The so-called "Freedom" in Culture
The period of 1985-1991 in the realm of education, science and culture is hard for a simple, one-term characteristic. In education changes began to occur since 1988. Before that time things developed in traditions of the "age of come-down and stagnation". Bright, talented teachers different from the grey majority, weren't able to avert the fall of educational level. School and higher educational institutions produced fewer and fewer specialist really prepared for work in the country's national economy.
In attempt to correct the current situation, the country's administration acted in two main directions: gradually weakened its petty, fussy custody over the education system and raised salary for teachers. But educational process didn't improve as a result of those steps, since the teachers were the same, and the main bulk of them couldn't readjust themselves quickly and effectively. Deficiency of teachers sharpened, as they began to leave school for commerce businesses of different kind, where income was very much higher. Again, youth's interest to acquiring education seriously decreased.
Top-qualification specialist outflow from the USSR became a serious problem. Overseas they got a far and away better conditions for life and work. Attempts to soften the situation were undertaken by means of introducing an alternative educational system. Gymnasiums, lyceums, colleges and even universities of new type began to appear. But they were set up as a rule on the base of former schools, technicums and institutes and universities, so often they didn't give anything new except the new name.
The same processes took place in science. While applied sciences developed in some way or other, fundamental ones, which had always been pride of the country, happened to be on the jejune diet. During the second half of the 80-s there were practically no serious discoveries, and the leading branches like space research area, nuclear physics, molecular biology and others, hardly maintained the achieved in previous period level.
Noticeable changes began to occur in Fiction literature and Art. It was a good event, that works of writers, who had left the country a number of years before, began to be published and were available on the book shop shelves. Among them N.Berdayev, V.Solovyev, historians D.Merezhkovsky and M.Aldanov, writers I.Bunin and V.Nabokov and others could be mentioned. In the second half of the 80-s there appeared an entire galaxy of rather interesting artists in different branches of Art.
In many cities number of theatrical ateliers increased greatly. Movie films were for the first time on, in which not only typical drawbacks of Socialism were openly criticised, but also spiritual content of historical and ethic processes were thought over. First of all T. Abduladze's films should be mentioned here in this context. It became much easier for overseas products of culture, especially video films, to penetrate into the USSR. But on the whole cultural "index" of the population went down. Professional level of many plays, films, entertaining programmes, fiction, poetry and Art began to fall down also.
By the late 80-s pornography, sex, violence had become the most profitable, and that means, the most wide-spread so to speak "culture" products. Culture products of very low quality began to arrive; very rare outstanding works hardly ever came to the Soviet Union.
A significant phenomenon of that time: an incredible strengthening of the East and West religions and churches. Mass devotion to astrology, magic, enchantment began. This led to sometimes rather serious negative effects.
The Putsch of August, 1991
Since 1989 power of the party and state nomenclature steadily weakened. New commercial and political structures slowly but surely gain force. All that provoked open and hidden protest of the ruling "class". Threat of signing on August 22, 1991 a new Union agreement that had been worked out in the process of the USSR republics representatives in Novo-Ogaryevo (Moscow suburbs) was the last drop. According to that agreement the republics-members of the new Soviet Union, would enjoy broader and better rights; the centre was to be converted from ruling into barely coordination one. In reality only defence, finance, internal affairs and partially tax and social policy questions would remain in the hands of the new Union administration. A number of republics refused to sign even that, liberal enough agreement (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia)
In order to burke signing the agreement and save their power credentials, part of the top-level party and state administration memebers tried to take the power in their hands. On August 19, 1991 a State of Emergency was announced. Troops and tanks were brought into the streets of Moscow and a number of big cities. All the central papers aside from the Pravda, the Izvestiya, the Trud and some others, were prohibited; all the television programmes quit their work, to the exclusion of the 1-st channel, and almost all the radio stations. Functioning of all the parties , except the CPSU, were arrested.
