Communism in Crisis 1976-1989

Communism in
Crisis 1976-1989
The Soviet Union
• Leonid Brezhnev
assumed leadership
in 1964 with two
titles: General
Secretary and
Chairman of the
The Brezhnev Era:
• By 1964, USSR had
industrialized, improved
and increased weapons
production, and had become
technologically superior to
most nations
• However, consumer goods
and agriculture had NOT
improved along with
weapons and other
The Brezhnev Era:
• Money was spent
disproportionately on
military and space
program than on domestic
• Standards of living
decreased during the
Brezhnev era
The Brezhnev Era:
• Brezhnev tried to increase agricultural
output by allowing farmers to work
state-owned plots of land and letting
the farmers keep or sell surplus crop
• This was a major reform from fully
collectivized farming but it didn’t
improve living standards
The Brezhnev Era:
• 1975 yielded another poor harvest and
Brezhnev actually had to import food to feed
Soviet citizens
• Because Brezhnev and USSR were so focused
on food during the 1970’s they weren’t able to
increase petroleum production for sale – this
could have greatly benefitted the nation
• This led to public criticism of Brezhnev and
Soviet government
The Brezhnev Era:
• Brezhnev maintained strict
censorship rules and strongly
repressed all speech
• However, some brave citizens
worried about a return to a
Stalin-style regime and started
to risk their safety to voice
their anti-government opinions
The Brezhnev Era:
• Alexander
Solzhenitsyn published
The Gulag Archipelago
which was an
account of his time in a
forced labor camp
• He was exiled in 1974
The Brezhnev Era:
• Samizdat: selfpublished pamphlets
that were illegally
copied and distributed
– these criticized the
• Tamizdat: pamphlets
published abroad and
smuggled into the
Soviet Union
The Brezhnev Era:
• Soviet Jews wanted to
leave the USSR and
move to Israel
• The Baltic States of
Latvia, Estonia and
Lithuania all wanted their
independence – these
states had all been forced
to join the Soviet Union
The Brezhnev Era:
• Brezhnev sought no reform
to the Soviet Party
• Brezhnev emphasized
employment stability – it
was virtually impossible to
lose your job and
productivity was poor
The Brezhnev Era:
Soviet propaganda poster
showing strength of Soviet
• Brezhnev tried to increase living standards with
agricultural reforms but failed
• Brezhnev censored and limited speech
• People started to protest Brezhnev and Soviet
Government in the mid-1970’s as living standards
• Soviet Jews and the Baltic States sought release from the
Soviet Union
• Brezhnev emphasized stability, even though it meant
hurting the economy
The Brezhnev Era:
Domestic - SUMMARY
• The Brezhnev Doctrine:
all communist regimes
are to remain communist
– the Soviet Union will
not let them be
• This was demonstrated
in Czechoslovakia when
they attempted anticommunist reforms
The Brezhnev Era:
• The poor soviet economy
encouraged Brezhnev to seek
nuclear arms limitations with
the USA – he wanted to spend
less money on arms and more
on improving quality of life for
Soviet people
• May, 1972, Brezhnev and Nixon
came to agreement on arms
limitations (Strategic Arms
Limitation Talks – SALT)
The Brezhnev Era:
Brezhnev and Nixon
celebrate the signing of the
SALT Treaty
• In the mid-1970’s,
decolonization in Africa meant
that the Soviet Union looked to
expand its influence in several
newly destabilized states there:
Mozambique, Angola, and
• The Soviet Union supported the
installation of communist
governments in these countries
The Brezhnev Era:
• Solidarity in Poland – a labor
movement organized by Lech
Walesa in 1980 with the goals
of improving workers’ rights,
and political and economic
• Brezhnev wanted to invoke the
Brezhnev Doctrine and
intervene, but didn’t because
USSR was already involved in
The Brezhnev Era:
Lech Walesa, leader of
Solidarity movement
in Poland
• Soviet Union wanted to
rival Britain for power in
Afghanistan since late
19th Century and had
intervened in Afghan
affairs repeatedly during
this time
Map showing border between Soviet
