The crisis phenomena characteristic of the Soviet economy in the 1970s were well known to the country's leadership, but it couldn’t decide on radical reforms for a long time, especially since oil deliveries to the West made it possible to postpone this issue. Meanwhile, the crisis in the economy gradually spread to the social system and even influenced the state authorities in the form of corruption processes. Thus, stagnation in the economy threatened in the early 80s. already the state functioning of the USSR.
The coming to power in 1982 of Yu.V. Andropov led to a reassessment of the previous approach to economic problems. Without questioning the foundations of the political structure of the USSR, the new leadership set a course for fighting corruption, speculation and other negative manifestations of the shadow economy. Several demonstration trials were conducted over the heads of Moscow trade, while the leaders of a number of the largest Moscow stores (TsUM, Yeliseyevsky's grocery store) were sentenced for theft to capital punishment. Later similar processes took place in the republics. The most odious figures of local government were removed from power: the Medunov in the Krasnodar Territory, the Rashids in Uzbekistan. In Georgia, where the cleaning of the local apparatus was led by the first secretary of the Communist Party of Georgia, E. A. Shevardnadze, about 300 responsible persons were removed from their posts. At the same time, the authorities were cleared of corrupt officials.
They removed from office and expelled N. A. Schelokov, Minister of Internal Affairs, who committed suicide on the eve of his arrest, from the party. His deputy, Y. Churbanov (the son-in-law of Brezhnev) was sentenced to a long term imprisonment for the revealed cases of abuse. An active purge of party cadres took place, where in about two years about 50 members of the Central Committee lost their posts. Sanctions increased in cases of corruption, theft, bribery and nepotism. The measures undertaken were aimed at reducing social tensions in society, which arose in connection with numerous abuses, primarily in the trade and distribution network.
At the December 1982 plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Andropov outlined a program of reforms designed to increase the effectiveness of the Soviet planned economy. The main thing, in the light of the decisions made, was the increase in labor productivity, primarily by increasing labor discipline and reducing material and human costs. A specific goal was set and fulfilled: to increase labor productivity by an additional 1% (increased by more than 3% during the year). Clear formulations that contrast sharply with the old slogans like "the economy should be economical" gave a much greater effect: the loss of raw materials in the production of goods decreased, the energy intensity of the processes decreased. Certain importance had tight control over working time: the arrival and departure from the enterprise. Strict penalties for drunkenness and other disciplinary violations at work were introduced. In general, these measures strengthened the manageability of economic processes and should have served as the basis for more extensive reforms in the near future.
At the beginning of 1983, Yu. V. Andropov instructed a group of senior officials of the Central Committee of the CPSU, including M. S. Gorbachev and N. I. Ryzhkov, to prepare fundamental proposals for economic reform. According to N. I. Ryzhkov, there were problems of self-sufficiency and independence of enterprises, concessions and cooperatives, joint ventures and joint-stock companies. A plenum of the Central Committee on science and technology policy was scheduled to take place in 1984, which would mark the transition from extensive to intensive. envisage the introduction of new self-supporting and economic forms, under which the independence of enterprises and the rights of workers' collectives would increase, was also thrilled. Andropov’s death and Chernenko’s rise to power frozen the existing reform plans. Instead of a plenum dedicated to the introduction of new technology, improved scientific and production ties, held a plenum on land reclamation.
The resumption of economic transformations in the USSR occurred after another change in the country's leadership. The nominee Yu. V. Andropova, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, M. S. Gorbachev, renewed the interrupted economic reforms. At the April 1985 plenary session of the Central Committee of the CPSU, it was for the first time openly declared that there were economic and social problems in the USSR.
According to M. S. Gorbachev, the country was in a pre-crisis state. Only Russia has 200 million square meters. meters of housing in need of urgent repair or subject to demolition. Water and sewer networks of cities were overloaded. More than 300 cities did not have them at all. Almost half of the streets in Russia were without hard surface. Enterprises are technically poorly equipped, while manual labor in the food industry was 60%. On average, labor productivity in the USSR was 2.5–3 times lower than in developed capitalist countries.
Many enterprises did not have sewage treatment plants. Particularly difficult situation in agriculture, where product losses were about 30%. When harvesting and transporting livestock, 100 thousand tons of products were lost annually, 1 million tons of fish, 1 million tons of potatoes, and 1.5 million tons of beets. The lack of packaging and storage tanks led to even more losses. The output was seen by Gorbachev only in immediate reforms, which had been interrupted earlier during the reign of Chernenko.
The first two years of perestroika were a period of a return to the previous Andropov plans for economic reforms with certain adjustments made by Gorbachev. Already at the April Plenum, the emphasis was placed on the technical re-equipment and modernization of production, the accelerated development of primarily machine-building as the basis for the re-equipment of the entire national economy.
The “Intensification-90” program, adopted in 1986, provided for the advance development 1.7 times as compared with other branches of mechanical engineering and to a certain extent was the continuation of the previous reforms. At the same time, clearly overestimated goals, called upon to bring the technical equipment industry to the level of the leading countries of the world in five years, made us recall the experience of not only Andropov’s reforms, but also Khrushchev’s reforms. Imbalances in the investment policy led to the undermining of non-priority industries.