At the head of the overturn there stood the so-called "Federal Committee on the State of Emergency", namely:
1. Yanayev, the USSR president care-taker, a CPSU Central Committee member.
2. Baklanov, the USSR Defence Soviet Chairman First deputy.
3. Kruchkov, the USSR KGB Chairman .
4. Pavlov, the USSR Prime-minister.
5. Pugo, the USSR Minister for internal affairs.
6. Starodubtsev, the USSR Peasant's Union Chairman.
7. Yazov, the USSR Minister for Defence.
8. Tizyakov, the President of Federal Production Units Association .
The Federal Committee on the State of Emergency saw the main task as follows: to restore the former, before-1985 situation in the USSR, that is to eliminate many-party system, commercial structures, in destroying rudiments of democracy.
The USSR's main political adversary was the Russian Federation administration. The brunt was directed against it. Troops were concentrated round the Russia Federation Supreme Soviet Building (the Beliy House), which were to capture the building, to disperse the Parliament and to arrest the most active participants. But the overturn collapsed. The country's population generally refused to support the Committee, and the Army didn't want to use force against their fellow citizens. Already on August, 20 barricades grew around the White House on which there stood thousands, and a part of the troops' soldiers and officers went over to the defensive side.
Overseas the event was accepted very negatively. Multiple voices to quit aid for the USSR were heard.
The overturn was planned and prepared very badly. Already on August, 22 it suffered a defeat, and the members of the Committee were arrested. Three Beliy House defenders perished in the August 19-21 events.
Right after the Putch defeat practically in all big cities of the country mass demonstrations against CPSU took place, which was a convenient excuse for arresting activities of the CPSU all over the country. At the direction of Boris Eltsin, the President of the Russia Federation, buildings of CPSU Central Committee, regional and local committees, the party archives were all locked and sealed. Since August 23, 1991 the USSR CPSU did not exist any longer as a reining state structure.
Simultaneously with quitting the CPSU activity, again at the direction of the President Eltsin a number of newspapers were temporarily closed. In September all the Union republics, which hadn't declared about their independence and sovereignty, made the declarations.
After the August, 1991 events the importance of the Supreme Soviet and People's Deputies Congresses came to naught. The regular congress of USSR People's Deputies (August-September, 1991) was the last one. It declared about its dissolution. In September-November, 1991 weak attempts were undertaken to block final economic and political collapse of the already "former" Soviet Union. The work went in two directions: setting up economic union and formation of new political relations.
In September Inter-republican Union on Economy was set up, headed by I. Silayev. The biggest success of this foundation was preparation of economic agreement, which was signed by nine republics: Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Belorussia, Azerbaidgan, Turkmenia, Uzbekistan, Tadgikistan, Kirgiziya, Kazakhstan. The Agreement was a real step towards preventing collapse of the sole economic body.
Disagreements concerning political union were of much more serious sort. Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, Moldavia, Georgia and Armenia refused even from discussions. The first preliminary talks were held only in the second part of November, presidents of the seven republics participated. As a result the presidents came to a conclusion, that it was necessary to establish a new state, on confederative base.
After declaration of independence relations between republics grew more tense, basically because of border questions. A number of nations of the Northern Caucuses, comprising Russian Federation, declared their independence and sovereignty and put forward political and territory demands to Russia Federation, as well as to their neighbouring states. More brightly this happened when Chechnya Republic put forward their claims. Events in Chechnya and in a row of other regions of the Northern Caucasus, the war in South Osetia, all this led by the end of 1991 to the situation of a Civil War.
Economic position of Russia and other states of ex-Soviet Union worsened rapidly in Autumn-Winter of 1991. Inflation sky-rocketed, in October-November the rate of inflation was some 25-30% per month, industry and agricultural output lowered. All this, plus issuing new cash led to the well-known situation, when on the shop shelves there were practically no foodstuffs, no clothes, shoes or other industry products. Problems appeared concerning supplying population with essential commodities: bread, milk, potatoes.
The USSR collapse
Since September, 1991 The Soviet Union in former, traditional sense no longer existed. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia became completely independent, they were recognised by Russia and some other countries. Georgia, Armenia, the Ukraine and Moldavia also urged to go along fully independent road. The remarkable situation of 1917 repeated, when downfall of central political structures, power structure, ruling ideology led to appearance of new centres of power.
