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The End of Bipolarity | Class 12 Political Science

The chapter introduces students to the soviet system and the disintegration of the USSR. It also highlights the eastern and western alliance: Warsaw And NATO. The chapter also describes the shock therapy and its consequences.



The Berlin Wall And the unification of "Germany"

In 1989, the people of Berlin took down the Berlin Wall, which had been constructed during the Cold War and served as its most enduring symbol.

The wall was built in 1961 to separate East Berlin from West Berlin, in order to create a division between the capitalist and communist worlds.

The event was followed by one of the most dramatic events of history; the collapse of the second world and the end of the cold war.

As a result of this dramatic event in history, the Cold war came to an end. A similar dramatic and historic sequence followed shortly after the second world war.

After the Second World War, Germany was unified. The German Democratic Republic became part of the Federal Republic of Germany to form the reunited nation of Germany.

Also, the "Eight East European members" of the Soviet Bloc experienced mass demonstrations against the communist regimes and their governments were overthrown.

Eventually, the Union of soviet socalist republic or Soviet union fell apart on its own.

The Soviet System

What was the Soviet System?

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) was formed after Russia's socalist revolution in 1917. The revolution was sparked by socialist ideals and the desire for a more equal society as opposed to capitalism.

The system believed in the abolishment of private property and the creation of a society based on equality. The designers of the system; the state and the party designed it in such a way that they acquired prominence among them all.

The Soviet system was entirely dominated by the communist party, with no room for any other players. Also, the existing government had a firm grip on the economy too, as they dictated every aspect of it.

The East European countries that were liberated by the soviet army during World War II got annexed by the USSR just after the war. All of these countries were also very much influenced by the political and the economic system of the Soviet Union.

The countries in this bloc were collectively referred to as the "Second World" having the Soviet Union as their de facto leader. All of these countries were held together by a military alliance named 'Warsaw Pact'.

Why did the USSR pose as a significant global player?

The Soviet Union rose to prominence as a major global player after the second world war. The soviet economy was advancing at a much higher rate than the rest of the world, except the economy of the United states.

The resources such as oil, iron and steel were abundant in the country, and the manufacturing sector produced machinery and transported goods to and from the country's outlying areas with efficiency.

Resources like oil, iron , steel were abundant in the country, and the manufacturing sector also produced machinery and transported goods efficiently. Consumer products ranged from pins to cars, but the quality lacked the rigour of Western capitalist countries in this area.

The soviet state also ensured a minimum standard of living for all citizens and the government subsidised basic necessities such as health care. There was no shortage of job opportunities.

How did the soviet state become increasingly oppressive?

The soviet state also controlled the land and other productive assets which was a dominant form of ownership. The life of an average citizen became increasingly bureaucratic and oppressive, there was a lack of democracy and freedom of speech which often manifested itself in jokes and cartoons.

All institutions were tightly controlled by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was not answerable to the people. There was a party that refused to acknowledge the desire of people in all fifteen Soviet republics, including the arts, to run their own affairs.

However, despite the fact that the Soviet Union was composed of fifteen republics on paper, Russia ruled the country and the rest of the world felt left out and even oppressed.

The Soviet Union was able to keep up with the United States in the arms race on occasion, but at great expense.

Technologically, in terms of infrastructure (such as transportation and power), and most importantly in terms of fulfilling citizens' political and economic aspirations, the Soviet Union lagged far behind the West.

This system was further weakened by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Despite rising wages, productivity and technology in the developing world lagged far behind those in the developed world.

As a result, there were shortages of just about everything for the general public. Imports of food have risen steadily over time. By the end of the 1970s, the Soviet economy was in free fall and had all but collapsed.

Gorbachev & The Disintegration

Who was Makhail Gorbachev?

Mikhail Gorbachev was the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1985. Amid this chaos happening in the union , sought to reform the soviet system. The reforms were required to keep the USSR up to date with the information and technological revolutions occurring in the West.

Gorbachev introduced economic and political reform policies of Perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost (openness).

  • Perestroika originally referred to increased automation and labour efficiency

  • Glasnost refers to the policy or practice of more open consultative government and wider dissemination of information.

There were some unintended consequences of Gorbachev's decision to normalise relations with Western countries while also democratically reforming the USSR. As a result of the Soviet Union's control over Eastern Europe, people began to protest. These changes adversely affected the crisis of the USSR.

There was some opposition towards these reforms as some top communist leaders opposed Gorbachev's reforms. A political coup. was also aided in 1991 by the hardline communist party.

