The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was the result of a socialist revolution in Russia that occurred in 1917. The main driving forces of the revolution were the principles of socialism and for the establishment of a classless and equal society. The concept of capitalism and private property was completely abandoned. The state was given dominance and state ownership was ensured. The society was administered the communist party with no other political party or opposition. All the economic and political aspects were planned and controlled by the state.
All the east European countries that attained independence under the leadership of USSR after the Second World War was completely influenced by the economic structure of the USSR. These countries were the Second World or the socialist bloc. Some positive features of this system are:
• The Soviet economy became more developed than the rest of the world except for the US.
• The highly centralised governance enabled the exploitation and development of energy resources like oil, iron and steel, machinery production. The transport and communication network was also efficiently developed to ensure connection to even the remotest areas.
• The self-sufficient economic development permitted the growth of domestic consumer goods industry. This enabled them to substitute their imports with domestic products.
• With the central government following communist ideologies, the Soviet Union ensured a minimum standard of living for all its citizens. Also the basic necessities like health facilities, education and childcare were completely subsidised. There was no unemployment.
• All the resources including land and productive resources were completely owned and controlled by the state. This ensured equality in the distribution of income and wealth throughout the Soviet Union.
But the system was reflecting many adverse consequences with the passage of time. Some of the negative features reflected by the system over time are:
• With the passage of time, the Soviet system was becoming very bureaucratic, highly organised, controlling and authoritarian. This made the living of the citizens very difficult.
• The presence of a single party and over-dominance of the state resulted in a lack of democracy in its functioning and the lack of freedom of speech and expression. The people started expressing their disagreement through jokes and cartoons.
• The centralised governance by a single party resulted in their complete control and dominance over all government institutions. Also, they were becoming largely unaccountable to the people.
• The Soviet system comprised of 15 different countries that were integrated through different agreements. But they were not given any freedom to manage their own affairs.
• With the passage of time, the dominance of Russia made people from other regions feel neglected and suppressed.
• The Soviet Union was behind Western countries in terms of technology and infrastructure. Also, it was not able to satisfy the political and economic ambitions of citizens.
The Cold War started after the end of the Second World War. The Second World War ended with the atomic bomb dropping in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With the defeat of the Axis powers and the devastation of Germany, the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) became the greatest power blocs in the world. Both the US and USSR were committed to expanding their influence in different parts of the world.
All the international alliances during the Cold War era were determined by the requirements of the superpowers and the calculations of the smaller states. The superpowers were required to form alliances for resources, territory and economic and social support. Sometimes, they even used their military power to threaten and conquer countries to make them join their respective alliances. The Soviet Union used its power in Eastern Europe and had close associations with North Vietnam, North Korea and Iraq. Correspondingly, in East Asia, Southeast Asia and in West Asia, the United States established alliances through the Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO) and the Central Treaty Organisation (CENTO).
The smaller states used this alliances according to their own purposes and calculations, mostly for protection, weapons, and economic aid. This resulted in the division of the entire world into two camps. This division happened first in Europe, with most countries of Western Europe joining with the US and of Eastern Europe joining the Soviet Union.
The western alliance made by the US was governed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). It was formally established in April 1949. The eastern alliance was controlled by the Warsaw Pact. It was inaugurated in 1955 and was managed by the Soviet Union. Thus many of the newly independent countries who achieved their independence from the colonial powers such as Britain and France after World War felt that they would lose their freedom even though they have gained independence.
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