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The Nina Andreeva Affair: Part Two

Donald Courter

The Ensuing Political Struggle

Immediately following the publication of the Andreeva letter, planning-oriented reform regained popularity with the Soviet citizenry and a number of significant media outlets. Although ominously labeled the "three weeks of stagnation" in liberal periodicals, this brief moment encompassed a revival of party dedication to Andropovian-style reform and a media campaign against the slandering of Soviet history. [1] Interviews with Andreeva were broadcast on television, and her criticism of contemporary Soviet historical discourse inspired a renewed defense of socialist principles.

As Andreeva’s popularity grew, Yegor Ligachev, who supported Andreeva’s letter and had himself consistently criticized the anarchic handling of information, was also invited for several interviews in prominent media outlets. These interviews mostly encompassed topics and policy Ligachev had discussed and agitated for since 1986 and little overt relevance to the specific content of the Andreeva letter. Ligachev often spoke of "the question [he] had raised in Elektrostal and in the report at the Central Committee plenum"—namely, the necessity of a balanced analysis of historical figures regardless of the taboos that had come to surround them. [2] Considering that Gorbachev and his supporters took little initiative to attack Ligachev’s politics prior to the publication of the Andreeva letter, the interviews should not have been seen as politically threatening.

Nevertheless, Yakovlev quickly accused Ligachev and Andreeva of causing "perplexity and confusion in the face of the complex and acute questions that life poses." [3] Compelled to defend the market reformers against allegations of ideological revisionism, Yakovlev anonymously published the Pravda article "Pravda Rebuts Antirestructuring Manifesto." In it, he argued against claims that the market reformers were "subjecting the principles of Marxism-Leninism to revision" and blamed such accusations on the ideological "confusion and perplexity" aroused in "some people" by Andreeva and her supporters. [4] It appears that the market reformers took direct action only after the opposition was platformed and legitimated in the wider media. Ligachev and Andreeva’s open criticism of the defamation of Soviet history emboldened those who had previously feared challenging the liberalization of the state media, and thus formed a capable threat to the hegemonic control the market reformers held over the highest levels of the Soviet government.

The Soviet people’s support for Ligachev’s politics and the Andreeva letter manifested itself in the hundreds of supportive letters written by average citizens but left unpublished during Yakovlev and Gorbachev’s swift purge of anti-market elements in the party. Although these letters are generally omitted from western narratives of the affair, Ligachev, who was in charge of allocating letters to ideological screeners, mentions the numerous letters responding to Andreeva’s polemic in his memoirs. According to an official investigation referenced by Ligachev, out of the "380 responses [that] were received," there were "only 80 condemning Andreeva while 300 supported her." [5] The fact that all of the responses were written by independent citizens demonstrates that the Andreeva letter did not cause a fracture within Soviet society as Yakovlev claimed, but was consistent with the supposed spirit of glasnost.

But for the market reformers, Andreeva’s insistence that the official attacks on the achievements of Soviet history were antithetical to glasnost itself posed a serious problem. The highly selective reporting by liberal elements in the official media undercut the kind of openness seemingly preached by the market reformers. Such practices did not promote fair and civil exchange between the proponents of different ideas; rather, they served to secure the ruling faction’s political objectives.

Although the market reformers accused Ligachev of conspiring to reprint the Andreeva letter during his meeting with media officials on March 14, outright support for the letter came only from a few media representatives and manifested itself without a unified directive. Valentin Chikin, Chief Editor of Sovetskaya Rossiya and original publisher of the Andreeva letter, was the first media representative to publicly challenge liberal tendencies in the larger media. Immediately after the March 14 meeting, Chikin defended Andreeva and the storm of sympathetic letters that followed "as a reaction to the turbid stream of anti-historical, anti-Soviet materials in [their] press." [6] Victor Afanasyev, Chief Editor of Pravda, supported Chikin’s appraisal of the Andreeva letter, publishing letters from ordinary Soviet citizens in the party’s main periodical. When Yakovlev attempted to publish his rebuttal in Pravda, Afanasyev opposed its publication until Gorbachev threatened him with removal from the editorial board, once more revealing Gorbachev’s opportunistic notion of a "free press." [7] Other periodicals such as Kommunist and Komsomolskaya Pravda published letters with similar themes as those advanced in the Andreeva letter, but were spared by Gorbachev and Yakovlev during the later Politburo purges. In the cases of Afanasyev, Chikin, and many others, support for the planning-oriented tendency resulted in purging during the final campaign to permanently solidify the liberal takeover of the Soviet state.