In 1991 conditions for the communist empire decomposition happened to be much more favourable. Objectively the conditions had been prepared by Bolsheviks themselves at the time of constructing the USSR: in Soviet ideology the right of the nations for self-determination down to separation was established from the very beginning. The state machinery was based upon formally voluntary, but fixed in the Constitution contractual unification of the "union" (that is belonging to the Union) states. Republican managing bodies were practically the same (in terms of their real credentials) as managing bodies of big regions of the Russian Federation. They had nevertheless all the attributes of federal power bodies.
With crash of the CPSU the power institute, uniting all the power structures of the USSR, disappeared. The USSR's people's Deputy Congress couldn't fulfil that cementing role as the Communist Party did: the Congress was just a superstructure, which didn't have control levers in province. The President of the USSR couldn't fulfil that also, since he had been elected by the same Congress.
A delayed action mine, put under Russia state system at the time of the USSR creation, was to blow up. Centripetal forces, objectively based upon long-term collectivity of the majority of the Russian Empire territories, fixed with powerful integration processes in Soviet time, in concrete socio-political and economic situation on the barrier between 80-s and 90-s happened to be rather weakened. Decomposition in conditions of economic ties crisis, wreck of power structures, of the joint state ideology, at the time of clear guidelines disappearing, perplexity of broad masses of population in the critical situation - all this was a rich soil for political forces, interested in collapse of the USSR as a unified nation.
There weren't influential forces in the Soviets, interested in and capable for retention of the USSR. Available forces and the idea itself had been discredited by the Putch. After its defeat decomposition of the USSR, that had begun in early 80-s, became a snowballing process. The republican power bodies were interested in cardinal redistribution of power credentials for their benefit long before 1991 Autumn. Behind them were interests of local politicians. After the Putch defeat both of them used motto of national independence, some of them in order to gain power, others - to keep it. No one was troubled with objective interests of domestic people, of threat of acute sharpening of economic crisis as the result of the USSR decomposition, of fall of population's life level, of national conflicts inevitability, down to a civil war. Republican power structures were interested in elimination of central political institutions, including the Congress of People's Deputies (and the Supreme Soviet), and in cancelling the post of the USSR President.
Events at the end of 1991 were like the last act of the USSR decomposition political drama. On the I-st of December referendum about the Ukraine future was held. Unlike the previous referendum, on which the majority of inhabitants voted for saving the USSR, that referendum resulted in idea of independence. That meant that the Ukrainian administration received a legal base, and the Ukraine's secession from the USSR became an impulse for final decomposition of the Soviet Union. Gorbatshev's fussy attemts to save the union of republics in that form or other failed: the time was lost, and influence of central power bodies was lost as well.
The Union Agreement of 1822 was denounced by the Ukraine. Positions of other republics was not equal. Belovezhskiy Agreement completed crash of the USSR. On December 8, 1991 in Viskuly (Belorussia leadership residence) leaders of the three Slovenian republics - Russia, the Ukraine and Belorussia, which were state-founders of the USSR, fixed that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as "a subject of international law and geopolitical reality ceases its existence". Simultaneously creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States was declared.
The meeting of the three republics' leaders caused a certain tense in relations with other republics. On December 12 a meeting of the Presidents of Middle Asia and Kazakhstan republics was held in the city of Ashkhabad, where a common position was worked out. On December 21 Alma-Ata Declaration was accepted, in which it was declared that the 11 former Soviet Union republics established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). On December 25 Michael Gorbatshev for the last time, as the President of non-existing state addressed to his people by television.
This was actually the end of the USSR history. Russia became the USSR's cessionary. This was a different state, which constructed its relations with other former republic on an interstate base. The huge conglomerate of peoples broke down, disintegrated. In 1992 a new stage of development began in our country.
M. Gorbachev and "perestroika"
The beginning of the new political course is traditionally linked up with the name of M. Gorbatshev, who in May of 1985 became the General Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee. That very year N. Rizhkov was administered as the Chairman of the Soviet of Ministers.
Two noticeable stages can be accentuated in the "perestroika":
In the structure and machinery of functioning of central and local power bodies (Soviets) there was practically no changes. As always the USSR Supreme Soviet was formally the ultimate power body. Since 1985 through 1988 the place of the Chairman was occupied by A. Gromiko. In October, 1988 M. Gorbatshev was elected to be the Chairman, and A. Lukyanov - the First Deputy.
