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- June 12, 1990: Russia declares itself an
independent and sovereign state known as the Russian Federation
- June 12, 1991: Boris Yeltsin became the first democratically elected president of the Russian Federation. He was inaugurated on July 10, 1991.
In most countries, Independence Day conjures up images of grand celebration, fireworks, family get-togethers, parades and so on. These celebrations commemorate the declaration and establishment of sovereignty by a colony or nation occupied and governed by another nation. This is not exactly the case with Russia's Independence Day.
During the Soviet Era, Russia was considered the center of power of the USSR. In fact, the Soviet Union is often referred to as Soviet Russia. This is, of course, incorrect as Russia was one of fifteen Soviet States. Russia was the largest of the states and the capital of the USSR was in Moscow, giving the idea that Russia was the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union was Russia.
The question is, who did Russia gain independence from? This goes back to how Russians viewed their country during the Soviet Era. It was Russia which, one after another, brought together fourteen other states to form a union of states. Russia was considered the motherland and everything political led to the Kremlin and Moscow. Russia pulled the union together, Russian was the common language and to this day you can still hear people, especially in the West, use the terms Russia and Soviet Union interchangeably.
Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1985. One of the first things he did was to crack down on alcohol consumption and mandated that all embassy events be alcohol free. During October and November of 1985, Gorbachev presented a sweeping plan for Soviet economic improvement. From 1986 - 2000, Gorbachev envisioned a total increase in the production of consumer goods of 90 percent. Quality of living standards were to rise 60 - 80 percent and nuclear energy output was to increase by ca. 500 percent. Wages and salaries for workers, scientists, etc., were to be doubled and he forbad agricultural workers from gaining employment in the cities and factories.
Perestroika got its start at the Twenty-Seventh Party Congress in 1986. Gorbachev's program of economic, political, and social reform would represent the end of roughly 70 years of the Soviet state. Most of the world observed the evolution of perestroika in shock and awe. The Soviet giant was something we never expected to see come to an end. Germany was reunited, the Warsaw Pact faded away and the all too familiar Cold War suddenly ended.
While the West lauded perestroika and glasnost, the reality inside the Soviet Union was much different. People were accustomed to the old authoritarian and centralized rule. The new freedoms of speech and religion led to worker's strikes, protests and a fast growing crime rate. For over three generations, Soviet citizens had lived under totalitarian rule. You lived by the rule or endured the consequences. Much was achieved under this highly disciplined system including a 99 percent literacy rate, many firsts in science and technology and a defense build-up that demanded the respect of the rest of the world. Suddenly, almost overnight, these people had freedoms that they had only heard about and, gradually, contact with the world outside the Soviet Union. It is human nature to want to test these new freedoms and to express all the thoughts and grievances that you, hitherto, had to keep to yourself.
Boris Yeltsin and the Rebirth of Russia
Library Binding, 112pp.
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