While supporters of a planning-oriented recalibration of perestroika gained support in the initial weeks following the publication of the Andreeva letter, these successes were cut short by the backlash following Gorbachev’s return to Moscow. The campaign began with two Politburo meetings chaired by Gorbachev and organized by Yakovlev in late March and early April. Gorbachev’s sudden change from situational moderate to market reformist manifested during a preparatory meeting with Yakovlev upon his return. Yakovlev framed the situation surrounding the Andreeva letter as if Ligachev was prepared to orchestrate a coup d’etat, claiming they should "strike back from the highest level." [8] Yakovlev’s calls for authoritative action indicate the market reformers lacked confidence that they could rely on citizens at "a lower level" to defend Gorbachev’s style of perestroika. [9]

Gorbachev and Yakovlev forced a Politburo meeting on March 25 that excluded Ligachev, who was unable to attend due to the pressing nature of his immediate party duties. Gorbachev immediately issued a test of loyalty, firmly stating, "I am asking all of you to declare yourselves" in regard to participation in a conspiracy against perestroika and support for the Andreeva letter. [10] Threatening the Politburo with his resignation and an investigation into each Politburo member’s activities, Gorbachev eventually turned everyone present at the meeting against Ligachev. The coercion of the Politburo at the March 30 meeting resulted in the authorization of an official response to the Andreeva letter to be written by Yakovlev and prepared the market reformers for the April 14 & 15 Politburo meeting in which they would eliminate all official party support for the political line advanced by Ligachev and Andreeva.

Yakovlev’s anonymously published letter to Pravda, "Pravda Rebuts Antirestructuring Manifesto," condemned the Andreeva letter and its supporters, reflecting the tactics utilized the market reformers against the planning-oriented faction at the April 15 & 16 Politburo meeting. After criticizing Andreeva’s polemic for impersonating the party line and confusing the masses, Yakovlev wrote the anonymous rebuttal without ever clearly establishing that the letter represented the concrete party line. Western historians who labeled the Andreeva polemic an "authoritarian document" fell silent on Yakovlev’s ambiguous pronouncement. [11] Moreover, Yakovlev and the market reformers followed the exact course of action which they wrongly claimed characterized the alleged conspiracy between Ligachev and Andreeva: attempting, as a minority faction, to hijack party mechanisms with the intent of manipulating mass opinion.

In order to achieve a political victory and carry out Yakovlev’s "strike from above," the market reformers had to intimidate or purge the majority of the Politburo and publish an authoritative denunciation of Andreeva in the mass media. Ironically, western historian Archie Brown notes "how little reliance could be placed at this time on democratic pressure from below to combat attempts by party conservatives to launch a counter-reformation." [12] Yakovlev stood against the mass support for the strengthening of socialism and the end of self-flagellation the market reformers had brought upon the country.

The political maneuvering of the market reformers came to a climax with the commencement of the Politburo’s final meeting regarding the Nina Andreeva affair. The April 14 & 15 Politburo meeting of 1988 was a landmark moment in the collapse of socialism in the USSR and throughout the Eastern Bloc—marking the triumph of the market reformers against the defenders of socialism within the CPSU. The meeting was preceded by a Central Committee commission under Yakovlev’s direction "raid[ing] the offices of Sovetskaya Rossiya looking for evidence of a conspiracy" which, unsurprisingly, yielded nothing aside from an abundance of unpublished letters supporting Andreeva. [13] Even without the evidence he hoped to procure in the raid, Gorbachev began the Politburo meeting by voicing his frustration with the unverifiable rumor that "several comrades called for the reprinting of the article in different periodical organs" and that the article itself contained "information about which [only] a tight circle of people" knew. [14] After hearing that many Politburo members supported the content of the Andreeva letter, Gorbachev and Yakovlev intimidated all dissenting members into submission by calling for the defense of unity. One by one, Politburo members who sympathized with Andreeva ceded their arguments under the threat of purging. For Yakovlev and Gorbachev, this meeting successfully silenced support for planning-oriented reform in the media, permanently marginalized Ligachev for his history of opposition to market reform, and did away with all politicians who continued to oppose the pro-market orientation of perestroika. Furthermore, the liquidation of the planning-oriented reformers from the CPSU consolidated the market reformers’ control over the Soviet media, ending the short period in which both planning and market-based perspectives circulated throughout Soviet publications.

As a result of the campaign against planning-oriented party members, Soviet media outlets were pressured to cease publishing letters in support of the Andreeva letter and instead publish letters of dubious origins opposing the so-called "three weeks of stagnation." Hardline Marxist-Leninist publications, such as Sovetskaya Rossiya, Pravda, and Kommunist, were "categorically forbidden to publish letters in support of Andreeva and ordered to print only condemnatory letters." [15] Out of 380 letters received from citizens concerning the Andreeva letter, all 300 supportive letters were confiscated from Ligachev’s office. In fact, all supportive letters received by other periodicals "were taken from the editorial offices" in order to impose artificial "unanimous condemnation of the article." [16] Government agents seized the letters as evidence for a supposed political conspiracy against Gorbachev’s perestroika, although none of the letters or any other "suspicious materials'' provided the liberals with sufficient evidence to suggest an anti-perestroika conspiracy existed in the first place. While perestroika and glasnost had stemmed, in part, from public demand for the curbing of the arbitrary use of state power, reforms instead depended upon and reinforced the intensification of official attacks on the historical legacy of the Soviet project as a whole, the very practice that Andreeva and many other citizens spoke out against in the spirit of glasnost itself.

