The Former Soviet Union (1917-1989)

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Presentation Outline. Nations of the Soviet Union. Legitimacy in the Soviet Union. Political Institutions. The Command Economy. Gorbachev’s reforms (perestroika, glasnost, and . novoye. . mneniya. ID: 368825 Download Presentation

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The Former Soviet Union (1917-1989)

Presentation Outline. Nations of the Soviet Union. Legitimacy in the Soviet Union. Political Institutions. The Command Economy. Gorbachev’s reforms (perestroika, glasnost, and . novoye. . mneniya.

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The Former Soviet Union (1917-1989)

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The Former Soviet Union (1917-1989)


Presentation Outline

Nations of the Soviet Union

Legitimacy in the Soviet Union

Political Institutions

The Command Economy

Gorbachev’s reforms (perestroika, glasnost, and




The collapse of the Soviet Union


1) Nations of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was a federal state with 15 republics in total

However, in reality it was run by the Communist Party and administered centrally from Moscow




A multi -nation state


Russians were the largest nation within the Soviet Union, though they only made up just over half the population. Russian was also the official language of the Soviet Union.


2) Legitimacy in the Soviet Union

Charismatic legitimacy

Attempt at rational-legal legitimacy


Charismatic legitimacy

Stalin created a cult of personality. He had complete control over the media and press and portrayed himself as the wise and caring leader.

Soviet citizens were forced to worship Stalin, Some did so genuinely, while others did so out of fear. Nonetheless, even after his death , and despite his ruthlessness, he is still rated quite favorably by Russians even today.

Ruled from 1927-1953


Propaganda posters which fueled the cult of personality




Stalin supporters marching in Moscow’s Red Square in 2010


Attempts at rational-legal legitimacy


1936 Constitution

guaranteed freedom of religion, the right to work, rest, and leisure, the right to health, and the right to education

In practice, the right to work, education, and health were realized

All Soviet citizens were guaranteed employment and all were provided free state medical care

Freedom of religion was not fully practiced in the Soviet Union- Churches, mosques, and synagogues remained closed throughout the 1950s and 1960s


Elections in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was officially a one party communist state

Nevertheless, there were

regular elections

to the Soviet Assembly from 1936-1991

In order to be eligible to run candidates had to be nominated by the Communist Party


The results of the 1979 Legislative elections show that the Communist Party won 549/767 seats, a large majority. It was possible to vote for “independent” candidates as long as they did not belong to another political party.

Were these really competitive elections?


Soviet citizens voting in a non-competitive election


3) Political Institutions

The Communist Party

The Soviet Legislative Assembly

(The Supreme Soviet)

The Politburo (Central Committee)


Real power resided with the Communist Party and the Central Committee


The Communist Party

The Party controlled all three branches of the government, all interest group activity, and supervised elections. All access to power was through the Party. The Party used


to nominate and choose Party members for promotion.


The Supreme Soviet

The Supreme Soviet was a

rubber stamp legislature

with little real power. The decisions were made by the Central Committee.


The Politburo (Central Committee)

Members of the


salute during a military parade. The politburo consisted of 15 top party officials who ran the Central Committee. The

General Secretary

of the Communist Party was the head of the politburo.

All major policy decisions were made by this group.


4) The Command Economy

The Soviet economy was

centrally planned

in Moscow

Full employment was assured and the government set production


(how much should be produced)

The emphasis was on

heavy industry

such as steel and coal



Soviet steel workers


Consequences of a command economy

Limited choice of consumer goods: Soviet car below (1975)

Above: bread lines were common during the Soviet Union as

production was


connected to demand



There were often bare shelves and little selection in Soviet supermarkets.


5) Gorbachev’s reforms

Mikhail Gorbachev

became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. He was young reformer who wanted to democratize and improve the Soviet Union. Little did he know at the time that his reforms would unravel the Soviet empire.


“novoye mneniya”new thinkingIncreased communication with Western powersIncreased arms reduction

“glasnost”opennessAllowed free speech and open debate in newspapers, discussions and gatheringsAllowed publication of facts about Stalinist regime

“perestroika”restructuringAllowed limited free enterpriseAttempted to reform state enterprises towards greater efficiencyCreated an elected legislature with real power

The three big reforms


6) The collapse of the Soviet Union

Gorbachev’s reforms had gone too far too quickly

The Soviet Union was rapidly losing legitimacy

One by one the major republics of the Soviet Union began declaring their independence and separating

Communist hardliners staged a coup to get rid of Gorbachev


Ukrainians demonstrating in the streets demanding independence from the Soviet Union. This was confirmed by


in 1991.


Backed by the people, former Communist party member

Boris Yeltsin

declares a new democratic Russian republic in 1991.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991:

15 separate states!