End of Bipolarity Notes by Harshdeep Sir | Class 12 Political Science

 Exploring the pivotal chapter 'End of Bipolarity' from Class 12 Political Science, we delve into the dramatic shifts in global power dynamics during the late 20th century. This analysis uncovers the collapse of the Cold War order and its profound impact on international relations.

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End of Bipolarity Notes by Harshdeep Sir | Class 12 Political Science 

      The BERLIN WALL       

    The Berlin Wall symbolised the division between the capitalist and the communist world.       

     Built in 1961 to separate East Berlin from West Berlin. 

     This more than 150 kilometre long wall stood for 28 years and was finally broken by the people on 9 November 1989. 

     This marked the unification of the two parts of Germany .and the beginning of the end of the communist bloc. 

The pictures here depict:                                                                                                                                                               1. People making a tiny hole in the wall.                         2. A section of the wall opened to allow free movement.                                                         

       WHAT WAS THE SOVIET SYSTEM ?         

       The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) came into being after the socialist revolution in Russia in 1917.

              The revolution was inspired by                                                                                                                             the ideals of socialism,                                                                                                                                                as opposed to capitalism                                                                                                                                            and the need for an egalitarian society. 

This revolution was perhaps the biggest attempt in human history to

  > abolish the institution of private property and 

  > design a society based on principles of equality.

     In Doing So, 

the makers of the Soviet system gave primacy to the state and the institution of the party.

The Soviet political system centred around the communist party, and no other political party or opposition was allowed. 

The economy was planned and controlled by the state. 


      SATELLITE STATE East European countries that had liberated by Soviet Army from fascist forces

 The political and the economic systems of all these countries were modelled after the USSR. 

This group of countries was called the Second World or 'socialist bloc’. 

     THE WARSAW PACT  a military alliance, held them together. The USSR was the leader of the bloc.

    ADVANTAGES                                                                                                                                                              √ It had a complex communications network.         

   √ vast energy resources including oil, iron and steel and machinery production                                        √ A transport sector that connected its remotest areas with efficiency. 

It had a domestic consumer industry  that produced everything from pins to cars, though their quality did not match that of the Western capitalist countries. 

°• The Soviet state ensured a minimum standard of living for all citizens, and 

°• the government subsidised basic necessities  including health, education, childcare and other welfare schemes.

°• There was no unemployment


1. State ownership  was the dominant form of ownership: land and productive assets were owned and controlled by the Soviet state.There was no private property.

2. Bureaucratic And Authoritarian The Soviet system became very bureaucratic and authoritarian, making life very difficult for its citizens.     

3. Lack of Democracy and the  absence of freedom of speech.                                                                                                                                                                              

4. One-party System Most of the institutions of the Soviet state needed reform:

 the one-party system represented by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had tight control over all institutions and was unaccountable to the people. 

5. The party refused to recognise the urge of people in the fifteen different republics  to manage their own affairs including their cultural affairs. 

6.Although, on paper, Russia was only one of the fifteen republics that together constituted the USSR, in reality Russia dominated everything, and people from other regions felt neglected and suppressed.

7.The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 weakened the system even further because that war ended in 1989 in which Red army of USSR was defeated because Afghanistan got help from US. 

Then, wages continued to grow, productivity and technology fell considerably behind that of the West.                                                                                                    This led to shortages in all consumer goods.                                                                     

Food imports increased every year.                                                                                         

The Soviet economy was faltering in the late 1970s  and became stagnant.


    GORBACHEV AND THE DISINTEGRATION                                                                                                                                                               Mikhail Gorbachev, who had become General secretary of the communist party of the Soviet Union in 1985, sought to reform this system. 

    There were some political and economic problems in the USSR. Reforms were necessary to bring some political and economic reforms.

Gorbachev initiated the policies of economic and political reforms and democratisation within the country.                                                                                                                         

1.  to normalise relations with the West                         2. democratise and reform the Soviet Union.