In the end, the USSR would come to appear vastly different from the promised changes that perestroika would supposedly bring. First and foremost, Yakovlev’s unsigned article, published on the front page of Pravda, artificially redirected public opinion towards an undemocratically-established party line, in the exact manner that Ligachev and Andreeva stood accused. Gorbachev and Yakovlev had to force a resistant Victor Afanasev, editor in chief of Pravda, to publish Yakovlev’s article, which Afanasev saw as an affront to Marxist-Leninist principles. Ligachev recalls Afanasev claiming:

"They twisted my arm and forced me to put the article into the paper. I will never in my life forgive myself for that." [17]

Sovetskaya Rossiya was also forced to print "a retraction of the original [Andreeva] letter and self-criticism" on April 15 against the will of the editorial board and chief editor Chikin. [18] The Politburo publicly condemned Chikin for publishing the Andreeva letter and nearly forced his resignation from Sovetskaya Rossiya. As if the intimidation of major publications did not suffice in the crusade against the political opposition, Gorbachev and Yakovlev carried out a purge of the Politburo despite its members having bowed to their authority. By the 19th Party Conference, "Gorbachev [had] removed all the Politburo leaders who supported the Andreeva letter, except Anatoly Lukyanov, Gorbachev’s friend from student days." [19] And of course, Gorbachev demoted Ligachev to Secretary of Agriculture, while promoting Medvedev, one of Yakovlev’s closest allies, to Secretary of Ideology. This exertion of power startled even the most supportive western historians, prompting one, Joseph Gibbs, to observe that "the only acceptable use of glasnost was in promoting perestroika as Gorbachev directed it." [20] Finally, with the arrival of the 19th Party Conference, Gorbachev, Yakovlev, and the market reformers could celebrate their consolidation of party unity, achieved through the ruthless suppression of the general political tendency that had dominated since 1917.

The 19th Party Conference of 1988 marked the final political defeat of the opposition forces and a turning point in the path towards the complete overthrow of socialism in the USSR. Gorbachev recalls in his memoirs that "the forthcoming conference" was "a test of strength between the reform and conservative wings of the party" following the planning reformers’ near destruction in mid-June. [21] Notwithstanding the idealistic righteousness Gorbachev conceived around his struggle, the 19th Party Conference more closely resembled a victory rally than a political battleground. In his opening speech, Gorbachev, assisted by Yakovlev beforehand, announced the current necessity for "implementation of radical economic reform, activation of the spiritual potential of society, reform of the political system, [and] democratization of international relations," which all amounted to the restoration of market forces, dismemberment of Soviet democracy, and unconditional surrender to the West’s demands. [22] While circumstance forced the only remaining supporters of the Andreeva letter, Ligachev and Lukyanov, to be virtually silent, Gorbachev humorously recalls:

"The party had not known such an open and lively debate since its first post-revolutionary congresses." [23]

Many of the issues at the conference consisted of topics such as purging "anyone who in former times actively carried out the policy of stagnation." [24] For the market reformers, any discussion outside of opposition to planning and the liberalization of the economy represented a desire to revive so-called Stalinist tendencies within the party. The victors concluded that "direct sabotage by a significant number of the party secretaries of the party apparatus," although realistically quite imaginary, had been overcome and wished to use the 19th Party Conference as "the springboard for all our reforms." [25] The 19th Party Conference brought peaceful dissent against market reform to a close, leading to the unfettered liberalization of Soviet society and the restoration of capitalism, interrupted only momentarily by a later KGB attempt to overthrow Gorbachev.

Two Faces of Soviet Liberalism

Throughout the implementation of perestroika in the late 1980s, Gorbachev consistently reiterated the necessity for an indiscriminate democratic political framework when publicly confronted by demands for the liquidation of dissenting politicians. Chernyayev, who viewed most of Gorbachev’s policies as too moderate, often voiced support for arbitrary political measures in dealing with the political enemies of market reform. During the Politburo purge of June 1988, Gorbachev responded to Chernyayev’s demand to dismiss the entire editorial board ofSovetskaya Rossiya for publishing Andreeva’s polemic, stating that reformers must operate "within the framework of a democratic process." [26] Although Gorbachev granted amnesty to Chikin for implementing glasnost in a disagreeable manner, his arbitrary demotion and/or purging of political opponents who could actually divert perestroika down a planning-oriented path, i.e., Ligachev and sympathetic Politburo members, illustrates how Gorbachev relied on democratic processes as a tool to improve the reputation of his reforms. Many examples of Gorbachev touting democratic language to improve the image of market reform took place at his mass meetings with workers of different regions across the USSR. In Norilsk, near the Arctic Circle, Gorbachev publicly asserted that "everything must be done democratically" when charged by a market-oriented local party member to purge comrades who "were holding back reform." [27] Gorbachev’s democratic terminology deeply resonated both with the West and Soviet citizens who genuinely wished to improve Soviet socialism, but this language served only to disguise the imposition of capitalist reform.

