Differences Over Economics in the Soviet Leadership, 1988-1990

by Anders Aslund

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This Note discusses the most important differences among key Soviet leaders between the summer of 1988 and December 1990 on four central issues: agricultural policy, the Soviet financial crisis, pricing policy, and economic reform. In addition to examining Gorbachev's views, the Note also considers the views of the main actors dealing with economic concerns — Central Committee Secretary Yegor Ligachev, Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov, Gosplan Chairman Yurii Maslyukov, Central Committee Secretary Nikolai Slyunkov, and Deputy Prime Minister Leonid Abalkin. The study of the views of these main actors on the four economic issues revealed that the Soviet leaders were so divided on the issues that they were virtually splintered. The communist leadership as a whole had fallen behind the development of public opinion, thus rendering itself increasingly irrelevant to Soviet society. The outstanding feature of the period 1988-1990 seems to be that it was the time when Soviet communist leaders failed to act and therefore lost the power to affect economic trends.

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