Thirty years without USSR: Why did it disappear, why is it still alive? IPN debate

On December 8, it is 30 years of the signing of the Belovejsk Agreement by which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was liquidated as a state and as an international law subject. However by all signs, the USSR continues to live in the memory and hopes of a part of the population of the former states. Conventionally, these categories are called “nostalgic for the USSR”. The reasons and significance of such a state of affairs were discussed by the experts invited to a public debate titled “Thirty years without the USSR:  Why did it disappear, why is it still “alive”?“ that was hosted by IPN News Agency.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN‘s project said the USSR appeared shortly after the Bourgeois Revolution of February 1917, after the abdication of Tsar Nicolas II. After the events witnessed during many years, there was adopted the first Constitution of the Soviet Union that proclaimed the dictatorship of the proletariat. The separation of powers in the state was absent and a totalitarian political regime was this way established. “The new Constitution adopted in 1939 allegedly extended the rights of citizens to choose directly the administrative bodies. However, as I noted, a totalitarian regime was established in the Soviet Union,” stated Igor Boțan.

The expert said that a number of stages followed, the last being the short period of gerontocracy and the coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev who proclaimed the perestroika – complete restructuring of life in the Soviet Union. “At the 19th conference of June-July 1988, there was adopted a very important decision – the resolution concerning democratization of sociopolitical life in the Soviet Union – that allowed pluralism and ended the domination of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that, according to Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution, was “the leading and guiding force of Soviet society”. The appearance of pluralism triggered national renaissance processes in a series of Soviet republics, primarily the Baltic countries and the states of South Caucasus. All the phenomena taken together led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union,” explained Igor Boțan.

Political commentator Anatol Țăranu, Doctor of History, said that when we speak about the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we refer to the collapse of a socioeconomic system that was called ‘Socialist’ and that had the most exact expression in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union or the Socialist system was the first globalist model proposed to human civilization. “The history of civilization knows a lot of imperial parties that existed in time, but this Soviet empire was a first globalist pretension,” noted the commentator. According to him, history showed that this was a utopian project.

Anatol Țăranu said the Soviet Union was really an empire built on the ruins of the tsarist empire. “And this empire was multinational and this was the cause of its fall. When perestroika – an attempt to reform the system from down to up – started, its architects didn’t suspect that the main driving force of this reform, which swiftly turned into a real revolution, will constitute a national emancipation movement all over the empire. They didn’t anticipate this. They considered the economic system will be reformed only so that it became more attractive from social viewpoint. It ultimately turned out that the freedom adored by a lot of people as a political benefit was suppressed by the national renaissance demands. This element of the Soviet empire – multinationalism – dynamited from inside the empire and led to its collapse,” started Anatol Țăranu.

Veaceslav Ioniță, economic expert of the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives “Viitorul”, said the people recall many positive things about the Soviet Union. “A myth that continues to exist and that should be explained to the citizens is that we became poor not because the Soviet Union fell apart and the relations ended. The Soviet Union fell because its economic system collapsed. It should be clear that its economic system led to the ruining of the Soviet Union. When things go well, they continue going well. When they go bad... In such conditions, each country of the Soviet Union considered that it was wronged in relation to the others, that it is robbed by the Center and everyone wanted to save oneself. Actually, this national element of separate national salvation of each nation was generated by the collapse of the economic system,” stated Veaceslav Ioniță.

According to him, from economic viewpoint, everything went well in the Soviet Union until 1970-1975 and then things started to worsen and this fact was felt by the population. “From that moment, the so-called reform started and particular actions followed gradually. However, even if the people received more money, they didn’t have something extra and this situation was informally called by experts “hidden inflation”. This meant that the prices didn’t rise, but there were no goods,” said Veaceslav Ioniță, noting that the economic collapse of the Soviet Union started in 1989-1990 and persisted. The collapse in Moldova was felt most seriously given the then structure of the economy and continued until 2000. The recovery lasts and at least five more years are needed to reach that point.

The head of the Center of Scientific Research in Psychology Ștefan Popov said the man in Soviet society was perceived a simple tool that reflects society as a mirror. “The man didn’t have personality, individuality and the feelings, emotions and beliefs of this didn’t stem from inside, but from outside. This way, the conviction of the Soviet ideologists was that if you change society, you change the individual. According to the Soviet psychologists, there was no unconsciousness. Everything was at the level of conscience. Restively, the citizen can be easily programed, as they believed. Conditional psychology in which the man is perceived as a robot developed significantly. What does it happen here? The personality of the individual, their autonomy and individuality is mostly eliminated and this leads to a huge inner conflict,” explained the psychologist. 

He noted that everything that happened in the Soviet period represented considerable repression of inner instincts and the Soviet citizen was primarily nil neurotically, which is this mostly lived with significant negation and emotional repression. This fact is shown in Soviet films. When the reform of Gorbachev as regards Glasnost somehow created a fissure that enabled the social and psychological conscience to assert itself, this small fissure was enough for what was suppressed to explode. Respectively, the citizens could not support this induced feeling as they could not say that they were happy. Consequently, psychological factors influenced the economy,” stated Ștefan Popov. According to him, standardization cannot be applied in an economy that should develop based on innovation or creativity or it stagnates.

The public debate “Thirty years without USSR:  Why did it disappear, why it is still alive?“ is the 216th of the series of debates “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. IPN’s project is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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