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An Unreformable System


In the Soviet society, great changes occurred in the two postwar generations, with the move to the cities and the rise of educational levels and standards of living. By the late 1980s, a new Russian urban culture had formed, founded on a large professional class, largely free of ideology and potentially supportive of liberal political values. In the economy, powerful interest groups had emerged that increasingly vied with the party bodies for control over policy in their area. In the republics and regions, local administrative and intellectual elites had substantially increased their political weight and cultural autonomy. The country was in need of Western-type democratic structures and new economic patterns that would be capable of channeling and accommodating the new interests and creating conditions for the forces of modernity to develop further.

However, despite some modifications to the Soviet political and economic systems following Stalins departure and spanning the period of thirty years until the advent of Gorbachev, the fundamental nature of the regime remained practically unchanged. The party-state continued to claim a monopoly on power and strove to control the entire sociopolitical order.

By the end of Gorbachevs perestroika, the regimes unreformability had become patently obvious. It proved incapable of providing leadership during the period of a radical transformation of the existing social relations, political structures, and ideological doctrines. The system of centralized planning proved inadequate for a modern economy. Mounting economic problems pushed the republics toward secession, bringing local elites and populations to the conviction that only by freeing themselves from the failed and seemingly unreformable system would they be able to find a way out of the Soviet impasse. As a result, in 1991 the Soviet authoritarian regime, like its autocratic predecessor in 1917, collapsed like a house of cards.

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The Soviet Period


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
Brezhnev's Stagnation
The Economy in Crisis
Political Reform
The USSR's Collapse

Models of Soviet Power

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