SOCIETY
Mikhail Gorbachev’s Need to Disgrace the Soviet Army
13 October, 2011

Gorbachev wanted to cut back on overall spending in the USSR, which could only be done at the expense of the Soviet Army generals and their families. As a matter of fact, they had always been provided for quite richly. It was necessary to first purposefully damage the reputation of the Army and only after that start truncating its ranks, firing the top brass in the first place. Professor Simon Maskharashvili has more.

GJ – The new leader of the Soviet

Union Mikhail Gorbachev considered the Soviet Army and its ever-present problems one of the main obstacles on the way to successful Perestroika (restructuring of the country and the soviet society on the whole). The Soviet Army was one of the most powerful state structures, within which the soviet ideology was still vigorously throbbing, looking with suspicion at Gorabchev’s blue print for putting the country on a totally renovated track of further development. Didn’t this contradiction between the Army of the country and the leader of the nation look somewhat weird?

SM – Not really! The issue had its truly logical development. As I have said before, if anything or anybody enjoyed genuine popularity in the Soviet Union, that was the heroic Soviet Army. On the other hand, the Army and its commanders were resolutely curbing the advent of capitalism in the USSR. The thing was that the Army continued to cling to soviet ideology and it persistently maintained communist mentality. The Soviet Army generals made the only social group which was much better off (especially after Stalin’s death) than the communist party elite. In the years between 1945 and 1953, the soviet top brass who had emerged victorious in the Second World War, were swept by the waves of Stalinist repressions, but later, they were given a chance to enjoy special fringes, like state-subsidized country houses, free apartments, access to privileged stores, full of rare merchandise and foodstuff (in 1980, as a result of economic crisis in the country, the Soviet Union embarked on special system of food distribution; hence many valuable products became scarce). The military service men and women were given access to many other social privileges. Certainly, this was not true in case of regular soldiers, but the soviet top brass had indeed enjoyed a truly capitalist life-style. Gorbachev wanted to cut back on overall spending in the USSR, which could only be done at the expense of the Soviet Army generals and their families. As a matter of fact, they had always been provided for quite richly. It was necessary to first purposefully damage the reputation of the Army and only after that start truncating its ranks, firing the top brass in the first place. As I understand, the Western world (developed capitalist countries) did all its best to persuade Mikhail Gorbachev to speed up the process of introducing capitalism in the Soviet Union. They desired and were ready to develop trade and economic cooperation with the socialist-turned-capitalist country. And the expectations were quite considerable. Turning Germany, Czech Republic and Poland towards capitalism could trigger a huge sense of discontent among the leadership of the Soviet Army for the known reasons. For example, there were half a million soviet soldiers and officers stationed in East Germany which was considered as one of the most elitist and privileged military units of that time. Accordingly, it was funded lavishly by the soviet government. All the process of its maintenance and promotion was asking for huge spending, but if further management of the Soviet Army were directed as it was contemplated in compliance with Gorbachev’s plan (capitalization, democratization, downsizing of the army, etc.), then a lot of privileges would be forfeited, and the frustrated army could easily turn into a source of a serious upheaval. And this could threaten the peaceful life in the entire country.

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