Despite Gorbachev’s promise to work within a democratic framework for all affairs carried out by the liberalized Soviet state, many genuine socialists, who initially supported Gorbachev’s ascension to power, fell prey to a contradictory campaign against neo-Stalinism which used so-called Stalinist political tactics. Ironically, it was the market reformers who first described their authoritarian tactics as part of an "Iron Hand" strategy in dealing with the perceived threat of "neo-Stalinism." [28] Fantasies about a social crusade against the final remnants of the Stalinist system, therefore, took a form not unlike the Great Purges of the 1930s. Throughout the Great Purges, the state sought to liquidate kulaks, supporters of Leon Trotsky and Nikolai Bukharin, and others labeled "enemies of the people" from the party and positions of state power. Likewise, market reformers of the late 1980s directed their own campaign against "enemies of perestroika" who allegedly wanted to go back to the times of Josef Stalin; the difference here was that no enemy of perestroika supported the vague concept of "Stalinism" or even opposed perestroika. [29] Perestroika simply means restructuring—its so-called "enemies" opposed Gorbachev’s market deviations and instead sought to modernize economic planning, as well as further democratize party rule. In reality, Gorbachev and his market reformist allies opposed the original framework of perestroika as presented by Andropov and used the concept as a means to marginalize their opposition when it was convenient. Yet another example of such political opportunism emerged when "the same radicals who later left the party and proceeded to attack communists," i.e., market reformers who trumpeted perestroika and socialism throughout the late 20th century, began to attack "those who continued to defend the ideas of the 27th Congress" into the 1990s. [30] The authoritarian measures of the market reformers in response to reformists of a different tendency directly contradicted their stated democratic principles, which were nothing more than an opportunistic political tool.

Nina Andreeva understood that the policies of the market reformers and media slander had "to do not so much with [Stalin’s] historical personality itself" as it did with political opportunism. [31] In 1949, Ligachev, one of the most infamous "Stalinists" of the Nina Andreeva affair, was persecuted under "suspicion of being a Trotskyist ‘enemy of the people’ and fired as chief of the Novosibirsk Komsomol organization." [32] Moreover, Ligachev has always echoed Gorbachev in defending one of Stalin’s primary political enemies, Nikolai Bukharin, as "a wrongfully persecuted, honest person" who deserved to be posthumously acquitted of the crimes of which he was accused. [33] Nina Andreeva’s relatives, too, were repressed, and both her father and sister died in World War II. Nevertheless, despite the repression Andreeva’s family and Ligachev himself faced during the 1930s and 40s, the market reformers labeled planning-oriented reformers as the notorious leaders of a Stalinist conspiracy and attempted to form a false historical narrative to support their political objectives.

If there had been no Nina Andreeva, they would have had to invent her.

Market-oriented politicians and media representatives did not simply take advantage of the events that were transpiring to disenfranchise their political opponents; they were actively manipulating events to produce conditions favorable to the purging of the opposition. Market reformers like Yasovlev and Chernyaev had decided it was necessary to purge anti-market forces from the party long before the Nina Andreeva Affair. In the spirit of market reformism, Chernyaev recalls that their brand of reform required "an avalanche of anti-Stalinism" to compensate for its lack of popularity within the party, concluding that "if there had been no Nina Andreyeva, [they] would have had to invent her." [34] While radical market-oriented reformers like Chernyaev touted overtly machiavellian sentiments of political deception, Gorbachev more naively mentions how vital the Nina Andreeva affair was to the conviction that their political opposition was planning a coup and to the reinforcement of market reformer power. Gorbachev’s belief that "without knowing it, Nina Andreeva helped us," when cross-analyzed against Chernyaev’s statements regarding the affair, suggest that the market reform bloc had a generally uniform plan for the political future of the USSR before the publication of Nina Andreeva’s letter and that Gorbachev was to be their vehicle of political power. [35] The conflicting post-Soviet memoirs of different market-oriented CPSU members further indicate that Gorbachev conceived of a distinct Soviet future that differed from the vision of the politicians who ultimately seized power. Although it is unlikely that a thoroughly developed plan for 1986 onwards existed, Gorbachev describes his ultimate intent as "the establishment of a fully operative socialist market" and the removal of CPSU jurisdiction over the state. [36] Gorbachev’s later criticisms of unmasked liberals who denounced the 27th Party Congress after defending it throughout the 1980s illustrates the significance of the divide between these two tendencies of market reformism. It is true market reformers were eventually divided into their own hostile camps, but the outcome of both factions’ plans was clear: the removal of the CPSU’s political hegemony, the liberalization of economic planning to the benefit of capitalist elements, and, as a consequence, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The consistent conflict between Gorbachev’s reiteration of the necessity for party unity and the ease with which he divided and conquered his own comrades throughout the Nina Andreeva affair offers a stark example of opportunism in practice. Throughout the affair, denunciations of party members who breached "party unity" had impaired the political activities of reformers who genuinely sought to improve socialism through the established means of democratic centralism. Gorbachev continued to reiterate that "[we] had unity in the unity was born out of the development of a new political course, which we now call— perestroika," causing dedication to party unity to overshadow suspicion that Gorbachev’s perestroika was contributing to the overthrow of the Soviet Union. [37] Gorbachev may not have acted with the same malicious intent as the market reformers who supported him prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, but his inability to stop events from spiraling out of control only played into their hands.

