Mary Baldwin College, Staunton VA 24401
by Prof. Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Nov. 1917 - Jan. 1924: Vladimir Lenin. Founds Bolshevik regime and CHEKA secret police. Establishes "War Communism" policy; recinded by N.E.P. policy after 1921. Foreign relations: supports organization of Red Army and COMINTERN; makes peace with Germany; victorious over anti-Communist Whites in Civil War. Defeated in war against Poland. Writes anti-Stalin "Testament." (1924-25: transitional power struggle).
1925-1953: Josef Stalin. Establishes control of CPSU apparatus. Collectivizes agriculture and establishes central planning through GOSPLAN agency. Creates famine in Ukraine and North Caucuses. Industrializes USSR through large scale forced labor and Gulag prison system. Advances Russification of USSR: deports minority ethnicities to Siberia (e.g., Tatars; Chechnyans); foments antisemitism, esp. in final decade of rule. Foreign Relations: establishes diplomatic relations with USA (1933), aids Spanish Republic beset by civil war, signs non-aggression pact with Hitler (1939), allies with UK and USA in war against Germany (1941-45); dominates and establishes communist governments in Eastern Europe which precipitates Cold War with West; enters an alliance with China (1950).
(1953-55: transitional leaders, competition among Georgi Malenkov; Nikolai Bulganin)
1955-1964: Nikita Khrushchev. Permits cultural "thaw" of limited artistic/literary freedom, minor experiments in economic incentives. Delivers anti-Stalin Secret Speech (1956). Foreign relations: pursues "peaceful coexistence" with West; supports "wars of national liberation" in Third World; precipitates Cuban Missiles Crisis (1962). Suppresses Hungarian Revolution (1956); Alliance with China strained.
October 1964- November 1982: Leonid Brezhnev. Re-establishes tight censorship and Central Planning. Era of growth in military power and stagnation domestically. Foreign Relations: Suppresses Czechoslovakian revolution (1968). Establishes policy of "detente" with West. Border skirmishes against China (1969). China-USSR relations at lowest point. Signs many treaties with Germany and, especially, with USA: trade, nuclear issues. Signs Helsinki Treaty (1975). Suppresses human rights movement this treaty had authorized. Invades Afghanistan (1979).
November 1982- February 1984: Yuri Andropov. Continues centrally planned economy and repression of dissidents. Virtually ends emigration. Foreign Relations: precipitates hidden RYAN crisis of Fall 1983.
February 1984- March 1985: Konstantin Chernenko. Continues centrally planned economy and repression of dissidents. Escalates tactics of war in Afghanistan.
March 1985- August 1991: Mikhail Gorbachev. Pursues domestic openness (glasnost) and restructuring (perestroika) policies. 1987: permits near freedom of press, arts, etc. Begins significant economic reform away from Centralism. Opposition political groups and religious worship legalized (1989-90). Democratic elections to Congress of People's Deputies (1989) lead to growth in opposition to Communist Party. Opposition leader, ex-Communist Boris Yeltsin wins 89% of Moscow vote; is elected President of Russian Federation (May 1990). Gorbachev creates indirectly elected Presidency as top of government structure (1990). Communist monopoly of power (i.e., Article 6 of Soviet Constitution) repealed (Mar. 1990). Unrest in peripheral republics (esp. Armenia-Azerbaijan (1988-91), Georgia (1989), Baltics (1988-91); workers' strikes within Russia. Lithuania legalizes opposition, communists there break from Moscow (Dec. 1989); pro-Moscow Lithuanians win only 7 of 90 seats in Feb. 1990 election; declares independence (Mar. 11, 1990); KGB crackdown begun there (Jan. 1991). Permits limited autonomy for republic governments. Foreign Relations: signs nuclear arms treaties with USA; withdraws from Afghanistan (Feb. 1989); does not intervene to prevent overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe (Fall 1989). Re-establishes diplomatic relations with China (May 1989). Gives diplomatic support, only, to U.N. actions against Iraq, 1990-91. Alienates traditional Communists and military leaders who try to remove him by coup d'etat (August 18, 1991).
August 1991- Dec. 31, 1999: Post-Soviet Era. August 19-21, 1991 popular uprising, led by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, defeats CPSU-Red Army-K.G.B. coup. Gorbachev retains office, but little power and only until Dec. 1991, when he resigns presidency as Soviet Union is dissolved. Independence of Baltics and other former Soviet republics recognized. Communist Party outlawed (temporarily) and coup plotters charged with crimes. Economic reforms rapidly privatize industry and establish a free market; transition is difficult for common people and situation of crisis worsens; Russia joins IMF and seeks improved relations with West. Internal wars erupt in former SSRs: Georgia, Armenia-Azerbaijan, Moldova; and in Russian Federation province of Chechnya (1994-96, 1999-) where Russian Army fails to win. Major nuclear weapons reduction agreement signed, but not ratified, with USA: Russian warheads to drop from 10,000+ (1992) to 3000 (by 2000). Yeltsin violently suppresses coup attempt by opponents, Fall 1993. Democratization set back in parliament (Duma) elections in which nationalists (December 1993) and Russian Communists (December 1995) finish first; coup plotters from fall 1993 are exonerated. Yeltsin is re-elected President (July 1996). Economy is stabilized, 1993-97, and inflation finally quelled under Prime Minister V. Chernomyrdin; he is fired (Mar.98) and replaced by S. Kiriyenko. Summer 1998, financial collapse of Russian banking system leads to Kiriyenko's firing; Soviet-era diplomat and Yeltsin's Foreign Minister, Y. Primakov, is made Prime Minister; 2 more PMs in 98-99 (S. Stepashin to Aug. 9, 1999; V. Putin). Yeltsin never organized a political party to back his government, and transition to stable democracy was clouded by this lack of institutionalization of democratic forces.
December 31, 1999- present: Vladimir Putin, who restarts war in Chechnya after terrorist bombings in Moscow, becomes acting president (Jan. 2000) and is elected president in own right (March 2000). Consolidates power by reasserting central control over regions, altering method of selection of upper chamber of national legislature, intimidating or closing most organs of the free press, and by proposing new law on political parties which, if passed by Duma, will sharply limit the number of such groupings to those with broad support throughout the country. Increased world prices of oil, a main Russian export, temporarily bring a slowing of the economic collapse underway since summer 1998. Supports campaign against terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., leading to muting of criticism of Russian actions in Chechnya, where some militants waging war on Russia are shown to have ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
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