Taking you through AQA A2 History of the Soviet Union in as little time and as little pain as possible... see you on results day!


16 June 2010, AM

9 June 2010

Essay Plan: Perestroika

This is a horrible essay because of the wording of the question. I've planned it on paper, but it's atrocious, so I'm trying again here to see what happens. Inability to articulate ideas today may have something to do with the fact that I sat an exam this morning and am feeling a little bit more than a little bit fried...

"Perestroika was a disaster because it brought down a system that people had learned to live with without putting anything substantial in its place" - To what extent to you agree?

Historians agree almost unanimously that Gorbachev's policy of Perestroika, introduced in 1987 to 'restructure' (and thus reinvigorate) the Soviet economy, was a disaster by 1991: as Laver states, "Perestroika appeared to be making things worse". It can thus be seen to have brought down the Soviet Union because of the discontent it caused amongst a population who knew no other system and who saw "nothing substantial in its place". However, it can also be seen as a disaster because of the rifts it caused within the communist party, and because of the vast economic failures it caused, which are also commonly seen as having caused the break-up of the USSR.

Yes - that's why it was a disaster
- LAVER: "Over the previous decade or more, many people had increasingly benefitted from the existing system" - living conditions, full employment etc
- POPOLOV: "It was done with slogans, not a programme of reform that ordinary Russians could understand"
- Attempts to create a market economy in state confines would never work and were always going to cause problems
- People began to see the weaknesses in the system
- Caused general strikes in the nationalities because nothing solid was there
- Rise of other parties (for same reaons)
- Yeltsin (see above)

No - it was a disaster for other reasons
- Made no attempt to tackle legacy of corruption
- Confusing administrative changes
- Devaluation of rouble; 15% decrease in production
- Agriculture ignored
- Rifts within the party inherently weakened the system and allowed Yeltsin and the radicals in

It cannot be doubted that "perestroika was a disaster", and, although there are many reasons for this, the fact that it weakened the system and lead to general discontent because no new system replaced it is perhaps the most significant of these reasons. As Gorbachev said in his final speech as leader of the USSR, before it seceded to the Russian Federation, "the old system collapsed before the new one could begin to function".

If anyone could tell me if that makes sense, I would be eternally grateful!

- HistGrrl x

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