Brezhnev and Soviet Stagnation

By the end of the Khrushchev era, conservatives within the regime saw nothing but failure.  Not only had the post Stalinist thaw resulted in chaos as far as they could see, but the economic initiatives the General Secretary had put forward, such as the Virgin Lands Campaign, had been dismal failures.

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The coup to oust him, partly orchestrated by Leonid Brezhnev, was followed by an 18 year period where new economic ideas were looked upon with suspicion at best. Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev had all based their rule on a particular model of political economy, the economic ideas they espoused came to define their time in power, for better or worse. Brezhnev was the first Soviet leader who explicitly argued that there would be no defining economic idea and that under conditions of ‘mature socialism’ that ideas themselves were unwarranted. There is an immense irony in the appointment of Alexei Kosygin as Chairman of the Council Of Ministers, who had joint control of the Soviet economy with Brezhnev. Kosygin introduced three waves of reforms, all sabotaged by conservatives and by the legacy of Stalinism on the Soviet economy. They attempted to introduce competitive practices and principals into the Soviet economy without allowing a fully privatised market economy to develop. Kosygin died in 1980 and on his death was unsuccessful in transforming the Soviet economy, but his reforms paved the way for a second attempt at change under Gorbachev some five years later. For more on this, watch the video below:

 

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