October 5, 2023

Science and Technology: 30 Years Without the Soviet Union

Science and Technology: 30 Years Without the Soviet Union

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.” Photo: Alexei Druzhinin / Pool Sputnik Kremlin / AP / dpa

(Photo: dpa)

Kremlin chief says Russia was also a major raw material power after the end of the USSR Russia lost 40 percent of its historical territory at the time, he complained in a new documentary on Russian state television. On December 25, the Soviet flag was raised in the Kremlin. President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned after failed reform attempts. December 26, 1991 officially marks the end of the Soviet Union, the first communist country to exist in nearly 70 years.

Putin calls the end a ‘tragedy’

69-year-old Putin talks about a “tragedy” in memory of the TV documentary. “A large part of what we have achieved in 1,000 years has been lost,” he says, referring to the Russian Empire, from which five years later, after the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union with its fifteen republics arose.

The head of the Kremlin says that the great raw material power Russia threatened to collapse after the end of the USSR. But in his more than 20 years in power, Putin has not only done everything to unite the world’s largest country by area. It also severely restricted the freedoms gained under Gorbachev.

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A survey conducted by the State Polling Institute Wziom on the 30th anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union showed that people remember above all social security, stability and the status of the superpower under communism. But many forget the dark sides – a lack of economy with empty shelves and long queues as well as political persecution.

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Putin once described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”. Especially since the annexation of Crimea by the Ukrainian Black Sea in 2014, he is suspected of wanting to restore the old empire. Victoria Nuland, the US foreign affairs policy, said recently at a Senate hearing in Washington that there are concerns that Putin’s legacy may try to “rebuild the Soviet Union.”

Nuland mainly referred to the deployment of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border. Months ago, the United States and NATO accused Russia of planning an attack on Ukraine. Moscow certainly rejects this. But the West is generally concerned about developments in the post-Soviet space – including the situation in Belarus. There the crisis surrounding the ruler Alexander Lukashenko was not resolved. Western sanctions push the former Soviet republic into the arms of Russia.

Despite the growing economic and financial dependence on Russia, Lukashenko asserts that Belarus will remain independent. But the state of the union in both countries, which for a long time existed only on paper, is increasingly taking shape. According to Lukashenko, two independent states exist on a common economic basis, have a foreign and defense policy and “actually one army.” Some in Belarus fear that Russia may soon swallow it up.

The state of the Belarussian Federation is just one project in Putin’s kit. For years, the head of the Kremlin has been trying to fill the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union with life. Several former Soviet republics are members there – as well as in the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Real content or even EU competition is not in sight here.

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Russia criticizes Kiev’s plans

Moscow likes to stress that no one intends to rebuild the Soviet Union. At the same time, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko accuses the West of wanting to disrupt mergers on the territory of the former Soviet Union. There is “a quest by the West to turn the post-Soviet region into a region of permanent conflict and tension”. For example, Russia is troubled by efforts in former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Ukraine to join the European Union and NATO.

On the 30th anniversary of the end of the Soviet Union, there are a lot of conferences and publications on the causes and consequences of the collapse of the empire. The undercover planned economy, lack of economic reforms, low oil and gas prices and high military spending have devastated the country. The reformer Gorbachev tried to preserve the country through his policy of perestroika (transformation). But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate had to watch one republic after another declare independence after the Baltic states.

“The results of perestroika cannot be reduced to the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he said shortly before the anniversary of the Russian news agency Interfax. Many problems have accumulated over the decades. We only answered it late. This was fraught with economic difficulties.”

Putin is fighting for superpower status

Under Putin, Russia has been fighting for great power status for years. But critics say the Kremlin chief is stuck in the past – and unprepared for big future tasks like climate protection. The strength of raw materials continues to depend mainly on income from the sale of oil, gas and coal. British expert Barry Buzan wrote in an article for the Moscow magazine “Russia in World Politics” that the country had failed to renew itself.

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Buzan says Russia is economically weak compared to its big neighbor China – and today, as in the past, it can only defend its status as a highly armed nuclear power. The giant empire has “great potential” as an aggressor in the cyber world, but it no longer has any economic and ideological tools for influence. This, Buzan recommends, should give the country some thought three decades after the end of the Soviet Union.