The primary issue was that the people had already tasted the fruit of freedom and did not want to return to old style communist party rule. Boris Yelstin, opposed the coup widely which resulted in his win in the Russian Election.

The decentralisation of the Russian government also began under Yelstin.

Europeanized Union

The Soviet Union became more Europeanized during the cold war, and the power shifted from Moscow to the republics. On the other hand, Instead of demanding independence, the Central Asian republics wanted to stay in the USSR.

Three major republics of the USSR declared their dissolution under the leadership of Yelstin in 1991. There was a complete ban on the soviet communists. Also, the post soviet economies and governments structured themselves on a scale of capitalism and democracy.

There was a set back across the world especially in the region of central asia when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was announced.

The CIS quickly resolved the issue of these countries being excluded by making them founding members. Also, Russia gained international legitimacy and replaced the USSR on the UN Security council.

Russia ratified all of the USSR's international treaties. It was the only nuclear power in post-Soviet space, and it cooperated with the US on nuclear disarmament.

As a result, the USSR was declared extinct.

Why Did The Soviet Union Disintegrate?

The collapse of the soviet union was unquestionably caused by internal weaknesses in its political and economic structure that failed to meet people's expectations.

The economic stagnation that persisted for the longest time resulted in severe shortages for soviet consumers, and a large segment of society began to doubt the system openly.

The soviet economy also diverted significant resources to keep its military and nuclear arsenal operational and expand its influence in Eastern Europe, which slammed the soviet economy.

Ordinary people became more aware of the West's economic progress as well. These people were aware of the differences in systems between theirs and the Western ones.

The people experienced a political and psychological shock because through many years they were being told that the Soviet system was superior to Western capitalism.

As far as administration and politics were concerned, the Soviet Union had reached a standstill.

During the Soviet Union's 70-year rule, the Communist Party was not accountable to the people.

In the eyes of the general public, the government was slow and stifling because of widespread corruption, the system's inability to correct mistakes it had made, and a reluctance to allow greater transparency.

Ordinary citizens lost out to the party bureaucrats in terms of privileges. People lost faith in the government as a result of their disillusionment with the system and the rulers.

Gorbachev's Reforms

Gorbachev promised economic reform, Western integration, and administrative reform. It was nearly impossible to control Gorbachev's reforms and loosening of the system once they were put in motion.

A significant portion of Soviet society thought Gorbachev should have moved more quickly and was dissatisfied with his approach.

There was a lack of or a lag in the benefits that they had anticipated. The opposite was held by others, particularly Communist Party members and those in the system's employ.

The impression was that Gorbachev was moving too quickly and their privileges and power were being eroded.

There was a tug of war due to which Gorbachev was betrayed by allies and opponents alike. Even his supporters lost faith in him because they thought he failed to adequately defend his own policies.

Most observers and even many insiders were surprised by a development that may have prevented the Soviet Union from collapsing.

Rise of Nationalism

Rising nationalism and a desire for self-determination among the former Soviet republics, such as Russia, the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Ukraine, Georgia and others, was the final and most immediate reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

There are multiple opinions of this. For some, Soviet nationalism was a constant force throughout the country's history, and whether or not reforms had taken place, it would have triggered a civil war within the country. This is a historical "what-if," but given the size and diversity of the Soviet Union and its growing internal problems, it is surely not unreasonable.

Alternatively, some people believe that after the Gorbachev revolution, nationalist dissatisfaction only grew and grew until it was uncontrollable.

Consequences of Disintegration

What were the consequences of the disintegration of the USSR?

The soviet and socialist system in Eastern Europe fell apart, with far-reaching consequences for world politics. It brought about three major types of long-term changes with had the following effects:

First, it signalled the end of hostilities during the Cold War. The ideological debate over the superiority of a socialist system over a capitalist one ended.

  • There was an ultimate need to put the arms race to an end and establish a new peace order to end the military bloc that was created.

Second, the balance of power took a shift in international politics, also affecting the relative weight of ideas and institutions. The world was left with only two options after the end of the Cold war, either a unipolar system would be created by the lone remaining super power or different countries and groups of countries could become significant players in the international system, bringing about an eventual multipolar system in which no single power can dominate.

  • Capitalism emerged as the world's dominant economic system due to the clout and reputation of the United States.

  • The organisations like the World Bank & International Monetary Fund have become important advisors to all of the newly developing countries as these institutions provided them with loans to help them make the transition to capitalism.