        TWO BEST POLICIES OF GORBACHEV                                                                                                                                   

1. GLASNOST - Openness or transparency - whatever the work is govt.doing that should be transparent. All information should be available to the public. 

Media was given freedom and now public could express their feelings about the policies and programs of the govt. 

2. PERESTROIKA - Restructuring -        

 Politically -  Multi-party system   &  Economically - Private property 

     The people in the East European countries which were part of the Soviet bloc started to protest against their own governments and Soviet control.                         

The Soviet Union did not intervene when the disturbances occurred, and the communist regimes collapsed one after another under Gorbachev

     The reforms were opposed by leaders within the communist party. A coup took place in 1991 that was encouraged by Communist Party hardliners

The people had tasted freedom by then and did not want the old-style rule of the Communist Party. 

     Boris Yeltsin emerged as a national hero in opposing this coup. The Russian Republic, where Yeltsin won a popular election, began to shake off centralised control. 

Power began to shift from the Soviet centre to the republics, especially in the more Europeanised part of the Soviet Union, which saw themselves as sovereign states.
    The central Asian Republics did not ask for independence and wanted to remain with the Soviet Federation Because these were backward states.

      In December 1991, under the leadership of Yeltsin, Russia ,Ukraine,Belarus, three major republics of the USSR, declared that the Soviet Union was disbanded. 

      The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned.

       Capitalism and democracy were adopted as the bases for the post-Soviet republics.                    

       RUSSIA AS SUCCESSOR                 


Russia was now accepted as the successor state of the Soviet Union.                                                                           It inherited the Soviet seat in the UN Security Council.                                                                                           Russia accepted all the international treaties and commitments of the Soviet Union.                                    It took over as the only nuclear state of the post Soviet space and carried out some nuclear disarmament measures with the US.                                   The old Soviet Union was thus dead and buried.


                                                                                               1.CONSUMER SHORTAGE  due to economic stagnation for many years.

2.INTERNAL WEAKNESSES internal weakness of Soviet political and economic institutions, which failed to meet the aspirations of the people.                                                                                                                Large section of Soviet society began to doubt and question the system and to do so openly.                                                                               

   Why did the system become so weak and why did the economy stagnate?    

Ans. The Soviet economy used much of its resources in maintaining a nuclear and military arsenal and 

the development of its satellite states in Eastern Europe and within the Soviet system.
  These led to a huge economic burden that the system could not cope with. 

    3.ORDINARY CITIZENS  became more knowledgeable about the economic advance of the West.
They could see the disparities between their system and the systems of the West.

Backwardness of the Soviet system came as a political and psychological shock.

Ordinary People were alienated by slow and stifling administration,       

    ✓ rampant corruption.

    ✓ the inability of the system to correct mistakes it had made               

   ✓   No openness in government       

   ✓  and the centralisation of authority in a vast land

   4.THE COMMUNIST PARTY that had ruled the Soviet Union for over 70 years was not accountable to the people.The Soviet Union had become stagnant in an administrative and political sense as well.


    5. PARTY BUREAUCRATS  gained more privileges than ordinary citizens. 

People did not identify with the system and with the rulers, and the government increasingly lost popular backing.                                                                                                                                                        

    6. GORBACHEV'S ATTEMPT WAS FAILED His reforms promised to deal with these problems. Gorbachev promised to reform the economy, catch up with the West, and loosen the administrative system. 

Q. why the Soviet Union collapsed in spite of Gorbachev's accurate diagnosis of the problem and his attempt to implement the reforms? 

Ans. The most basic answer seems to be that when Gorbachev carried out his reforms and loosened the system, There were sections of Soviet society which felt that Gorbachev should have moved much faster and were disappointed and impatient with his methods.

They did not benefit in the way they had hoped, or they benefited too slowly.                                                   People felt that gorbachev was moving too slowly 


Others, especially members of the Communist Party and those who were served by the system, took exactly the opposite view. They felt that their power and privileges were eroding and Gorbachev was moving too quickly. 



