Major Crisis in USSR
08 September, 2011
Major Crisis in USSR


The crisis was mainly triggered due to the Soviet Union’s losing military competition with the United States. In an attempt to overcome America by any means, the USSR got involved in a bitter arms race with its strong rival, having catastrophically depleted Soviet national resources. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.


GJ – In 1985, Georgia’s communist leader Eduard Shevardnadze was appointed foreign minister of the USSR. At the same time, he was a full member of politburo

of the communist party of the Soviet Union. Following secretary Chernenko’s death, Mikhail Gorbachev was promoted to the leadership of the Soviet Union. Thus the Stalinist epopee came to an end. It was not only the political arena that had been abandoned by last of the Stalinist cadres... They simply had died out by that time. Their legacy was too heavy and cumbersome for Gorbachev to carry. Day by day, economic and social decline of the country was becoming obvious. The Soviet Union was unquestionably headed for a major social-political crisis. What kind of ambitions did the new Soviet leader have?

SM – Let me first explain why such a serious social, economic and political crisis had taken place. The crisis was mainly triggered due to the Soviet Union’s losing military competition with the United States. America started the so called Star Wars program, officially known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) which in principle was a myth.

GJ – Why was it a myth? What was it all about?

SM – The story had it that the United States of America was going to build such an impregnable system of defense which would easily defy any Soviet ballistic attack. This was a sheer myth, but regardless its falsehood the United States persuaded the Soviets in its reality, thus getting the USSR involved in a bitter arms race, having catastrophically depleted Soviet national resources.

GJ – Starting from the period of Stalin’s rule, the Soviet Union was a grandiose military camp anyway, wasn’t it?

SM – It is a well-known fact that any nation with healthy economy and stable financial system can afford one soldier per 100 people in the country. If this proportion is broken for some reason, crisis becomes inevitable. In the Soviet Union with a population between 250 and 280 million people, the limit based on that proportion was 2,5 million-strong army, but the actual number of Soviet soldiers in active military service had permanently been as high as 5 million men. This simply meant that the entire Soviet economy was serving the USSR military system, doing this with painful efforts and by deadly fits and starts. In the beginning of 1980’s, due to various deviations and distortions in almost every field of Soviet economy, or because of permanently made mistakes and deliberately perpetrated criminal acts, only four of fifteen Soviet republics comprising the USSR were economically solvent and even contributed to federal budget. Those were the Russian and the Baltic Sea republics – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The specific value of the last three was not very big, but they could at least pay their own bills and contributed more than they received from the all-union financial resource. All other republics, including Georgia and Azerbaijan were subsidized. The Azeri oil as well as the Georgian manganese ore and coal deposits were on the verge of depletion. Meanwhile, the mid-Asian petroleum was not yet discovered and made use of. Subsidizing Georgia’s five-million population did not seem to be a huge problem for the USSR but the Ukraine with 50 million people (with a considerable industrial potential) was a serious burden for the Soviet national budget. The entire weight of subsidizing those insolvent republics lay on Russia’s shoulders. This became one of the biggest reasons for the Soviet people’s depression and misery.


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