Third, the dissolution of the Soviet Union ushered in a slew of new nations. All of these nations had their own unique goals and preferences. In particular, the Baltic and Eastern European states desired to join the European Union and join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation).

The Central Asian countries sought to maintain close ties with Russia while also building new relationships with the West, because of their geographical location.

Shock Therapy In Post Communist Regimes

What is Shock Therapy?

Shock therapy aims to increase economic output, employment rates, and living standards by shocking people into action. It refers to a painful transition from an authoritarian socialist system to a democratic capitalist one following the fall of communism in the majority of the countries of the soviet bloc.

In Russia, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe, the World Bank and the IMF's model of transition was known as shock therapy. Although the intensity and speed of shock therapy varied among the former third world countries, its direction and features remained remarkably consistent.

It meant that private ownership of property would take over as the most common form of ownership.

Government asset privatisation and changes to corporate ownership were both on the table right away. Private farming and agricultural capitalism were supposed to take the place of cooperative farms.

This shift ruled out any other option besides a socialist or capitalist system controlled by the state. Shock therapy also entailed a significant shift in these economies' external orientation.

Because more trade was expected to drive development, it was deemed necessary to make a sudden and complete switch to free trade.

It was hoped that the free trade agreement (FTA) and FDI would be the main drivers of change. Foreign investment, financial opening, and currency convertibility were all part of this.

Finally, the soviet bloc broke up their existing trade alliances as a part of the transition resulting in that the the bloc me

As a result, the bloc's member states were no longer interconnected. As a result, the Western economic system was to gradually absorb these countries. As a result, the capitalist states of the West rose to the position of leadership and used various agencies and organisations to direct and control the development of the region.

Consequences of Shock Therapy

What are the consequences of shock therapy?

People were not led to the promised utopia of mass consumption by the shock therapy used in the 1990s. It wreaked havoc on the economies and devastated the lives of the people throughout the region.

Russia's massive state-controlled industrial complex was on the verge of disintegrating after 90% of its industries were sold to private individuals and corporations.

Entire industries vanished as the restructuring was driven by the market, rather than industrial policies set by the government. Undervalued industries were sold for throwaway prices at what was dubbed "the world's largest garage sale".

However, despite the fact that all citizens were given vouchers to participate in sales, the majority of citizens turned to the black market to raise cash. The ruble's value dropped precipitously against the dollar.

People's savings were wiped out by skyrocketing inflation. Also, due to the collapse of the collective farm system, people in Russia lost their source of food and began to import it.

Russia's real GDP in 1999 was less than half of what it was in 1989, according to official figures. There was no replacement for the previous trading structure, which fell apart.

Welfare System

The previous social welfare system had been dismantled piecemeal.

Many people fell into poverty as a result of the government's decision to stop providing subsidies. Affluent individuals were pushed out of the centre of society, while the workforce's academic and intellectual base withered or migrated.

In the majority of these countries, a mafia arose and began to exert control over numerous economic activities. As a result of privatisation, there are now more inequities.

Russia, as well as other former Soviet states, was split down the middle between prosperous and impoverished regions. In contrast to the previous system, the economic disparity between the rich and the poor had widened.

Economic transformation was given more attention and priority than democratic institution building. All of these countries' constitutions were rushed to completion, and most of them, including Russia, included a strong executive president with broad powers that left elected parliaments in a weak position.

Presidents in Central Asia wielded enormous authority, and a number of them grew increasingly authoritarian. Turkish and Uzbek leaders, for example, appointed themselves as presidents for ten years, then extended their terms. They didn't tolerate any criticism or disagreement.

Most of these countries had not yet developed a judicial culture or established the independence of the judiciary. Around ten years after their independence, most of these economies, especially Russia's, began to grow again in the year 2000.

The export of natural resources like oil, natural gas, and minerals was a major factor in the recovery of most of these countries' economies. Countries like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are major suppliers of oil and gas, as well as Uzbekistan.

These oil pipelines pass through other countries' territory, bringing them revenue. Manufacturing has partially resumed in some areas.

Tensions And Conflicts

Many former Soviet republics have faced civil wars and insurgencies. Also, the increased involvement of the foreign powers complicated the matter further.

Russian republics Chechnya and Dagestan have seen bloody secessionist uprisings. Many human rights violations have resulted from Moscow's strategy of indiscriminate military bombing against the Chechen rebels, despite their aspirations for independence.

Tajikistan was the scene of a ten-year civil war in Central Asia until 2001, there is a lot of sectarian conflict in the region. Also, some Armenians in the Azerbaijani province of Nagorno-Karabakh were considering secession.