 In this ‘'tug of war', Gorbachev lost support on all sides and divided public opinion. Even those who were with him became disillusioned as they felt that he did not adequately defend his own policies.

     7.THE RISE OF NATIONALISM  and the desire for sovereignty within various republics including Russia and the Baltic Republics (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Ukraine, Georgia, and others proved to be the final and most immediate cause for the disintegration of the USSR. 

Here again there are differing views. One view is that nationalist arges and feelings has taken place many times.

Others think that Gorbachev’s reforms speeded up and increased dissatisfaction to the point that the government and rulers could not control it.

   8. During the Cold War many thought that nationalist unrest would be strongest in the Central Asian republics given their ethnic and religious differences with the rest of the Soviet Union and their economic backwardness. 

    CONSEQUENCES OF DISINTEGRATION                              

The collapse of the second world of the Soviet Union and the socialist systems in eastern Europe had profound consequences for world politics. 

There are three broad kinds of enduring changes that resulted from it. Each of these had a number of effects that we cannot list here.


        First of all, it meant the end of cold War confrontations. The ideological dispute over whether the socialist system would beat the capitalist system was not an issue any more.


it demanded an end to this arms race and a possible new peace.


             The end of the Cold War left open only two possibilities:                          

  1. UNIPOLAR WORLD - the remaining superpower would dominate and create a unipolar system. 

  2. MULTIPOLAR WORLD - different countries or groups of countries could become important players in the international system, thereby bringing in a multipolar system where no one power could dominate.

 As it turned out, the US became the sole superpower. Backed by the power and prestige of the US, the capitalist economy was now the dominant economic system internationally. 

   Economically, capitalism was seen as the best.

   Politically, the notion of liberal democracy emerged as the best way to organise political life.

Institutions like the world Bank and international Monetary Fund became powerful advisors to all these countries since they gave them loans for their transitions to capitalism. 


         The end of the Soviet bloc meant the emergence of many new countries. All these countries had their own independent aspirations and choices.

 Some of them, especially the Baltic and east European states, wanted to join the European Union and become part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). 

The Central Asian countries wanted to take advantage of their geographical location and continue their close ties with Russia and also to establish ties with the West, the US, China and others.

 Thus, the international system saw many new players emerge, each with its own identity, interests, and economic and political difficulties. It is to these issues that we now turn.

     SHOCK THERAPY -               IN POST-COMMUNIST REGIMES         

PAINFULL PROCESS         The collapse of communism was followed in most of these countries by a painful process of transition from an authoritarian socialist system to a democratic capitalist system. 

The model of transition in Russia, Central Asia and east Europe that was influenced by the World Bank and the IMF  came to be known as ‘shock therapy’. 


    SOCIALISM TO CAPITALISM              Shock therapy varied in intensity and speed amongst the former second world countries, but its direction and features were quite similar Each of these countries was required to make a total shift to a capitalist economy, which meant rooting out completely any structures evolved during the Soviet period. 

    STATE TO PRIVATE OWNERSHIP              Above all, it meant that private ownership was to be the dominant pattern of ownership of property.

Privatisation of state assets and corporate ownership patterns were to be immediately brought in. 

Collective farms were to be replaced by private farming and capitalism in agriculture. 

    CHANGED EXTERNAL ORIENTATION        Shock therapy also involved a drastic change in the external orientation of these economies.

Development was now envisaged through more trade, and thus a sudden and complete switch to free trade was considered essential. 

The free trade regime and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) were to be the main engines of change. 

This also involved openness to foreign investment, financial opening up or deregulation, and currency convertibility.

Finally, the transition also involved a break up of the existing trade alliances among the countries of the Soviet bloc. 

Each state from this bloc was now linked directly to the West  and not to each other in the region. 

These states were thus to be gradually absorbed into the Western economic system. 


