Probably, the countdown of the last days of the Soviet government can begin with the 1988 year, namely with the changes made to the control system of the USSR, and attempts to smooth transition from the totalitarian control system to the democratic one. In several articles we will tell about this failed attempt. Let's start with the main tool - the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR or, more simply, the parliament.
The opening of the congress was preceded by the circumstances that determined the course of the state’s internal policy at that time. The initiative for the congress came from the leader of the Communist Party, MS Gorbachev, who in 1987 – 1988 chose democratization as one of the main styles of his leadership. The main element of democratization was to become a new legislative body of power - the Congress of People's Deputies of the USSR. The idea of MS Gorbachev was to make the most smooth transition from the previous political system, in which the CPSU had an absolute monopoly on power in the country, to a new, and, as he thought, more democratic system of government.
Note that the goal of MS Gorbachev and those who worked with him to develop this scheme were fairly simple-minded and obvious: to create a national discussion platform in the form of a congress of people's deputies, which by its gigantism is unable to make consolidated decisions, but demonstrating democracy and pluralism of opinions. A carefully selected and consolidated by an obvious party majority of deputies (as it seemed to Gorbachev), and therefore a more controlled Supreme Council elected at the congress, will start pursuing a policy proposed by him, Gorbachev, without direct appeal to bureaucratic party structures.
In addition, the need to convene a congress was determined by the situation that had developed in the country by that time. By this time in the USSR for almost four years there was a "restructuring", which began in April 1985. The successes achieved in its course were mainly foreign policy. The situation inside the country was almost catastrophic:
- stagnation in economic development;
- lack of budget funds;
- empty store shelves, queues and coupons entered on industrial and food products.
In addition, there was a sharp drop in world oil prices, to 18,2 dollars per barrel, which put the country on the brink of hunger. It is not by chance that one of the delegates to the congress, Olympic champion, legendary weightlifter and writer Yu.P. Vlasov said in his speech: “People are fed up with promises of a better life and are resolutely demanding change.”
All delegates to the congress are elected people. First time in stories Soviet state had to pass elections based on a free and alternative basis. Out of the total number of 2250 deputies, 1500 deputies were elected directly by the population in constituencies:
- 750 deputies were elected in territorial districts on the basis of equal suffrage;
- 750 deputies were elected in national-territorial districts and also on the basis of equal suffrage (by 32 from each union republic, by 11 from each autonomous republic, by 5 - from each autonomous region and by 1 - from each autonomous region);
- The remaining 750 deputies nominated from their ranks the CPSU, the Komsomol, the unions of writers, composers, cinematographers, etc., the USSR Academy of Sciences, trade unions, veterans and women’s associations. The 100 deputies directly represented the “social organization” at the head of the country - the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Also on the 100 deputies nominated by trade unions and cooperative organizations, and on 75 - the rest of the above organizations.
Thus, the majority (66,0% of deputies) was elected democratically to the congress.
The congress of people's deputies received very broad powers, including the adoption of the USSR Constitution and the introduction of amendments to it, the election of about five hundred people from the congress deputies to the USSR Supreme Soviet.
In a country with a one-party leadership system, this was a significant event: for the first time in the history of the state, elections were announced to which not only selected representatives of the Communist Party and not only representatives of other organizations and associations, but also respected people of the country, nominated by the people themselves, were admitted.
The election campaign was very acute and at the same time quite unusual for a Soviet voter who was used to a different electoral system, involving him in real political activity. The unfolded pre-election struggle took even unexpected forms at the time: a wave of televised debates swept the country, numerous rallies were constantly held, and real public opinion polls began to be held. Describing the atmosphere prior to the congress, American journalist David Remnick wrote: “People who were given the right of political choice for the first time, behaved both confusedly and lively. Previously, they had no experience of participating in real debates, real elections - and immediately jumped at the opportunity. ”
The main goal of the congress was to develop a program for the modernization of the socio-economic and political life of the country. The meetings discussed projects of the state structure in the future, considered new principles of organization of political power, as well as prospects for economic development.
