Sweeping Changes Are in Store for the USSR

Counting 500 Days to Freedom

The Supreme Soviet legislature adopted a radical plan in September to move beyond merely reforming their socialist economy, toward creating a Western-style free-market economy within 500 days.

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev initially embraced free-market economics to give the sagging Soviet Union a boost, but now radical reformers, such as Russian Supreme Soviet Chairman Boris Yeltsin and economics professor Stanislav Shatalin, have passed legislation that will eventually bring death to socialism.

The proposal for reformation, drawn up by Shatalin and passed by the Russian parliament led by Yeltsin, calls for dismantling the power of the central government and selling businesses to private owners and breaking up collective farms. This spells the end of Gorbachev’s dream of perestroika: the restructuring of the Soviet economy by implementing free-market economics – yet retaining a socialist framework.

Other sweeping changes include allowing Gorbachev to wield powers affording him the authority of a dictator during the time of transition. These powers were deemed necessary by the Supreme Soviet legislature in order to help the nation toward making the drastic turnover. Gorbachev has promised to use the powers responsibly.

With the decentralizing of the Soviet government, according to Shatalin’s plan, the 15 separate Soviet republics will have economic and political autonomy, with the government of the Soviet Union controlling only the military and certain communications, transportation and energy companies. Although many of the details must still be worked through during the transition, in 500 days the Soviet government will become less socialistic than many western nations.

With little or no time to lose in resurrecting the fast failing Soviet economy, Gorbachev and rival party leader Yeltsin have struck a deal. Yeltsin, if the transition goes smoothly, will emerge as the country’s leader and Gorbachev’s power will become greatly decreased in the transition. Gorbachev will eventually become a type of foreign minister relating to nations of the world and representing the people of the Soviet Union.

The 15 separate Soviet republics will be given greater freedom to act independently, almost like a union of confederate states rather than a single republic. People groups as diverse as the central Asian states, the Baltic states, and “fringe” nations such as the Ukraine and Moldavia, will be given the freedom to run their own economies and elect their own government officials.

Soviet Union Experiencing Unprecedented Revival

Soviet citizens are flocking to church in record numbers since the state control of religion officially ended in late September. By a 341-1 vote, the Soviet legislature adopted historic legislation which ended the communist policy of atheist education and state control of all religious institutions and permits organized religious instruction.

In another historic move, the first church service was held in the Kremlin’s Uspensky Cathedral since 1918. Since the days of Lenin and Stalin, communist officials have persecuted the church in the Soviet Union, executed and persecuted Christians and infiltrated churches with KGB agents.

Christian leaders currently hold political offices in the national legislature, such as dissident priest Gleb Yakunin, who was jailed and exiled during the Brezhnev era. A number of Christian Democratic political parties have also emerged, all of which are now legal.

Armenian legislator, Genrikh Igitian recently stated that traditional atheistic instruction helped to “destroy” the country and said, “I believe every educated person should be instructed in religion.”

The new law on “Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations” declares that all religions are legal and bars the state from interfering in religious affairs. The law also allows religious groups to set up schools, send students overseas, and receive exchange students. It also permits “societies, brotherhoods, associations” and other organizations.

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