Amidst the political chaos of the Nina Andreeva affair and the economic catastrophe that developed as a result of market reforms, Gorbachev continued to defend perestroika and its policies as necessary for the maintenance and improvement of Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union. The Andreeva letter’s title, "I Cannot Forgo My Principles," even took inspiration from Gorbachev’s public statement at a February plenary session of the CPSU Central Committee, at which he claimed:

"We must be guided by our Marxist-Leninist principles. Comrades, we must not forgo these principles under any pretexts." [38]

And yet, Gorbachev’s actions and principles were in obvious contradiction. However, Gorbachev was not likely consciously betraying his Marxist-Leninist principles, instead falling victim to the influences of hardline market reformers like Chernyaev and Yakovlev. These reformers frankly recall how Gorbachev’s policies never satisfied them, as "the system would have remained the same" if they had not eventually bypassed him to break up the Soviet Union. [39] Unlike his former advisors, Gorbachev still asserts that the market reformers made an error in breaking up the Soviet Union and that "with every passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that what the country needs is a new balance of political forces." [40] Although Gorbachev may not have intended to precipitate the collapse like his more extreme comrades, his policies undercutting party power and economic planning effectively destroyed the social and economic infrastructure of the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev’s capitulation to the liberal demand for the weakening of party control over the state and economy demonstrates that the radical market reformers were ultimately interested in overthrowing Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet Union. The state, under the leadership of the party, had owned nearly all capital and productive property across the multinational country. The party’s guidance of economic forces attempted to encourage socialist development while party and state mechanisms provided a degree of political representation at every level of society. But this system of Soviet democracy refused the establishment of private property necessary for the realization of market reform. For this reason, Chernyaev ominously told Gorbachev that "[maybe] an operation to clean out the Politburo could have been undertaken [...] but what then? [...] the system would have remained the same" and property relations would remain socialized. [41] “The party-state monolith was still in place” and would have been strengthened under planning-oriented reform policies, leading market reformers like Chernyaev and Yakovlev to attack it as the only means to dismantle socialism. [42] These market reformers convinced Gorbachev to dismantle party power over the state on the grounds that all encompassing state power was inherently undemocratic, soon bringing him into the effort of "drawing a line between the functions of the party and the state." [43] Because these elections allowed campaigning and private funding, candidates fell under the influence of wealthy black marketeers and liberal politicians who had been snatching up state property since the Brezhnev era. Gorbachev’s democracy, therefore, did not work in favor of working class people; on the contrary, it dismantled the party political structure that once assured capital could not overpower the worker’s vote. The overthrow of party power in the Soviet Union disarmed the socialist system and opened it to attacks on its economic framework—planning.

Gorbachev’s liberalization of the economy caused near-hyperinflation, chronic shortages of basic necessities, an end to working class participation in economic planning, and reinforced forces that would ultimately overthrow socialism. For Gorbachev, defending a "movement towards market reforms" unconditionally meant "defending perestroika and confirming [their] plans" for a reversal of nearly a century of socialist construction. [44] His vision of a "market socialist" Soviet Union, although purportedly different from the liberal attempts to mass privatise the means of production, served as a halfway house for liberals to take advantage of a weakened state and overturn its socialist property relations. [45] The movement towards these market reforms meant the disenfranchisement of working people from a formerly democratic economic process and the scattering of organized state resources into the anarchy of private ownership. Surprisingly, it seems as though Gorbachev’s move towards market liberalization resulted more from a failure to understand the significance of economic planning on the development of socialism rather than an opportunistic attempt to claim state property. In his memoirs, Gorbachev claims that he saw no contradiction between socialist development and "the establishment of a fully operative socialist market"; on the contrary, he viewed it as the necessary conclusion of his reformation of Marxism-Leninism. [46] Gorbachev’s incorrect projection of the effects market policies would have on socialist development directly contrast the more predatory claims of reformers like Chernyaev and Yakovlev, who, in their memoirs, blatantly admit their early wishes to restore the prevalence of private property. The naivety of Gorbachev, eradication of political opposition, and economically predatory aspirations of market reformers culminated into a perfect formula for a reintroduction of markets and the ultimate destruction of the Soviet Union.

