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Political Unrest in the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was no stranger to political turmoil. In August and September 1962, the people all over the Ukrainian Republic were talking at that time about unrest and "uprisings" in cities of Rostov-area, Donbass, in Kuban, and in some harbor-cities of Testern Georgia. Among Georgian places were mentioned Tuapse and Batumi. Unrest and uprisings were caused by the rise of food prices and inureased norms in factories and in mines.

First and largest demonstrations started in Novocherkassk in June 1962. Very soon they turned into a regular uprisings which was finally quelled by special military units brought from Siberia. During the street-fighting and following massacres over 500 persons were killed. Army units used tanks. Among the killed there were many children and women. During the demonsInations, prior to the arrival of the army, many militiamen, druzhinniki and party-officials were beaten up and some of them killed.

In western Georgia there were also demonstrations against the new prices and manifestations of support for the people of Novocherkassk and Krasnodar. In some places in Kuban many people gathered at the railroad stations when Premier Khrushchev was to pass through on his way to Sochi. These people demanded to be heard by Khrushchev and in some cases even tried to force the railroad crews to stop the trains.

Practically the whole Donbass area was swept by strikes. Miners refused to go down and organized sitting strikes. Party and militia tried their best to persuade people not to revolt and go back to work. They also promised extra-pay and rations. Then one night "the whole army" was transported to Donbass-cities from Siberia, to meet any emergency. "It looked as though during the war behind the front, everywhere soldiers and tanks". The atmosphere was very tense. Some party people lost completely their heads and did not know what to do until the army arrived. After uprisings and demonstartion, in all places, there were arrests of those most active participants. In August and September of 1962 there were rumors among the Ukrainians that they may have been "quietly liquidated" as in the old times.

The Kuzbas was the wellspring of miners' strikes in 1989 and 1991 that eventually toppled Mikhail S. Gorbachev and brought Yeltsin to the presidency. The Kuzbass (Kuznetskiy basseyn - Kuznetsk Basin) was a major coal-mining and industrial area located in southern Siberia, east and southeast of Novosibirsk. For an extended period, the official theory rejected the existence of acute social clashes under socialism while the propaganda asserted that our nation lived in a world of social harmony. This ideological myth was a reflection of the vulgarization of the ideas of scientific socialism. When the extremely abrupt mass actions of worker protest arose, they were decisively suppressed, as was the case in Novocherkassk in 1962 and the information on the events was classified. To the unsatisfactory working conditions and the organization of labor, the leveling wages, and the technocratic command style of management in the 1960s and 1970s, the workers responded by lowering labor productivity and the quality of labor and by violations of labor discipline. The miner strikes were a reaction to the extremely unsatisfactory pace of economic reform.

The striking miners of the Kuzbass and Donbass, Vorkuta and Inta were led by strike committees elected democratically. To the honor of the miners it must be pointed out that during the July 1989 strike in the towns and settlements of the regions, in the opinion of the local internal affairs bodies, there was virtually exemplary public order. However, the lack of social protection for the poorly-off strata of the population, the bureaucratic tyranny and chronic shortage of consumer goods could lead to the prevailing of violent means over peaceful ones and to the development of a relatively organized strike into mass spontaneous disorders and pogroms.

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Page last modified: 20-07-2014 20:02:43 ZULU