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Brezhnev’s Economic Stagnation

The years under the leadership of Brezhnev in the USSR can be defined as years of political rigidity and economic stagnation. We will take an in depth look at what Brezhnev did or didn’t do to help the USSR. First, we have to understand what a command economy is. A command economy according to Webster Dictionary is “an economy in which production, investment, prices, and incomes are determined centrally by a government. ” A good example of a command economy today is China. They are going away from this type of government, but they are still rooted in this type of government.

The USSR was a command economy as well, but going away from its roots is what might have lead to the fall. The government of the Soviets made all of the decisions when it came to everything. They would watch their people, and pretty much make the decisions on their lives. We are going to look at the economy that was Brezhnev because we need to see what was handed to Brezhnev when he gained control. The economy under Stalin was probably the best for the economy of the Soviet Union, but the worst for the people of the Soviet Union.

Stalin had a focus on improving the industrialization of Russia because before the revolution they were very far behind the rest of the world when it came to technology. He was focused on creating the world’s largest military. He wanted to have the best soldiers and best weapons. This was one of the reasons the people in the USSR were in a terrible situation. Stalin was focused on all guns and very little product for the citizens of the USSR. The centralized government that Stalin set up played to every advantage he had.

The government, which he was the head of, was in charge of everything produced. This allowed for a lot more successful rate of production. This also allowed for cheaper items in the store for the people, but they were not always better quality items (“Fall of the Soviet Union”). Brezhnev was just not born into power in the USSR. There were many stages to Brezhnev rising to top dog in the USSR. Brezhnev studied to become a metallurgical engineer which is an engineer focused on iron and steel. He was drafted into World War II. He finally left the army with the rank of major general in 1946.

In 1952, Brezhnev, on his rise to power, joined the Central Committee. The Central Committee is the largest Communist committee. As Khrushchev aged the other leaders did not like him as much as other people qualified for the job like Brezhnev. Brezhnev remained loyal to Khrushchev as the other leaders did not. This eventually paid off when Khrushchev appointed Brezhnev as being leader of the USSR. Leonid Brezhnev officially became president of the USSR on May 7, 1960. This would change the course of the USSR (“Brezhnev becomes president of the USSR”).

The economy of the USSR under Brezhnev did not make any progressions, and this was the problem. The time under Brezhnev is known as the era of stagnation. This was a period of negative economic, political and social progress. This was a result from the central planning. The USSR focused on heavy industries. Also, the USSR focused on increasing the military. This is where they put almost all of their money. They did not have the right focus on the correct things. This was not just a time period for economic stagnation but also social stagnation. Brezhnev revoked several liberal reforms made by Khrushchev.

Also the political stagnation was created because all of the leaders were a lot older than the people of the USSR so they could not relate to each other much at all. Brezhnev is known for doing too little to help improve these stagnations. There were no major reforms proposed throughout all of the years as leader, and the reforms that he wanted were rejected by the rest of the government. There was not much agreement during this time between Brezhnev and the rest of the government officials (“The Brezhnev Era”). The economy of the USSR until 1973 was on a growing streak.

Between the 1960’s and 70’s the Soviet agriculture produced 3% more than any previous year. This was the eighth Five-Year Plan, and the output of major factories increased by 138%. Eventually on the ninth Five-Year Plan there was a change. This was the first time industrial consumer goods were produced more than industrial capital goods. Products such as watches, furniture and radios were rapidly produced. This was a positive sign for the future of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev wanted to make a shift from industrial capital goods to consumer goods which might lead to a better life in the USSR.

The living conditions did not actually change. Between 1928 and 1973, the USSR was growing at a pace that would actually catch up with the United States. There was just one thing that gave the United States an advantage. There recently was a giant war in part of the USSR known as World War II. This war left a lot areas of the USSR in ruin. In 1973, the growth of the USSR economy stopped. The beginning of the era of stagnation happened at the same time with the financial crisis in the United States and some Western Europe countries (“Decline During the Brezhnev Years”). The phrase of “Era of Stagnation” came from Gorbachev.

It was a result of a mix of factors. First, the “arms race” between the Soviet Union and the United States. The basis of the “arms race” between the United States and Soviet Union was the purpose of the entire Cold War. It was to show off how many weapons each country had. They would always threaten to use weapons on one another, but nothing serious ever happened. It was really just a showing off contest on how much money each country put into developing the biggest and best weapons. This left the people of both the United States and Soviet Union in a feeling of danger for all of the years of the Cold War.

