Why and how did USSR disappear? Why does it cause nostalgia yet? IPN debate


The dismemberment of the Soviet Union started munch earlier than it actually occurred. In the 1980s, there were rather evident economic and international signals showing that the USSR was unable to survive. Research showed the system was based on violence and excluded the right to freedom, but most of the citizens didn’t know about this. Even so, in society there are persons who are still nostalgic for those times, but this is just nostalgia for their youth, said experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Why and how did the USSR disappear? Why does it cause nostalgia yet?”.

IPN project’s permanent expert Igor Boțan said the breakup of the Soviet Union ended together with the signing of the Belovezha Accords and of the Declaration of Alma-Ata, on December 8 and December 21, 1991 respectively, which established a confederacy of most of the states of the former Soviet republics, the Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 25, 1991, the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev tendered his resignation, while on December 26, 1991, the Council of the Republics of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union adopted a statement on the dissolution of the USSR.

Following the adoption of the resolution on the democratization of the Soviet society, which actually allowed multipartidism in the Soviet Union, at the 19th All-Union Conference of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in June-July 1988, a law on the procedure for leaving the Soviet Union was passed in 1990. Russia was the fourth Soviet republic that declared its sovereignty, on July 12, 1990. To stop the dismemberment of the USSR, a referendum was held on March 17, 1991, which laid the basis of the so-called Novoogarevsky process. As a result of this, the Soviet Union was turned into a confederation of sovereign states. The putsch of August 18-21, 1991 brought this process to an end and the Soviet republics started to declare their independence, explained Igor Boțan.

As to the significance of nostalgia, the expert said this is idealization of events, times, places with which pleasant memories are associated. Nostalgia represents recollections that seem more attractive than the past itself. On a scale of intensity, the nostalgic feelings vary from sweetish sadness to obsessive or repressive states. The nostalgic people can be divided into reflexive and restorative. Those who experience sadness and repressive states are reflexive, contemplative nostalgic people, while those who have obsessive states are supporters of the restoration of the USSR, in different imperial forms.

The rector of the Moldova State University Igor Sharov, doctor of history, said the practical dismemberment started in 1985 with perestroika. Namely in that period, in 1985-1988, all the preconditions appeared for launching the so-called restructuring process. The Communist Party wanted a lot to keep its monopoly on all the spheres of life, but the period from 1988 until 1991 showed the inconsistency of those ideas.

“I believe the process of dismemberment of the Soviet Union started much earlier. In the 1980s already, there were rather evident signs of factors, primarily economic and international ones, which showed that the Soviet Union could not survive further. The war in Afghanistan of 1979 hastened the process. The replacement of the general secretaries of the Central Committee of the Community Party after the death of Brezhnev – Chernenko, Andropov - the coming of Gorbachev showed once against the weakness of the system that affected practically all the spheres,” noted Igor Sharov.

According to him, the violence on which the Soviet system was based is another aspect that should be emphasized. Many of the citizens of the Soviet Union during a long period of time didn’t know about the ordeal of a criminal state and this is a problem. As a member of the commission for studying and assessing the totalitarian communist regime of 2010, during half a year he had had access to secret documents of the Communist Party, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Security Service, etc. “I then better realized the drama of the Romanian people in Bessarabia, but this refers practically to all the Soviet socialist republics that formed part of the old empire of a state based on violence, where the right to freedom of expression didn’t exist,” stated the rector.

Doctor of history Octavian Țîcu, university lecturer, said that the “Gorbachev factor” is the most important one in the dissolution of the Soviet Union even if Gorbachev, in his intentions, was far from wanting the USSR to collapse. Moreover, he sincerely wanted the Soviet Union to be reconstructed based on authentic Leninist postulates that were sincere, as he believed. The “Gorbachev factor” is also important in terms of the own personality as he was young and didn’t have adherence to the inheritance of World War II, which considered Eastern Europe a trophy of Soviet accomplishments. Furthermore, he came from a family of repressed people. His both grandfathers were represented by the regime of Stalint. His view on the reconstruction of the Soviet Union actually prefigured this amalgam of changes,” stated the historian.

He noted that the rivalry between the East and the West, primarily between the two superpowers, was the second important factor. The erosion of the Soviet system was a consequence of the economic overstraining. During the harshest periods of time, over 25% of the budget of the Soviet Union went on armament and in an exttemely critical period the USSR was unable to cope with such competition. “The supremacy of the Western model and the permanent emanation of this superiority were factors that influenced public opinion in the West, in the communist bloc, and also in the Soviet Union,” noted Octavian Țîcu.

According to him, the economic crisis is considered to have been the main motivation for those transformation necessities. The Soviet crisis appeared in the 1970s already and the Soviet Union lagged behind in terms of development and consumption, but these things weren’t known. “There was an amalgam of factors, but we should not forget a very important thing that became clear in the post-communist period mostly. The dismemberment of the USSR was also influenced by the rivalry between Yeltsin and Gorbachev, which is between the tendency to maintain the USSR and the wish of Russia and the Russian political elites, which regarded the Soviet Union as a lifebuoy already. There was rivalry between the authentic Russian center, to say it so, the national center and the Soviet center represented by Gorbachev, especially by national mobilizations and by local communist elites that realized the advantages of having republics, states to the detriment of a colossal union that they considered absolutely inefficient,” said Octavian Țîcu

The public debate entitled “Why and how did the USSR disappear? Why does it cause nostalgia yet?” was the eleventh installment of IPN’s project “100 years of USSR and 31 years without USSR: Nostalgia for Chimeras”, which is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.