In province the power still belonged (de jure) to the Soviets of different levels, elected on non-alternative base. The Executive power was in the hands of Executive Committees of the Soviets (on the level of republic - to Soviets of Ministers). It became fashionable to talk about struggle with bureaucratism, about democratisation and glasnost (publicity, openness of information).
Real changes in the power structure began after 1988. On December 1, 1988 the 12-th extraordinary, off-the-schedule USSR Supreme Soviet session issued the law "About changes and additions to the USSR Constitution". The main burden of the law was a change in election system in the country and principles of federal bodies functioning.
Since 1989 the election structure was changed. First of all the obligatory "indestructive bloc of communists and the non-party" was abated. A characteristic feature of the union was that there was one candidate for a place. The elections became alternative and competitive. But quite naturally they exposed full unreadiness of the people and the country for that change in election principles.
As the result of elections on the First Congress of the people's Deputies two main blocs appeared, which remained practically unchanged on the following Congresses: the bloc of Communists and that of Democrats. Bloc of Communists and their supporters had stable majority on People's Deputies' Congresses.
On the First Congress of People's Deputies (May-June of 1989) M. Gorbatshev was elected as the Chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet. A. Lukyanov was elected to be his deputy. The Congress considered the main directions of internal and foreign policy, a programme of the forthcoming activity of the government. The Second Congress of People's Deputies was held on December 12-24, 1989. The Congress passed a number of regulations concerning functioning of the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet of Ministers were elected and validated, as well as members of different comissions and committees.
According to the rules of procedure, confirmed on the First Congress of People's Deputies, the Supreme Soviet was to be called yearly by the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet for two regular sessions of 3-4 months. The First Supreme Soviet Session of 1989 assembling was held on June 7 - August 4 of 1989. Then The Supreme Soviet worked practically incessantly, but for short holidays. In intervals between the Supreme Soviet Sessions Presidium of the Supreme Soviet and constant commissions of various committees and chambers worked.
Activity of the so-called "Inter-regional deputy group" was the most noticeable and significant. The group united the reformatory wing of the CPSU and liberal intelligentuals. This activity in fact came to naught in late August - early September of 1991. Under the vox populi pressing deputies both in the centre and in republics declared about their dismissal and liquidity of the Supreme Soviet in the current membership (as it was elected in 1989). The situation in Supreme Soviets in the Russia Federation and other republics, as well as in local province Soviets, was different. In 1990 in a number of Supreme Soviets of union and autonomous republics being in opposition fo the CPSU, including nationalistic forces came to power. Most of the republics declared sovereignty, others claimed that they were going to become independent in the nearest future.
On the First Congress of People's Deputies (May-June 1990) Boris Eltsin was elected the Chairman, R. Khazbulatov - his first deputy, I. Silayev - the Chairman of the Soviet of Ministers. Constant commissions were elected, basically analogous to the union ones, ministers and chairmen of committees were ratified.
In 1990 May elections were held in autonomous republics and to local Soviets of all levels. As the result of nationalistic forces victory in autonomous republics, many of them announced about their sovereignty and converting into union republics. In Summer and in Autumn of 1990 status of Union Republic acquired Tatarstan, North Osetia, Dagestan, Yakutia and a number of others.
Anti-communistic coloration of the new Soviet administration showed itself most brightly in Moscow and Leningrad, where "Democratic Russia" movement came to power. In Moscow the place of the city Soviet Chairman was occupted by G. Popov, and in Leningrad - A. Sobchak.
The so-called "War of sovereignties" became characteristic feature of the new power - both on republican and local levels. Each Soviet urged to become the ultimate legal and executive body on its level, concentrating maximum credentials, ignoring in many cases subordination. By 1990-1991 functioning of federal elective organs showed, that the Soviet system in the traditional structure wasn't able to perform the tasks of executive and legislative power.
In the structure of executive power the most significant change was introducing the institute of presidency. On march 14, 1990 M. Gorbatshev became the first President of the USSR. Deliberative bodies were in President's hands: the Soviet of Federation and the President's Soviet. The President had a right to make bylaws and regulations with legislative force.
In 1991 presidential elections were held in most of the republics. On June 12, 1991 B. Eltsin was elected the President of Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), and A. Rutskoy - vice-president. For the first time in Russia the leader of the country was elected in direct and secret vote.