A reason this led to the Era of Stagnation is because they were putting a lot of their money towards these advancements on weapons. Next, the Soviet Union’s decision to take part in international trade. This went away from their original ideas of being economically isolated. They would trade items that they could not produce in the USSR. To most people they would think this is a good idea, but within a centralized government it actually does not help because they would always get the bad end of deals. Next, the increasing harshness of its policies led to the Era of Stagnation.

The USSR was going away from harming its people and spying on them all the time. There were policies that were giving the people more rights. There were many countries that were trying to help the people of the USSR. Eventually this all would turn back around they started being harsher on the people of the Soviet Union. This led to a poorer moral of the people of the USSR. This in turn leads to the people not wanting to be in the country or work for the country. Next, the Soviet sending tanks to crush the Prague Spring in 1968. The Prague Spring was in Czechoslovakia while the Soviet Union ruled over them.

It began on January 5, 1968. They wanted to receive rights such as less restrictions of the media, speech and travel. As being a country that was taken over by the USSR there were even less rights for the people of that country than for the people in the USSR. The way that the Soviet’s reacted is what affected the USSR. At first the Soviet leadership tried to stop the changes in Czechoslovakia. These talks did not satisfy the Soviets. They wanted to take military action to fix all of this. The Soviets sent in 200,000 troops and 2,000 tanks. The Soviets killed 72 and injured over 700 people.

The Western European countries and the United States did not take too nice to this action. They believed that countries should have the right to decide what type of government they want (“Exploring 5 Reasons for the Collapse of the Soviet Union”). The invasion into Afghanistan was a major reason for the Era of Stagnation. It is known in history as the Soviet-Afghan War. The war lasted over nine years. It started in December 1979. The Democratic Republic of Afghanistan was created after the Saur Revolution in 1978. The previous government was very socialist so they got along with the Soviet’s well.

After the revolution they even signed a treaty between the USSR and Afghanistan. The KGB felt that the Prime Minister of Afghanistan destabilized the situation there in Afghanistan. The KGB reported that the Prime Minister was purging his opponents even if they were loyal Soviets. They felt they were trying to become liked to Pakistan or even with China. These countries did not have good relations with the USSR at this time. This gave them a feeling of hostility between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. Even at one point they felt that the Prime Minister himself was a CIA agent.

On December 27, 1979, 700 USSR troops dressed as Afghan soldiers and occupied major government and military buildings in Kabul. First, they destroyed the communications hub which stopped all Afghan military control. Then, they attacked the Tajbeg Palace and killed the president, Hafizullah Amin. The entire operation was complete by the next morning. The Soviets then broadcast the Kabul was set free from the president’s rule, and this was all because of a treaty. They even spread propaganda in countries that they did not own. The Soviets then sent in ground soldiers.

Eventually they had over 100,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. Many nations near by felt that the USSR did the wrong thing, and they all wanted the removal of the Soviet troops. All of the near countries did not have enough power to do anything they were saying. There was a number of resistance movements aided by the United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Egypt, and China. The USSR did not have to invade Afghanistan at all because they were not obligated to remain a socialist country. Instead, the Soviets wanted to grow control and try to gain access to a body of water.

This was one of their main objectives at taking Afghanistan, they were making their way down to the Indian Ocean (“Soviet invasion of Afghanistan”). The years under Leonid Brezhnev are not classified as the glory years of the Soviet Union. There were very few positives that came out of the Brezhnev rule. A positive that came out of that administration was a shift from the focus being all industrial capital goods to mixing in consumer goods for the people. This was not that big since he went back to more Stalinist ideas about the rights of the people. He took away more rights from the people.

The biggest classification of the Brezhnev years is known as the Era of Stagnation. We will always remember Brezhnev for the start of the end of the Soviet Union. He started to led the USSR away from the original ideas of the government such as economic isolation. Another reason leading to the start of the downfall of the Soviet Union was the non necessary invasion of Afghanistan. As well for the way that the Soviet Union handled the Prague Springs. The United States and Western European countries were starting to be able to relate to the Soviets until Brezhnev.

We always had to stay on edge with the Soviets. The policies and actions that occurred under the rule of Brezhnev led to less trust from the United States and other countries. The Soviets went away from the classic command economy, and this led to the slip ups of the government. They did not understanding their stopping point. Even some government officials did not agree with one another when it came to the choices they made. The years under Brezhnev can be classified as the beginning of the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

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