CHAPTER 17 THE GORBACHOV REFORMS AND THE REVOLT OF KARABAKH

Relations between the centre and the ethnic peripheries remained basically imperial based on a subordinate relationship to the Russian centre during the whole period of the rule of Soviet Power. Though the centre’s control loosened after Stalin’s death, the ultimate power and the sovereignity with the central party authorities in Moscow until 1990s. The Khrushchev and Kosigin years already needed reforming. The regime, which in general backed the entrenched party cadres, found it difficult to tolerate the continued frusteration of its economic plans. The vast state reminded primitive creature, each part of whose body was disconnected with the others, and even if aware of the illness in one part, the mind was unable to cure it. The mind of that patient was degenarate, though the claws and teeth were sharp enough to fight against the ill-wishers. Despite the immence size the whole organism was desrupted, deprived of even a single healthy organ. This strange creature was unable to feed itself, unable to provide itself with elementary means of existence….

The radical reforming of the political and economical system became especially urgent after Khrushchov’s drawing the “iron curtain”. The people of the state got to know the exact situation of the country and understood that the development was hidered by the ruling system.

When in 1985 M. Gorbachov came to power that is became the General Secretary of the USSR Communist Party, the USSR was experiencing the years of political and economic stagnation, was internationally isolated and unable to resist the international technological revolution. Gorbachov undertook to restart the Sovieteconomic engine and restore the country’s position internationally. To achieve the two aims he needed first a political base for his programme of reform, indeed a revolutionizing reform that would bring the Soviet Union to democratic polity and market socialism. As a member of the Communist party he believed that the rebuilding should be carried out from above, based on special directives and declarations, as handles of the motionless Soviet mechanism were in the hands of the bureaucratic apparatus of the Party. Any sharp movement would bring the huge mechanism to destruction, and would likely lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union (as it did later). Here’s an expressive example of economical hierarchial arrangement of subordination; a high rank Italian lady intended to buy linen in Moscow in early 1980s. But it turned out that it was impossible to obtain linen not only in Moscow, but in the whole country, as there hadn’t been an instruction from above to set to producing linen. The above mentioned lady was brave enough to express her surprise during a Kremlin meeting. The Special Bureau, discussing this question and making consequent decisions, instructed the Ministry of Light Industry of Armenia to organize the production of linen. The work was in full swing and soon all the shops and stores of the vast country were full of that product, but now the production could not be stopped without another instruction from above, or perhaps a new visit of the lady was needed to warn the political heads that the shops were full of linen.

The situation was the same in all the spheres of economy, there existed not even one flexible structure in the system. All the enterprises were inter-connected. The eneffective work of one sphere resulted in the failure of the others. Due to an accident in an Azerbaijan plant, the Moscow corresponding head factory was unable to continue the production process. It was impossible to achieve revival with limited reforms, the huge mechanism had to be changed radically, but at the same time the radicalization of the reforms presented enormous dangers to the unitary system. Gorbachov’s efforts of limited reform were transformed into a liberating process of state – dismantling. Seeing his success in the implementation of a Strategy that would accomplish the goals of democratization of the conservative apparatus, mobilization of society to criticize the old system (glasnost), stimulation of popular partisipation in the process of reconstructing (perestroika), the initiation of a series of limited economic reforms, and realizing that his strategy was fraught with dangers, Gorbachov was trying to “point the shabby house with fresh colours”, the house which was destined to collapse. Gorbachov did not fully realize that the USSR was no longer a single society. The fiction of the united state and people, defended by Soviet theorists of ethnicity, was belied by the powerful identification with nationality of many intellectuals.

The first mass resistence that could not be contained within the metamorphosing Soviet system, the crisis that precipitated the urraveling of central Soviet authority, came from an Armenian enclave of Karabakh in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

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