In February, 1991 the USSR Soviet of Ministers was renamed into Ministry Cabinet. This was not just a renaming. When previously the Soviet of Ministers obeyed to the Supreme Soviet, after the renaming Ministry Cabinet obeyed President. The Cabinet phased down in August of 1991. Within 1989-1991 vacuum of power kept constantly growing, that vacuum revealed itself most obviously in Summer of 1991.
Very important changes took place in socio-political sphere. Stability and passivity of the main socio-ethnic groups in the country in the mid-80-s changed for activity, down to opposition. A characteristic feature of that time: downfall of CPSU influence, as well of the Communist Youth Union and of the Trade Unions.
Former leadership of the CPSU were blamed in subjectivism, voluntarism, in establishment of cult of the individual, divergence from the general line of the party and in other sins, but as the reality showed soon, that approach was insufficient to make the federal machinery work effectively. That is why another step to democracy was made.
That step was the January, 1987 Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee, after which mass media sphere of activity sharply broadened. The media began to blame not "separate drawbacks", as it was before, but started to criticise social illnesses.
In September, 1987 the CPSU Central Committee Political Bureau set up its own "Commission on additional investigation of materials, connected with the victimisation of 30-s, 40-s and of the early 50-s". Soviet leadership couldn't venture to touch mass repression, organised by the bolshevist party earlier, and blamed Stalin and his relationship. In 1990 and 1991 names of Lenin and his companions were taboo.
On the February 1988 Plenum of the CPSU central Committee it was first announced about "free competition of minds", about "socialist pluralism of opinions".
The years 1989-1990 were a period, when real power began step by step to go away from the hands of the top level leadership. The signs of that process were noticeable in strengthening of influence of non-formal movements, in formation opposition parties. Marksism-Leninism animadversion began. Once united CPSU split up into various groups and fractions.
In late 1990 and the first half of the 1991 part of the top leadership members repeatedly tried to reanimate the party, make mobile and active. In the Supreme Soviets of the USSR and other republics communists made active efforts to block the work of the bodies. In many respects that policy was successful. Culmination of this activity was an attempt of the overturn on August 19-21, 1991.
In 1989, actually for the first time in the USSR, an independent working movement appeared again. This was expressed through strikes in different branches of industry, first of all in coal mining. Trying to prevent downfall of its popularity, a number of Trade Unions supported the demands of the strikers and began to render them assistance.
In informal, that is in non-federal sphere of social movements considerable changes occurred. There appeared political forces and then entire parties standing in opposition to the CPSU. Since 1987 democratic movement began to gain force. Already in 1987 tens of informal organisations appeared, which gradually became politically oriented. It should be mentioned that those groups were rather weak and poorly organised. In 1987 meetings of opposition movements counted not more that some 30-50 participants, but in 1990, for the first time in Moscow, gigantic manifestations took place, up to a million people.
The first independent (that means non-official) newspapers and magazines appeared, as a rule half-legally, in 1987. In 1990, after passing the bill about press the number of independent newspapers and magazines sky-rocketed.
In 1990 again as it was in the 20-s, political parties aside from the CPSU appeared. These were: Democratic Party, Socio-democratic, Liberal, Liberal-Democratic, Chrictian-Democratic parties, Russian people's Front, people's fronts in different regions. Many of those parties were officially registered on republican level as social organisations. In 1991 first all-union parties were registered, the first of which was the CPSU, and the second one - Liberal-Democratic Party. Besides, organisations of different economic and cultural sort.
Swell of economic crisis
In 1985-1988 economic reforms were designed to give a new momentum to the Soviet economics, keeping all the control levers in the hands of the reigning "party-and-federal class".
In 1989 the new law about lease and lease relations was passed in the USSR and the new law about the production unit. Those two laws broadened manufacturer's rights in some way or other. But real changes in economic reform occurred only in 1990, when laws about "the small business", "the joint venture", about "the commercial bank" and "the joint-stock company" appeared. After that the number of non-federal businesses began to go up rapidly.
Gradually federal enterprises and foundations began to convert into private and joint-stock ones of different kind. Very often economic power in those enterprises happened to be in the hands of former nomenclature workers.
