The Soviet Union also aimed to spread its command economy to other countries. In a command economy, the government makes most economic decisions. A huge bureaucracy, rather than supply and demand, decided what to produce, how much, and for whom. Government planners in Moscow often had little knowledge of local conditions. The government owned most of the property.
Collectivized agriculture remained so unproductive that the Soviet Union often had to import grain to feed its people. Nor could Russia's command economy match the free-market economies of the West in producing consumer goods. Since workers had lifetime job security, they had little incentive, or reason, to produce better-quality goods.
After Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev (KROOSH chawf) emerged as the new Soviet leader. In 1956, he shocked top Communist Party members when he publicly denounced Stalin's abuse of power. Khrushchev maintained the Communist Party's tight political control, but he closed prison camps and eased censorship. He called for a “peaceful coexistence” with the West.
Khrushchev's successor, Leonid Brezhnev (BREZH nef), held power from the mid-1960s until he died in 1982. Under Brezhnev, dissidents, or people who criticized the government, faced arrest and imprisonment.
Despite the risk of harsh punishment, some courageous people dared to criticize the government. Andrei Sakharov (SAH kuh rawf), a brilliant physicist, spoke out against human rights abuses. He was exiled to a remote Soviet city.
Another critic, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (sohl zhuh NEET sin), wrote a letter to a friend criticizing Stalin. He was sent to a prison camp. Under Khrushchev, he was released and wrote fictional works that drew on his experiences in Soviet prison camps. His writings were banned in the Soviet Union, and in 1974, he was deported to West Germany. Despite the government's actions, Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn inspired others to resist communist repression and demand greater freedom.
The Soviet Union celebrated the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution with this military parade in Moscow in 1969.
How did the Soviet Union handle critics of its policies?
The Cold War was not just a military rivalry. It was also a competition between two contrasting economic and political value systems. Unlike the communist countries, the democratic, capitalist countries, led by the United States, gave citizens the freedom to make economic and political choices. These nations valued freedom and prosperity. They held that economic freedom and free market principles helped improve the human condition—especially compared to the command economies of the communist world.
While communist countries had command economies, capitalist countries had market economies. In market economies, producers and consumers make economic decisions. Prices are based on supply and demand in a free market. Property is privately owned. Producers compete to offer the best products for the lowest prices. By deciding what to buy, consumers ultimately decide which products are produced. In a free enterprise system, producers who win consumers' business make profits and grow.
The United States economy is basically a market economy. However, the United States and Western Europe have what can be called mixed economies, because their governments have an economic role.