Gorbachev’s reforms and the extinction of the USSR
After the death of Leonid Brezhnev and after the rapid succession of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev was appointed leader of the USSR. Gorbachev began to implement significant changes in the economy, Perestroikaand Glásnost politics, unleashing opportunistic forces that with the encouragement of the West worked to disintegrate the USSR and the return of its members – especially Russia – to capitalism. The distancing of the Communist Party and its leadership from the workers favored this process.
The movement that definitely brought down the USSR came from Russia, the nation that had built the Tsarist empire, predecessor of the Soviet state. In May 1990, Borís Yeltsin, who had been expelled from the CPSU in 1987, was elected president of the Russian Parliament. From that position of power, Yeltsin promoted measures that precipitated the end of the Soviet Union.
Powerless and abandoned by almost everyone, Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR on December 25, 1991. The Soviet red flag was lowered in the Moscow Kremlin, the Russian flag replaced it.
Russia took over from the USSR on the international scene: embassies, permanent post on the Security Council, and control of Soviet nuclear weapons. The end of the Cold War was announced, but the United States took advantage of it to impose its hegemony in a unipolar world.
Although Yeltsin was applauded abroad for showing himself as a democrat to weaken Gorvachev, his conception of the presidency was very autocratic, acting either as his own prime minister (until June 1992) or appointing people he trusted to that position., regardless of parliament.
Meanwhile, the excessive presence of tiny parties and their refusal to form coherent alliances left the legislature ungovernable. During 1993, the dispute between Yeltsin and the parliament culminated in the constitutional crisis of October.
This reached its critical point when, on October 3, Yeltsin commanded the tanks to bombard the Russian parliament. With this momentous (and unconstitutional) step of dissolving parliament by gunfire, Russia had not been so close to civil strife since the 1917 revolution.
From then on, Yeltsin was completely free to impose a constitution with strong presidential powers, which was approved in a referendum in December 1993. However, the December vote also marked an important advance by communists and nationalists, reflecting the growing disenchantment of the population with neoliberal economic reforms.
Despite coming to power in a general atmosphere of optimism, Yeltsin would never regain his popularity after supporting Yegor Gaidar’s economic “shock therapy”: end of Soviet-era price controls, drastic cuts in public spending and openness to the economy. foreign trade in 1992.
The reforms immediately devastated the quality of life of the vast majority of the population, especially in those sectors benefited by controlled wages and prices, subsidies and the welfare state of the Soviet era. Russia suffered an economic recession in the 1990s more severe than the Great Depression that hit the United States or Germany in the early 1930s.
On the advice of Western governments, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, Russia would embark on the largest and fastest privatization ever carried out by a government in all of history. By the middle of the decade, commerce, services and small industry were already in private hands.
Almost all large companies were acquired by their former directors, spawning a class of nouveau riche close to various mafias or Western investors. At the base of the system, due to inflation or unemployment, many workers ended up in poverty, prostitution or crime.
According to allcitycodes.com, the Russian economy began a recovery from 1999 in part thanks to the rise in oil prices, its main export even though Soviet production levels are far behind.
After the financial crisis of 1998, Yeltsin was in the twilight of his career. Just hours before the first day of 2000, he resigned by surprise leaving the government in the hands of his prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB official and head of his successor agency after the fall of the USSR.
In the presidential elections of March 26, 2000, the new president easily defeated his opponents, winning in the first round. In 2004 he was reelected with 71% of the votes and his allies won the legislative elections.
In the Russian legislative elections of 2007, the United Russia party won 64.3% of the votes, which was seen as support from the Russians for the aforementioned political and economic course.
In Russia’s 2008 presidential elections, United Russia party candidate Dmitry Medvedev, supported by then-President Vladimir Putin, won by a wide margin over his opponents at the polls. Medvedev took office in May 2008.
Vladimir Putin again won the 2012 elections, and on his return to presidential power he appointed Medvedev as prime minister.