In spite of still high profit taxes (35-45%) the laws of 1990 made conditions for commercial structures development. Up to the end of 1991 the question about land hadn't been solved.
Economic changes, an attempt to transfer industry into market relations led to a fall of production. When in 1986-1989 the country's economy had a small growth, in 1990 it was registered a real, approximately 2% fall. In 1991 the output fell 6-10%, and on some certain branches like coal mining, oil, textile and some other branches - 20-25%.
During the whole period, since 1985, there occurred growth of money stock while growth of production dropped behind. That led to growth of deficiency, especially in light industry and foodstuffs producing. Even sharp rise of prices, up to 3-4 times in April, 1991 didn't give the results. At the end of 1991 it was announced that all the prices in 1992 would be free, market ones. That caused a sharp rise of prices already in 1991.
Since 1989 tendency of production fall in federal segment of industry and agriculture became obvious, while in cooperative, lease and later in private sector the process was a contrary one. Already in 1989 in industry 1332 production units functioned on lease conditions, 731 in construction and 1043 in catering. The number of cooperatives, joint-stock companies, private businesses grew since 1989 also. Especially volcanic growth of non-federal businesses began in the middle of 1991.
Output fall in federal segment of industry caused fall of living standard among main layers of population. Only in 1990 the inflation came to 40-50% and more. In 1991 the rate of inflation grew more. By the end of the year it amounted 5-10% per month and more. Tiny compensations for the poorest layers of population couldn't stop constantly accelerating fall of their living standard. Only 10% of population had increased income. Speculation, black market flourished in the country. Mafia groups captured entire spheres in trade and distribution. Crisis in production and distribution in 1990-1991 led to practically food rationing system.
Since late 80-s strikes, which previously had been suppressed by all possible methods, including forensic ones, became a common event. After the coal miners' grandiose wild strikes in 1989 and the threat that reilroad and metallurgy workers would go on strike also, that event no longer surprised anyone. In 1989-1991 workers of almost all branches of industry were on strike or threatened to go on strike. The number of strikes came up to a few thousand, and the number of strikers amounted hundreds of thousands. Basically the workers' demands were of economic sort: to rise wages, to improve working and living conditions.
Since the middle of 1991 strike movements began to fizzle out, as, from the one hand, production units had a possibility to raise workers' wages and, on the other, as the result of closing of industrial enterprises and numberous redundancies such phenomenon as unemployment appeared.
Foreign policy in the years of "perestroika"
The main task of the USSR's foreign policy in the period of "perestroyka" was to create conditions for power reform inside the country. With problems growing more acute foreign policy became more and more flexible and pillowy. In the foreign policy course of the country it's possible to distinguish two noticeable stages: 1985-1988 and 1989-1991.
The new political course was affirmed as early as on the XXVII CPSU Congress. It was officially announced about rejection the principles of Socialist Internationalism. First in more than 70 years of Soviet Power human treasures began to be focused instead of Socialist ones. It was announced that global problems should be the most important ones, that is economic, social, energetic ones and problems of maintaining peace.
As for the relations with developed capitalist countries on the first stage there stood the task of the mid-70-s relationship level reconstructing. The task was fulfilled in course of multiple M. Gorbatshev's official visits. Three important questions had been solved: discontinuation of arms race and partial arms cut; withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan; broadening of contacts between countries of different political systems.
The problem of disarmament consisted of two main parts: (1) liquidation of USSR and USA missiles of medium and smaller action distance, located in Europe and (2) the Strategic Defensive Initiative (SDI)
In course of intensive diplomatic contacts as well as a series of meetings of M. Gorbatshev from one side and R. Reigan, G. Bush in Reykiavic, on Malta, in Washington, DC and in Moscow agreements had been signed on questions of disarmament. In Europe by 1990 Soviet and American missiles of medium and smaller distance had been eliminated. Moreover, the USSR liquidated a part of missiles in Siberia and Far East, which had been pointed to Japan, South Korea and China. That was the first real cut of a whole class of arms, undertaken since the Second World War.
Right after signing the agreement about the medium distance missiles talks about strategic arms cut activated considerably, but unfortunately without real results, due to the sides' difference in approach to solving global problems. Vienna talks about regular weapons cut in Central Europe also didn't give tangible results. The NATO countries as ever pointed to enormous benefit of Warsaw Pact countries in tanks and manpower, and the USSR and other countries - to NATO nuclear vantage.