Liberal Ramifications, the Destruction of Socialism, & the Dissolution of the USSR

The political struggle that ensued from the publication of the Andreeva letter conclusively ended opposition to market reformism within the Politburo of the CPSU and marked a turning point in the trajectory of perestroika towards economic and political liberalization. Through the purges in May 1988, market reformers successfully eliminated opposition from nearly all state apparatuses, with just enough time to announce thorough liberalization at the 19th Party Conference. Ligachev, the only planning-oriented reformer given ample time to speak, mourned the death of democratic centralism within the party while criticizing Gorbachev’s idealistic and optimistic projections for perestroika at the 19th Party Conference. He also stated that the course of perestroika had been determined through backdoor Politburo battles and that "history [could have] taken a different course" if the Marxist principle of open discussion was truly upheld within the party. [47] Glasnost and freedom of discussion were weaponized by the market reformers, leaving purges and suppression within the bounds of legality. Gorbachev recalls having "succeeded in defending perestroika and confirming our plans" immediately following the 19th Party Conference, "including the movement towards market reforms" against which no party member dared to oppose. [48] As a result of the defeat of the political opposition, perestroika became an unobstructed process of liberalization beginning in July 1988.

The hunt for neo-Stalinists among the ranks of the party served as a justification for the attacks on the political opposition, as the campaign continued without exposing a single "neo-Stalinist" in a position of party leadership. Nonetheless, Gorbachev began removing Politburo members and other national leaders who supported the Andreeva letter, replacing them with his own hand-picked underlings until official debate about the course of perestroika ceased. Gorbachev recalls that "no significant political force spoke out openly" against the imposition of market reforms after the 19th Party Conference. [49] Interestingly enough, no high profile party members were dismissed or reprimanded directly under the pretense of being a neo-Stalinist; their crimes were of breaking party unity or lacking party discipline, only vaguely correlating to the fabricated neo-Stalinist tendency described by the liberal press. Ligachev accurately criticises these occurrences as:

"a phenomenon of the manipulation of mass consciousness: people do not know the essence of the matter but they have been inculcated with a firm stereotype, with the help of which opponents can be labeled without any explanations, elucidations, or arguments." [50]

In essence, calls for a balanced historical appraisal of the successes and failures of Soviet history created too great a possibility for the public to reject Gorbachev’s market-oriented and politically pluralistic reforms. Although history provided the Nina Andreeva the market reformers needed, their victory against Andreeva, Ligachev, and their supporters would have been impossible without their fabrication of the neo-Stalinist boogeyman.

Despite the original claim that the purpose of perestroika served to perfect socialism in the 20th century, the progressively right-wing political trend driving perestroika aimed to restore capitalism in the Eastern Bloc. The clearest indication of their opportunistic intent surfaced with the official dissolution of the Soviet Union—the near unanimous rejection of the 27th Party Congress as too conservative. Immediately before his resignation as President of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev recalls that: "[T]here were no farewells. None of the leaders of the states of the CIS telephoned me, neither on the day of my departure nor since," and that his former comrades were "thrown into a rage" by his critical farewell speech. [51] The market reformers who once acted in the name of "democratic socialism" and struggled in favor of Gorbachev’s policies of perestroika and glasnost had, in an instant, rejected the political principles of class struggle and workers’ democracy upon which their homeland was founded. Without a strong planning-oriented faction within the party, the political shift of the market reformers came as a surprise to many who believed liberal politicians at their word. However, the later writings of many market reformers reveal the inner thoughts which guided them through the late 1980s. Chernyaev’s various descriptions of Ligachev as "a slave to the old ways" and someone who "personalizes the gross output, slave-driving, shock work approach" embody the contempt with which Chernyaev viewed Ligachev’s defense of the positive aspects of socialist society. [52] Chernyaev, in several instances, revealed his desire to overthrow the system as a whole, claiming that the planning- oriented reformers "demonstrated a complete bankruptcy in misunderstanding the essence of perestroika" as a means to reform socialism. Chernyaev saw a political course in which "the system would have remained the same" as inherently backwards and Stalinist. [53] Although market reformers initially defended perestroika as an improvement upon socialist construction, their actions following the fall of the Soviet Union revealed their interest in complete system change since before the 27th Party Conference. The most significant conundrum of perestroika emerges from the fact that market reform policies made the Soviet, and eventually Russian, political system far more undemocratic than even during the Brezhnev years. The first western-style parliamentary elections took place in the Spring of 1990 and retained a relatively unchanging political character until electoral modifications of the early 2000s, but for Gorbachev these elections varied in their authenticity. In reflecting upon the liberalized elections of 1990, Gorbachev recalls that "this time the communists indeed held genuine elections, under the eye of a watchful press"—a press that at this point was completely predisposed against opponents of the party’s liberal policies. [54] These elections brought the formerly-defeated Boris Yeltsin back into politics as Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet and initially as Gorbachev’s political ally. Although Gorbachev believed the 1990 election to be genuine, he rejected future elections as one among many factors that have prompted the necessity for "a new balance of political forces and a new policy" after Yeltsin betrayed him and he was rendered powerless as the president of a country that no longer existed. [55] Gorbachev’s conception of a genuine election, therefore, does not provide an accurate measure for authenticity, as it only describes elections in which candidates favorable to his policies are elected. No Russian presidential election from 1990 onwards would be considered genuine and fair, even by western standards, if the parties involved were not concerned with destroying socialism at any cost. The supposedly first genuine election of 1990, as Gorbachev recalls in his memoirs, took place under the supervision of the radically anti-communist press and in a completely homogenous political atmosphere that resulted from the purges leading up to the 19th Party Conference of 1988—an election that essentially amounted to thoroughly liberal appointment. Later elections became more blatantly corrupt starting with the 1993 parliamentary elections in which “extensive ballot rigging probably took place” and a communist rebellion, known as "Black October," projected the voices of those who had been betrayed by the triumph of liberalism back into the political discussion. [56] The degree to which corruption and election-rigging was widespread in the post-Soviet Russian political system is incomparable with the politics typical of the Soviet period. Western criticisms of the Soviet political system mostly amounted to denunciations of the one party system and internal elections of party functionaries —neither of which are objectively undemocratic practices as they were practiced within the limits of established Soviet legality. Ultimately, perestroika encouraged politicians to navigate the political system through illegal methods and justify their actions as combating the resurgence of communism, spawning an unstable political atmosphere not seen since the October Revolution of 1917.