From the first minutes of its work, the congress opened was the scene of a sharp political struggle that flared up between representatives of the various groups present at it. Thousands of calls and telegrams, which were regularly read from the podium, were sent to the congress and individual deputies every day, and rallies boiled on the streets of the evening and night. In Moscow, Pushkin Square, the House of Cinema and Luzhniki became the centers of the rally polemic. Future famous politicians stood out among the street stands: V.I. Novodvorskaya, V.V. Zhirinovsky, V.V. Igrunov, A.K. Isaev.
The whole country froze at televisions, radios, fearing to miss at least a minute of live broadcast of meetings. People walking along the street with compact transistor receivers attached to their ears did not arouse the slightest surprise of passersby. It was clear to everyone: the person is listening to the congress.
One of the most significant participants of the congress, Academician Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov, managed to read the draft “Decree on Power”, which suggested:
- the abolition of the sixth article of the constitution, which defines the leading and guiding role of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union;
- to transfer officially the power in the country to the Soviets;
- make all elections competitive, and all key officials elected at the congress and accountable to it;
- the transition to a professional army and a new federation with the preservation of the former borders was determined as one of the important goals.
In his speech, A.D. Sakharov addressed all participants of the congress, as well as citizens of the whole country, with a direct appeal to support the “Decree”.
Also important was the issue of the sovereignty of the republics and territories belonging to the Soviet Union. The proposals received from the deputies of the Baltic republics were based on the articles on sovereignty included in the constitutions of these republics. The basis for the speeches of the representatives of the “people's fronts” of Latvia and Estonia, the Lithuanian “Sajudis” was the requirement to restore real sovereignty. In their appeal, it was stated: “We proceed from the fact that the Allied republics are primary and the Federation is a derivative. Only the republics can transfer to the Union or regain certain powers, and not vice versa. For the republics have created a union. ” Such statements were dictated by the requirement to consolidate in the ownership of the republics all union property located in their territories, including the subsoil, and to enact laws adopted within the framework of the Soviet Union only by ratifying them in the parliaments of the republics.
All this soon led to the emergence of demands for sovereignty already and autonomies and, accordingly, about the redistribution of existing borders, beyond which conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and the Fergana Valley began to erupt and flare up.
Another issue that has become important among all those discussed is the question of the further development of the country's economy. And above all, about the emerged, which has already become apparent, the contradiction between the state and the market economy.
Elected by this time the head of government N.I. Ryzhkov was the first to reveal the real facts of economic collapse to the deputies and the whole country:
- at the beginning of 1989, there was more than one hundred billion budget deficit in the country;
- outward foreign debt;
- complete lack of inventory and money for import.
As noted in his report, “negative trends” in the country's economy grew gradually over the last three five-year plans, while official statistics and Soviet propaganda deliberately lied, hiding the real truth about the situation that developed in the economy.
Proposals received from deputies for the further development of the economy were very different and at the same time contradictory. For example, G.Kh. As an alternative, Popov, the future mayor of Moscow, proposed to leave no more than 50% of the economy in the public sector, while the rest should be transferred to cooperative and private ownership. In turn, state property was proposed to "decentralize", creating corporations and concerns instead of bureaucratic departments. In a speech by world-class economist N.P. Shmelev sounded a terrible warning: “If we do not stop the growing, like a snowball, inflation, the collapse of the consumer market, the monstrous budget deficit in the world (relative to GDP), we may face an economic collapse within two to three years.”
In those days, no one yet understood that this would be the beginning of the end. On the contrary, everyone believed in the unique possibility of a smooth transition from a totalitarian system to democracy. 1-th Congress of People's Deputies was to be the first and, probably, the most important step towards the creation of a democratic instrument that was supposed to lead a huge country forward, to a brighter future, about which so much was said at that congress.
Today, it is already too late to look for the right and the guilty in one of the greatest events of the 20th century - the catastrophe of the USSR. Today it is necessary to know and remember that in those distant days when the country collapsed, neither politicians (and, moreover, ordinary people) did not understand and did not represent the consequences of their decisions.