In addition, several early decisions were made during the initial period of adjustment. In May 1985, a well-known decree of the Central Committee of the CPSU "On Measures to Overcome Drunkenness and Alcoholism" is published. This solution set as its goal the resolution of both social and economic tasks, primarily labor discipline, and should have contributed to the growth of labor productivity, its quality. It was planned to reduce the production of vodka and other alcoholic beverages by 10% per year. By 1988, the production of fruit and berry wines was to be stopped. Despite certain achievements, the economic effect of this reform was negative and resulted in more than 20 billion losses to the budget. Moreover, the funds invested were now in the circulation of the shadow economy, which quickly satisfied the demand for alcoholic beverages.
To this should be added cut down elite vineyards and hundreds of ruined lives as a result of the use of low-quality products. Other measures aimed at improving the quality of products, including the law on state acceptance, were not very successful either. This was partly due to the formation of a team of reformers, which at the beginning of perestroika had to overcome the resistance of the conservative majority and use the command methods of economic management. Only since September 1985, when the Council of Ministers was headed by N. I. Ryzhkov, was it gradually possible to pursue a more consistent policy of economic transformations.
At the beginning of 1986, the 27th CPSU Congress was held, at which a whole series of economic and social programs were adopted, providing for new investment and structural policies. In addition, Intensification-90 provided for the implementation of such long-term programs as Housing-2000 and others. However, the events of April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and the economic losses caused by the explosion significantly reduced the possibilities for carrying out long-term programs. The continuation of the Afghan war, which had not yet been resolved by the country's leadership in this period, had an effect. There was also a reduction in export earnings from the sale of oil and weapons, as a result of the fall in prices for petroleum products and the introduction of an arms embargo in a number of countries that imported Soviet weapons. Budget revenues from oil exports declined in 1985-1986. by 30%. Serious obstacles to the transformation met on the ground. Even in Moscow, where Grishin replaced Yeltsin in December 1985 as the first secretary of the Moscow city committee of the CPSU, there was resistance to reforms.
The laws on labor collectives approved at the congress proved to be ineffective, as they received such rights as the election of executives, the regulation of wages and even the determination of the price of products. The dependence of the directors of enterprises on the decisions of labor collectives, the not always justified increase in selling prices and wages were the result of these laws. At the same time, the outlined decentralization of production produced definite positive results. In 1986, the indicators of the Soviet economy increased slightly, including in agriculture by 5%. This was largely determined by the growth of investment and at the same time was accompanied by an increase in the budget deficit, which in 1985 amounted to 17-18 billion rubles, and in 1986 it almost tripled. The deficit was partly caused by a reduction in foreign exchange earnings, the continuing Afghan war, the Chernobyl tragedy and losses from the anti-alcohol campaign.
The current pre-crisis situation in the Soviet economy and the already emerging financial crisis led Gorbachev to an understanding of the need for more radical economic reforms. In 1987, a law on a state enterprise was passed, redistributing authority between the ministry and the enterprise in favor of the latter. Products produced after the fulfillment of the state order could be sold by the manufacturer at free prices. The number of ministries and departments was reduced, cost accounting was introduced in all sectors of the national economy. In agriculture, the equality of five forms of management was recognized: state farms, collective farms, agricultural factories, rental collectives and peasant farms. Adopted on November 19, 1986 and supplemented on May 26, 1988, the law legalized private activity in more than 30 types of production. The funds of the shadow economy were introduced into circulation. About 7 million people participated in the cooperative movement and other types of private activity.
Even more radical reforms were envisaged in the period after the XIX Party Conference in 1988. In 1989, a new government was formed headed by N. I. Ryzhkov. It consisted of 8 academicians and corresponding members of the USSR Academy of Sciences, about 20 doctors and candidates of science. The new government initially focused on the implementation of economic reforms and fundamentally different methods of management. In this connection, the structure of the government has significantly changed and the number of sectoral ministries has significantly decreased: from 52 to 32, that is, by almost 40%. However, from the very beginning, the government did not have the necessary powers, limited by the control of the party organs and the USSR Armed Forces.
The program, prepared in the spring of 1990 by the government of N. I. Ryzhkov, came into conflict with the position of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet (supported on September 4, 1990, the radical reform program of G. Yavlinsky and S. Shatalin "500 days") and was rejected as a result inconsistent position of Gorbachev and the USSR Armed Forces. The terms of reforms proposed by the Ryzhkov government (5–7 years) did not satisfy the deputies who were in favor of immediate changes. In June 1990, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR adopted a resolution "On the concept of transition to a market economy", and in October 1990, "Basic directions for stabilizing the national economy and transition to a market economy." The documents provided for a gradual demonopolization, decentralization and denationalization of property, the establishment of joint-stock companies and banks, the development of private entrepreneurship, etc. However, these reforms were practically not carried out due to the mass strike movement since 1989 and subjects of the federation. The compromise nature of the reforms could not be taken as the basis of real economic policy. Ryzhkov's moderate reforms were put an end to in December 1990, when the government was dismissed by Gorbachev.
The Council of Ministers was transformed into the Cabinet of Ministers headed by Prime Minister V. S. Pavlov. The new government became accountable to the President of the USSR, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, and had to pursue a more consistent reform policy. But the activity of the Cabinet of Ministers in 1991 was reduced to money exchange and the April monetary reform, as a result of which a two-fold increase in prices occurred. Pavlov's reform, aimed at undermining the financial system of the shadow economy, finally undermined public confidence in the central government. Inflation processes, interruptions in the supply of food and other goods also contributed to this. The USSR economy in 1991 experienced a deep crisis, which was expressed in an 11% decline in production, a 20-30% deficit of the budget, and an enormous external debt of 103.9 billion dollars. The crisis process has threatened to become unregulated. The collapse of the USSR put reform on the agenda already on a Russian scale