The most important question was the one about Soviet troops presence in Afghanistan. Attempts for real improvement of the USSR -the West relations constantly came across accusations towards the USSR in keeping the aggressive war against Afghan people. Gorbatshev's government recognised this war as dead-end one and was interested in outgo from it. But it was really hard to take any practical steps in that direction.
Since 1985 a period of intensive broadening of ties and contacts between Soviet institutions and foreign private persons began. Soviet leadership were interested first of all in development of technical and economic links, hoping to receive West loans and technologies so as to ease the crisis situation of national economy. Western countries in their turn, first of all the USA and the UK, were ready to broaden economic ties and they explained this as necessary due to changes inside Russia as well as broadening of humanitarian connections and contacts between private persons. As a result of concessions from Soviet side the flow of tourists from and to the USSR increased multifoldly.
Soviet diplomacy with (since 1985) E. Shevarnadze at the head tried actively to normalise and keep good-neighbour relations with as much countries as possible. First of all it concerned a row of countries the relations with which were not optionally tuned-up.
Beginning with 1985 the USSR-China relations began to recover by and by. In 1989 May the first for some 30 years official visit of Soviet leader to China People's Republic took place. Similar processes began to occur in regard to some certain countries of South East and South Asia, like Thailand and Pakistan, Latin-American countries like Chilli, African like South-American Republic. However the USSR continued to carry out military and economic aid to Arab and African countries, oriented to "socialist ideals", such as Alzhir, Ethiopia, Angola, Iraq, Syria etc.
For the period of 1985-1988 relations of the USSR with the countries of the "Socialist Camp" were being built up on the same base as before. The governments of those countries remained the same (they had been created as far back as in Brezhnev's time).
While 1985-1988 period we can reckon (from the viewpoint of foreign policy) as preparation stage, 1989-1991 is no question the time of "perestroyka". The results of the period often didn't meet the tasks and sometimes they were unexpected for governments of many countries. Among events of international life in which the USSR took an active part, we could distinguish a number of large-scale spheres: (1) withdrawal Soviet troops from Afghanistan; (2) victory of opposition forces in European socialist countries; (3) Unification of Germany; (4) Beginning of Soviet troops withdrawal from Western Europe.
According to Geneva 1988 arrangements, in spring of 1989 all the Soviet troops had to leave Afghanistan. This step of the Soviet government generated benevolent response all over the world and first of all in Arabic countries and in the countries of the West. At the same time Geneva agreements were broken, since on the one hand the USSR continued to render military and economic assistance to Afghanistan government and on the other the USA and a number of Arabic countries - to the opposition forces. Despite the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, central Afghan government maintained control over strategic regions of the country and continued to fight against dushmans.
One of the most serious changes in political life of Europe was disappearance of a European country. In October 1990 German Democratic Republic quit to exist and became part of Fedetative Republic of Germany. The Complexity was that GDR was under Warsaw Pact, but FRG - under NATO. Moreover, in GDR striking units of Soviet Army were located. As a result of negotiations an agreement was reached, that the new united Germany would become a member of NATO, Soviet troops would be withdrawn from the country, and the USSR would receive large-scale preferential loans from FRG, as well as supplies of technics, technologies and consumer goods. The total sum of credits and economical aid of FRG for the USSR should come up to 10 000 000 000 marks.
At that period practically all developed countries including even South Korea (diplomatic relations with which hadn't yet been established in full degree) promised the USSR many-million loans and rendered economic assistance. In 1990 the USA granted the USSR (for the first time in history) most-favoured-nation treatment in sales. In April 1991 the first in history of Soviet-Japaneese relations visit of the USSR leader to Japan took place.
As a whole the period 1985-1991 was characteristic with drastic changes in international situation. For some 5-6 years the confrontation East-West disappeared, and the "Socialist camp" no longer existed.
Revolutions of 1917
Russia in NEP
Industrialization. USSR in 30s
USSR in Second World War (1939-1945)
First Post-war Decade
XX CPSU Congress. "Thaw" (1956-1964)
Epoch of "Developed Socialism" (1964-1985)