Similar to the devastating political consequences of removing the party from political authority in the Soviet Union, the restoration of markets in the Eastern Bloc sowed ruinous outcomes for millions of workers and outlandish fortunes for a select few. Economic planning in the 1980s, although it required reform and was plagued by inefficiencies, continued to provide the Soviet people with guaranteed employment, healthcare, education, and housing among other socialist programs and privileges. Not only did the Soviet state continue to provide these invaluable services to the populace amidst increasingly worrisome economic stagnation, but Soviet industry even maintained an impressive 3.2% annual growth rate throughout the early 1980s—a large figure even for the United States at the time. [57] Soviet citizens actually enjoyed the highest living standards ever experienced in the history of the multinational federation, leading many polls to suggest that satisfaction with the quality of Soviet life was comparable to that of the United States in 1985. [58] However, the ruinous mass privatization campaigns of the 1990s quickly converted complaints about party corruption and faltering labor productivity into fears regarding losing one’s home and the inability to afford food. Throughout the latter years ofperestroika (1989-1991), market reforms had already caused significant monetary inflation and actually hampered labor productivity in the state economy by purposely weakening the government’s attempts to control private economic interests, measures Gorbachev defended in his final "Address to the Soviet Citizens" as "historically justified" because "society has acquired freedom; it has been freed politically and spiritually." [59] For the average Russian worker, this "freedom" did not end the rampant inflation which made the previously affordable prices of food and other commodities skyrocket; in fact, it served only to expedite mass privatization under Boris Yeltsin and other liberals who ultimately betrayed Gorbachev for his "far left" approach to market economics. Gorbachev described Yeltsin’s disastrous and predatory economic policies, often called "shock therapy," as "a ‘cavalry attack’ on our economy [which] brought enormous hardships for the people of Russia. Power was in the hands of irresponsible, incompetent people, who were both ambitious and ruthless." [60] While the responsibility for this "cavalry attack" lies with the market reformers, Gorbachev is correct in emphasizing the outlandish consequences these policies wrought for the Russian people. According to the World Bank, Russian’s GDP fell by nearly 1 trillion dollars between 1990-1998 with some yearly growth rates falling as low as -14%. [61] With the combined effect of hyperinflation and economic collapse, Russia struggled through the greatest national economic hardship since post-WWII reconstruction—and many soon realized which economic policies were truly responsible for the nation’s utter collapse.

The dismantling of the socialist planned economy and the liberalization of the one-party state apparatus wrought a dramatic decrease in standards of human development. High standards of human development in the Soviet Union primarily stemmed from the immense privileges the workers’ state offered its people relative to western liberal democracies. By disenfranchising workers from the political process and inviting the new oligarchical class into the highest organs of government, Russian liberals converted the previously socially-minded workers’ state into a vehicle for capitalist megaprofits. According to Stephen F. Cohen, media correspondent for The Nation, corruption within the new Russian state was "so extensive that capital flight exceeds all foreign loans and investment"—a result of Soviet productive property ownership passing from common property of its workers to the new class of capitalists who hyper-profited from capital’s sale overseas. [62] Pillaging Russia of productive capital, while producing riches for a few, yielded destructive consequences for the livelihoods of the vast majority of Russian people. By 1992, 75% of Russians lived at or below the poverty line when only three years earlier, even with the disastrous effects of perestroika on working class people, Soviet citizens continued to enjoy paid vacations, union wages, guaranteed employment, and socialised education and healthcare. [63] Yeltsin’s dissolution of the All Union Central Council of Trade Unions, a trade union incorporating all Soviet citizens, and crackdown on post-Soviet unions brought these programs to a close, ending decades of high working class living standards and causing life expectancies to plummet as low as 59. [64] The destruction of socialism in Eastern Europe failed to produce the democracy, freedom, and end to corruption that market reformers and Western liberals had promised since the early days of perestroika. Privatisation instead dismantled the many positive qualities of the Soviet socialist system and most workers in extreme poverty.

