CLIO FINAL - page 25

Leonid Brezhnev took over and lowered the in-
tensity of the campaign, due to the lack of desired
As the collapse of the Soviet Union drew
nearer, attitudes towards religion slowly became
more liberal. In the late 1980s, several Muslim
organisations were registered and some mosques
that had been closed were returned to the Muslim
community as well as the party announcing plans
to train Muslim religious leaders. However, by then
the motions of the collapse of the Soviet union had
already begun.
When Mikhail Gorbachev assumed con-
trol of the USSR in 1985, the inert economy and
sluggish infrastructure that he inherited made the
reforms that he aimed to achieve very difficult. The
two major changes that he made were Glasnost
and perestroika. Glasnost is the Russian word for
“openness” and allowed open discussion of social
and political issues. This was the end of the more
authoritarian and opaque era of Soviet society that
had persisted since Stalin’s times. This included
the abolition of the secret police and lessening the
restrictions on books. Newspapers were allowed to
criticise the government, and other parties than the
Communist party were able to participate in elec-
tions. Perestroika was the lessening of restrictions
on the market, moving the USSR towards a more
capitalistic society, contrary to the Marxist-Lenin-
ist dogma that had existed until Gorbachev’s rule.
However, Gorbachev didn’t only have radical ideas
on society- he also redefined the USSR’s foreign
policy. He promised to leave the arms race, with-
drew troops fromAfghanistan, where the USSR had
been fighting for almost a decade, and reduced the
amount of Soviet soldiers stationed inWarsaw Pact
Although Gorbachev thought that this policy
of non-intervention would be a boon to the USSR’s
relationships with both its rivals and allies alike, it in
fact caused a collapse of relations with its Eastern
European allies. Unionists in Poland bartered with
the government and got freer elections as a result.
This was the first in a series of events in Eastern and
Central Europe that weakened the USSR’s influence
in the region. The BerlinWall fell, only a few weeks
after, the communist Czechoslovakian government
collapsed peacefully. The breakdown of the Roma-
nian government, however, was rather more vio-
lent. When revolution had spread to all of the major
Romanian cities, Nicolae Ceaușescu, the commu-
nists dictator and his wife Elena fled via helicopter
to their countryside residence. They were ordered
to land by the army, and after a trial, the two were
executed by firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989.
Although the firing squad only consisted of three
people, there were reportedly hundreds of volun-
teers. Ceaușescu supposedly sungThe internation-
ale, a communist anthem, in his final moments.
This wave of dissent continued, inspiring
the 1991 declarations of independence by the Baltic
states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, In Decem-
ber 1991, representatives of the 11 Soviet republics
met in Kazakhstan to decide the plans of the disso-
lution of the USSR. On Christmas day 1991, the flag
of the USSR flew over the buildings of the nation
for the last time, a peaceful end to a difficult, often
complex period of world history.
So, in the end, it remains to ask; what are
the long lasting effects of 80 years of Soviet rule on
the Muslim population of the nation? The USSR’s
brutal repression of Islam still has visible effects
One of the most obvious effects is the human cost.
Years of Soviet rule, particularly under Stalin, led
to the deaths of many Muslims living in the USSR
for a variety of reasons. Many were deported or
outright killed due to suspected political affiliations
or due to disobedience to the Soviet leadership.
Between 1917 and the 1970s the amount of opera-
tive mosques decreased from 25,000 to 500. In the
1980s, unofficial Muslim congregations outnum-
bered official mosques. However, the suppression
of Islammay have not actually led to reduced faith.
In many places, actually, it reemerged thriving from
Soviet Rule. Various Sufi sects such as the Naqsh-
bandiyya, kept various regional traditions of Islam
alive untainted by state control. When the USSR
collapsed, Islam emerged as a strong, cohesive
social force. For many, the resistance of Islam to
government oppression and restriction is proof
that no matter what a state may do to repress a
religion or ideology, its propagation will continue,
unsquashed, growing ever stronger.
Isaac Ettinghausen 9K
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