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UNIT 24: Globalization and Economics

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Global Economy and the Death of the Nation-State: The Soviet Union

This segment examines the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989, and the way its collapse was related to the forces of globalization. Although the events of 1989 surprised the world, it is now clear that the rigid political agenda that drove the Soviet Union since the 1920s disabled the nation-state from competing in the twentieth-century global market. Indeed, Soviet policies mandating the creation of heavy industry, agricultural collectivization, and strict trade controls resulted in an economy managed according to political rather than market principles. Because of this economic inflexibility, the Soviet Union found it increasingly difficult to restructure its economy during a Europe-wide recession in the 1960s and '70s.

In addition, Cold War politics demanded that the Soviets keep up with the United States in terms of military force and weapons stockpiles. Soviet efforts to compete militarily further drained the economy and led to food shortages, poor-quality consumer goods, and impoverishment. In the end, the Soviet Union had to borrow money from foreign nations, but this resulted in massive debt and still more impoverishment. By 1985 the economy was in desperate shape.

In an effort to fix the problem, the newly-elected Michael Gorbachev instituted a series of reforms designed to restructure both politics and the economy. Instead, these reforms provided the member states of the Soviet Union the opportunity to insist on their own independence. By 1989, the Soviet Union had disintegrated into 15 separate countries. Its collapse led to its demise as a superpower, which in turn has had consequences throughout the world.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Thomas Kienzle, BERLINERS SING AND DANCE ON TOP OF THE BERLIN WALL (1989). Courtesy of AP/ Wide World Photos.

Anonymous, REVOLUTIONARIES WITH RED FLAG (1918). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.


Alexander Zemlianichenko, PEOPLE STEP ON THE HEAD OF THE STATUE OF THE FOUNDER OF THE KGB, FELIX EDMUNDOVICH DZERZHINSKY, FRIDAY, AUG. 23 (1991). Courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos.

Anonymous, STALIN (1943). Courtesy of The Image Works.



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