The Nina Andreeva affair, its place in the historical process that ended with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and the West’s interpretation of the events which preceded and followed its collapse, provide a number of lessons regarding the machiavellian nature of politics, how socialist countries should conduct and reform themselves in the 21st century, and how ideological influence can be as formidable of a weapon as the military industrial complex. The ease with which liberalism entered mainstream Soviet media by means of top-down party appointments should remind historians how significant a role control over information plays in modern geopolitics as well as prompt scholars to reanalyse the political repercussions of Gorbachev’s perestroika. While the fact that liberal party members were able to create radical systemic changes without working through Soviet democratic channels revealed inherent problems with the system of political appointments, their opportunistic usage of these flaws in Soviet democracy and later authoritarian measures against Marxist-Leninists indicate that the political struggle leading to disintegration of the Soviet Union was not between the forces of democracy and autocracy; instead, the disintegration of the Soviet Union was the final struggle between Western capitalist values and Eastern socialist values of the 20th Century. Both sides of the conflict attempted to defend their own concepts of freedom and democracy, rooted in private property ownership against social property ownership, respectively.

At its conclusion, private property triumphed in Eastern Europe through political deception and wreaked such havoc in the ex-Soviet countries that most economies have only recently recovered from its effects. But even now, the benefits afforded to the working class during Soviet times are almost entirely absent. In comparing these systems and considering the immense poverty and devastation Eastern Europe has faced through much of its history, the Soviet period undoubtedly marked the most rapid economic development and highest living standards in the region’s history. On the other hand, the triumph of liberalism in the region has brought economic devastation to Eastern Europe’s working classes. Even as many in the West continue to superficially and mistakenly view the Soviet Union as a totalitarian state, the 21st century will bring to fruition a generation distanced from the 20th century’s anticommunist ideological conditioning as well as new historians who will once more reassess the legacy of the Soviet project.



[1] Current Digest of the Soviet Press XL, No. 15, 1988, pg 9.

[2] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 301. [3] Current Digest of the Soviet Press, XL, No. 14, 1988, pg 3.

[4] Current Digest of the Soviet Press XL, No. 14,1988, pg 2.

[5] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 309. [6] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 301.

[7] Ibid., 310. [8] Joseph Gibbs, Gorbachev’s Glasnost: The Soviet Media in the First Phase of Perestroika (College Station, Texas: A&M University Press, 1999), 68. [9] Ibid. [10] Roger Keeran & Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 119.

[11] Brown, The Gorbachev Factor, 172 [12] Ibid., 174. [13] Roger Keeran & Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed: Behind the Collapse of the Soviet Union, 119.

[14] Gorbachev, Годы Трудных Решений, 99. [15] Ibid. [16] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 309. [17] Ibid., 310 [18] Roger Keeran & Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed, 119. [19] Ibid. [20] Gibbs, Gorbachev’s Glasnost, 71. [21] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 253. [22] Ibid., 256. [23] Ibid. [24] Ibid. [25] Ibid., 259. [26] Chernyayev, My Six Years with Gorbachev, 159.

[27] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 354-5. [28] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 303. [29] Ibid., 302. [30] Ibid., 303. [31] Nina Andreeva, “I Cannot Forgo My Principles”, 290.

[32] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, xv. [33] Ibid., 298. [34] Chernyaev, My Six Years With Gorbachev, 156. [35] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 253. [36] Ibid., 373. [37] Gorbachev, Годы Трудных Решений, 102. [38] Nina Andreeva, “I Cannot Forgo My Principles”, 296.

[39] Chernyaev, My Six Years With Gorbachev, 156. [40] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 672. [41] Chernyaev, My Six Years With Gorbachev, 156. [42] Ibid. [43] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 372. [44] Ibid. [45] Keeran & Kenny, Socialism Betrayed, 194. [46] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 373. [47] Chernyaev, My Six Years With Gorbachev, 163. [48] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 372 [49] Ibid. [50] Ligachev, Inside Gorbachev’s Kremlin, 298. [51] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 671. [52] Chernyaev, My Six Years With Gorbachev, 152.

[53] Ibid., 156. [54] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 255. [55] Ibid., 672. [56] “Leading Article: Russia’s Opportunity for Democratic Reform”, The Independent, June 18, 1996.

[57] Anders Aslund, How Russia Became a Market Economy (Washington, DC: Brookings, 1995), 13.

[58] Roger Keeran & Thomas Kenny, Socialism Betrayed, 211. [59] Gorbachev, Memoirs, xxvii. [60] Gorbachev, Memoirs, 672. [61] [62] Stephen F. Cohen, “American Journalism and Russia’s Tragedy”, The Nation - Oct 2, 2000, 23 December 2000,!msg/soc.culture.burma/fByOtmUqRjU/ eQ2sV5sXb7oJ [63] Ibid.

[64] Ibid.



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