1990 USSR: Reform, Revolution, or Retrenchment (A)
In August 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, confronted one of the most difficult dilemmas of his career: how to improve the country's economic performance. This case set highlights Gorbachev's reform efforts from 1985 to 1990. Numerous measures of economic performance had declined, and the USSR faced serious crises of economics (declining productivity and financial insufficiency), federalism (challenges to the primacy of the Soviet Union), and separatism (ethnic and nationalist agitation). Three groups of advisers offered competing plans. One plan focused on economic revolution toward a market economy; one on reform of the existing centrally planned economy; and a third on economic retrenchment and reinforcement of socialist discipline that had prevailed over the previous 73 years. Students must evaluate the benefits and risks of each alternative and recommend a course of action.