Czechoslovak insistence on a free press. The Prague Spring was now over.

32 The Czechoslovak Crisis Or was it? On the surface it appeared like Brezhnev won decisively. As in 1956, the West complained, but did nothing. Beneath the surface things were less clear. –A large number of Soviet generals seemed to die in the early months of 1969. –The May Day parade was cancelled in Moscow that year. –There was even a small protest in Red Square in 1968 – led by Pavel Litvinov, grandson of the 1930s foreign minister. Litvinov’s Red Square banner: “For your freedom and ours”.

33 The Czechoslovak Crisis In the 1969 World Hockey Championships in Stockholm, the Czechoslovaks beat the Soviets, sparking wild nationalist demonstrations in Prague. Riots followed and Aeroflot’s office in the Czech capital was ransacked. Born after the Prague Spring, Czech hockey player Jaromir Jagr immortalized the event when he adopted “68” as his number in the NHL and on his national jersey.

34 Dissent Such dissent did not disappear. A lively underground network developed of Samizdat literature. Despite arrests and show trials in the 1960s – protesters did not go away.

35 Dissent Dissidents were arrested and exiled. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was even expelled from the Soviet Union. Some were confined to psychiatric institutions. However, unlike in Stalin’s time, they were not shot. Stalinists might be in power, but the techniques of the 1930s were no longer possible in the 1960s and 1970s.

36 Afghanistan In 1978-80, with an Iranian style revolution looming as a possibility in neighbouring Afghanistan, the Soviet Union intervened to prop up a client state. Faction differences in the Afghan Communist Party led to Brezhnev and the Politburo deciding to back one group against the other. Order was needed to prevent chaos and revolution.

37 Afghanistan Neighbouring Soviet republics were overwhelmingly Muslim. The Soviets felt it essential to contain Muslim fundamentalism – no matter what the cost. Troops were deployed in December, 1979. They would not leave for 9 years. This would become the USSR’s “Vietnam.” The cost in men and money would be staggering.

38 Stagnation Throughout the 1980s the leadership group aged and stagnated. What would happen when the old men died and a new generation assumed power?

39 Stagnation Brezhnev’s cronies hung on even after the old man died. First Yuri Andropov replaced him – from November 1982 to February 1984. Next came Konstantin Chernenko – until March of 1985. Both died before anything could be achieved.

40 A New Generation Finally power transferred to a younger man – Mikhael Gorbachev, in 1984. The USSR was in crisis and it would be up to him to end the decay.

41 finis


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