The demand for independence from two provinces triggered a civil war in Georgia.

All of this has led to instability, making life difficult for the average citizen.

On the other hand in the Central Asian Republics, the Hydrocarbons have benefited economically. Also, foreign powers and oil companies are fighting for control of Central Asia. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and China are nearby.

After the September 11 attacks, the US sought military bases in Central Asia and paid all Central Asian governments to hire bases and allow planes to fly over their territory during the Afghan and Iraq wars.

For Russia, these countries are part of its "Near Abroad" and should be influenced.

Because of the oil resources, China has begun to establish settlers and traders along the borders.

Czechoslovakia peacefully split into two countries in Eastern Europe.

The Yugoslav republics saw the most bloodshed. After the breakup in 1991, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence. Non-Serb Bosnians were massacred due to ethnic Serb opposition.

Following the interethnic civil war, NATO bombed Yugoslavia.

India And The Post Communist Regimes

All the post-communist countries have good relations with India. However, relations between Russia and India remain the most positive. India's foreign policy is heavily influenced by its relations with Russia.

Relations between India and Russia are rooted in mutual trust and shared interests, and this is reflected in public perceptions.

In Russia and many former Soviet countries, Indian heroes like Raj Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan are well-known. Hindi film songs can be heard all over the region, and India is well-remembered.

Russia and India are both proponents of a world order with multiple superpowers.

It means the coexistence of multiple powers in the international system, collective security (in which an attack on any country is viewed as a threat to all countries and necessitates collective response), increased regionalism, negotiation of international conflicts resolutions, an independent foreign policy for all countries, and decision-making through international organisations like the UN that should be strengthened, democratised, and empowered.

As part of the 2001 Indo-Russian Strategic Agreement, India and Russia have signed more than 80 bilateral agreements.

There are many areas where India's relationship with Russia will be beneficial to it in the future, including Kashmir, energy supplies, the exchange of information on international terrorism, and access to Central Asia. India is Russia's second-largest arms market, so the two countries have a lot in common.

The majority of the military equipment used by the Indian armed forces comes from Russia.

Due to India's dependence on Russian oil imports, Russia plays an important role in the country's foreign policy. Also, despite a lot of sanctions on Russia amid the Russian- Ukraine war India continued to buy oil from Russian Markets.

Indian officials are working to increase the country's reliance on Russian, Kazakhstani, and Turkmenistan-produced energy. Partnerships and investments in oilfields are part of the cooperation with these countries.

For India's nuclear energy plans, Russia is critical, and it has aided India's space industry by providing the cryogenic rocket when it was needed.

There have been numerous scientific projects in which Russia and India have worked together successfully.

Leaders Of The Soviet Union

Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007):

The first elected President of Russia (1991- 1999).

  • Rose to power in the Communist Party and was made the Mayor of Moscow by Gorbachev.

  • He later joined the critics of Gorbachev and left the Communist Party and also led the protests against the Soviet regime in 1991.

  • He had also played a key role in dissolving the Soviet Union. Blamed for hardships suffered by Russians in their transition from communism to capitalism.

Mikhail Gorbachev (Born 1931):

Last leader of the Soviet Union (1985-91)

  • Introduced economic and political reform policies of perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost(openness).

  • He stopped the arms race with the US

  • Ended the Cold War.

  • Blamed for the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Leonid Brezhnev (1906-82) :

Leader of the Soviet Union (1964- 82)

  • He proposed the Asian Collective Security system.

  • He was associated with the détente phase in relations with the US.

  • Involved in suppressing a popular rebellion in Czechoslovakia and in invading Afghanistan.

Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971):

Leader of the Soviet Union (1953-64).

  • He denounced Stalin’s leadership style and introduced some reforms in 1956.

  • Also, suggested “peaceful coexistence” with the West.

  • Involved in suppressing the popular rebellion in Hungary and in the Cuban missile crisis.

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953):

Successor to Lenin and led the Soviet Union during its consolidation (1924-53).

  • He began rapid industrialisation and forcible collectivisation of agriculture.

  • Credited with Soviet victory in the Second World War.

  • He was held responsible for the Great Terror of the 1930s, authoritarian functioning and elimination of rivals within the party.

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924):

Founder of the Bolshevik Communist party.

  • leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the founder-head of the USSR during the most difficult period following the revolution (1917-1924).

  • He was an outstanding theoretician and practitioner of Marxism and a source of inspiration for communists all over the world.


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