Union and Afghanistan, circa 1979
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
• Democratic Republic of
Afghanistan formed
following the Saur
Revolution on April 27, 1978
• Afghanistan had been ruled
as a monarchy prior to this
• Nur Muhammad Taraki was
leader of Aghanistan until a
shootout in September 1979
– this rebellion motivated by
Islamic fundamentalists who
believed the Taraki
government was too secular
Nur Muhammad Taraki
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
• Hafizullah Amin became
new leader of Afghanistan
and the “rebels”
• The Soviet Union sent troops
to “support” the ousted
Taraki government – cited
the Brezhnev Doctrine
• The United States sent
weapons, CIA agents, money
to support the Mujahideen in
there fight against the Soviet
Mujahideen fighters
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
• Soviet leadership didn’t have
a comprehensive plan on
how to wage war in
Afghanistan nor what their
objectives were – they
simply wanted it not to
become capitalist/democratic
• Most Soviet citizens opposed
the war, as did most of the
KGB Agent Vladimir Putin
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
Under the leadership of
President Jimmy Carter the
United States:
• limited grain sales to the
Soviet Union
• boycotted the 1980 Olympic
Games in Moscow
• Conducted secret operations
supporting the Mujahideen
using the CIA
US President Jimmy
Carter, 1976-1980
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
• The war dragged on for ten
• Ended February 15, 1989,
when Soviet Union pulled
out under the leadership of
Mikhail Gorbachev
• 14,543 Soviets killed
• 80,000 Mujahideen killed
• Countless billions spent
Soviet troops exiting Afghanistan
Soviet-Afghanistan War:
• Leonid Brezhnev died in November,
1982 and was succeeded by Yuri
• Andropov wanted to reform USSR’s
economy and overhaul the Party with
younger, economic-reform minded
• Afghan-Soviet War worsened and was
an ongoing distraction
• Soviet-US relations suffered when
USSR shot down a Korean Airlines
flight that strayed into Soviet airspace
Yuri Andropov (1982-1984)
• Andropov died in February, 1984
replaced by Konstantin Chernenko
• Chernenko a die-hard Brezhnev
follower and ended the Andropovera reforms
• Chernenko died in March, 1985
and had very little impact on the
Soviet Union
Konstantin Chernenko (1984-1985)
• Gorbachev was selected within hours
of Chernenko’s death to be General
Secretary of the Communist Party
• Upon taking office, Gorbachev
promised to reform the economy, citing
labor, productivity and scientific and
technological changes in industry
• Gorbachev called for “New Thinking,”
for foreign policy emphasizing
international cooperation over Leninist
beliefs of capitalist/communist conflict
Mikhail Gorbachev, 1985-1991
• Perestroika translates to Rebuilding
and was directed most specifically at
the Soviet economy
• Allowed plant managers more
control; allowed profits to be kept by
workers/managers; allowed business
to set prices and wages
• In first years, Perestroika led to rapid
inflation disorganization in the
Gorbachev: Perestroika
• Glasnost translates to “Public Voicing”
was a policy that increased the flow of
information from the government,
publicized historical government
corruption and inefficiency
• Glasnost allowed people to speak out –
the government no longer controlled all
• Glasnost was ignored when the
Chernobyl power plant exploded (1986)
– this undermined both Gorbachev and
• Glasnost contributed to the break up of
the Soviet Union
• Annonunced in January, 1987,
Demokratizatsiya translates to
democratization and transformed the
government toward democracy with
multi-candidate elections (not multiparty)
• By August of 1987, 47 informal political
parties (neformaly) had formed
• By early 1988 over 30,000 neformaly
• Ultimately led to multi-party elections
Gorbachev: his policies
and Eastern Europe
Poland and Solidarity
Reform: Czechoslovakia
and the Velvet Revolution
the Fall of the Berlin Wall

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