A flip-flop has occurred in researching and teaching Soviet politics, a Soviet-born educator in the field for about 20 years says.
Slava Lubomudrov, director of international studies, associate professor of political science and acting dean of liberal education at the University of Utah, spoke at the "Coffee and Politics" gathering in the Hinckley Institute of Politics.Once very little information was available on Soviet politics. The exact opposite situation exists today, Lubomudrov said.
"We have an incredible quantity of information about happenings in the Soviet Union, but we don't seem to have a very good analytical or theoretical handle on it. We tend to respond to concrete events and situations and we seem to be missing the larger picture," Lubomudrov said.
It is important to maintain perspective, he said, because what is happening today may change tomorrow. And the situation in the Soviet Union is rapidly and dramatically changing.
The speaker, who was born in the Ukraine, identified some of the major events during the 1990s. Probably heading the list, he said, was continued deterioration of the economy. Other developments, he said, include a significant decline in the authority of President Mikhail Gorbachev and a seeming disarray of the government.
These and a whole series of other events, including currency reforms, militia patrols and killings, raise many questions. What has happened to perestroika? What has happened to glasnost? Are they over or or they still in process? What has happened to Gorbachev? Is he on his way out? What will happen to U.S.-Soviet relations?
Lubomudrov told the Orson Spencer Hall audience it is incredibly difficult to answer these questions. And he cautioned against looking at just one factor or "trying to answer these questions at this point. We need to be comfortable with a certain degree of uncertainty."
The educator discussed efforts for reform, saying he believes the Soviet leader seems to be a believer of making existing organizations more responsive to human wants and needs.
He said one of the most serious problems facing the Soviet Union today is that the "system has stopped giving orders." The old Stalin socio-economic system, he said, was mostly characterized by people giving detailed orders. The current trend, he said, accounts in large measure for the very serious economic difficulties.
"Factories are not producing. Workers are not working. Managers are not moving the economy . . . What is clear is that orders are not being given . . . Consider the fact that this past year, by statistical accounts, that the Soviet Union had its best grain harvest ever. Yet there are serious shortages of bread. Animal herds are being destroyed because there is not enough to feed them. Something happened to that grain and one possible explanation is that it was not collected. It was allowed to rot, largely because the old system fell apart," Lubomudrov said.
The professor said he believes that over time significant changes can take place and that the reform process will continue.
Lubomudrov stressed the importance of significant changes in the social structure of the nation. Today, the Soviet Union is essentially an urbanized country with two-thirds of its citizens living in urban areas. A majority of young children are born in urban settings. But it was a much different situation, for example, in 1955 when more than 60 percent of the population lived in the countryside.
Two-thirds of the present population has completed mandatory education, grades 1 through 11, and a significant portion of the adult population has attained some higher education. Although the Communist Party is shrinking in size, a third of the Communist Party membership is comprised of urban males with some higher education. The party is no longer a party of the uneducated manual workers, he said.