The western capitalist states now became the leaders and thus guided and controled the development of the region through various agencies and organisations.

   CONSEQUENCES OF SHOCK THERAPY            The shock therapy administered in the 1990s did not lead the people into the promised utopia of mass consumption. 

Generally, it brought ruin to the economies and disaster upon the people of the entire region.

1. LARGEST GARAGE SALE IN HISTORY       In Russia, the large state-controlled industrial complex almost collapsed, as about 90 per cent of its industries were put up for sale to private individuals and companies. 

This was called ‘the largest garage sale in history’, as valuable industries were undervalued and sold at throwaway prices.

 Though all citizens were given vouchers to participate in the sales, most citizens sold their vouchers in the black market because they needed the money.

2. RUBLE DECLINED                   The value of the ruble, the Russian currency, declined dramatically. 

3. INFLATION WAS SO HIGH        The rate of inflation was so high that people lost all their savings. 

4. FOOD INSECURITY            The collective farm system disintegrated leaving people without food security, andRussia started to import food.

••> Withdrawal of government subsidies pushed large sections of the people into poverty. 

The  old system of social welfare was systematically destroyed. 

5. GDP DECLINED                     The real GDP of Russia in 1999 was below what it was in 1989. 

6. MIGRATION              The academic and intellectual manpower disintegrated or migrated. 

7. MAFIA EMERGED           A mafia emerged in most of these countries and started controlling many economic activities.

8. LARGE DISPARITIES       Privatisation led to new disparities.

Post-Soviet states, especially Russia, were divide between rich and poor regions.

Unlike the earlier system, there was now great economic inequality between people.


  ••> The construction of democratic institutions was not given the same attention and priority as the demands of economic transformation. 

  ••> The constitutions of all these countries were drafted in a hurry and most, including RUSSIA-  it had a strong executive president with the widest possible powers that rendered elected parliaments relatively weak.

CENTRAL ASIA -, the presidents had great powers, and several of them became very authoritarian. 

For example, the presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan appointed themselves to power first for ten years and then extended it for another ten years. They allowed no dissent or opposition. 

10. NO JUDICIARY          A judicial culture and independence of the judiciary was yet to be established in most of these countries.

 REVIVING  IN 2000         Most of these economies, especially Russia, started reviving in 2000, ten years after their independence.  

  ••> The reason for the revival for most of their economies was the export of natural resources like oil, natural gas and minerals. 

Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are major oil and gas producers. 

Other countries have gained because of the oil pipelines that cross their territories for which they get rent.

Some amount of manufacturing has restarted.

TENSIONS AND CONFLICTS       Most of the former Soviet Republics are prone to conflicts, and many have had civil wars and insurgencies. Complicating the picture is the growing involvement of outside powers.


In Russia, two republics, Chechnya and Dagestan,  have had violent secessionist 

movements. Moscow’s method of dealing with the Chechen rebels and indiscriminate military 

bombings have led to many human rights violations but failed to deter the aspirations for  independence.


The region  as a whole has many sectarian conflicts.

In Central Asia, Tajikistan witnessed a civil war that went on for ten years till 2001. 


In Azerbaijan’s province of Nagorno-Karabakh, some local Armenians want to secede and join Armenia.


In Georgia, the demand for independence has come from two provinces, resulting in a civil war. 


There are movements against the existing regimes in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Countries and provinces are fighting over river waters. All this has led to instability, making life difficult for the ordinary citizen.

      E A S T E R N E U R O P E  

Czechoslovakia  split peacefully into two, with the Czechs and the Slovaks forming independent 


Yugoslavia    But the most severe conflict took place in the Balkan republics of Yugoslavia. After 1991, it broke apart with several provinces like Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina declaring independence. 

   INTERNATIONAL CONFLICTS      The Central Asian Republics are areas with vast hydrocarbon resources, which have brought them economic benefit. 

Central Asia has also become a zone of competition between outside powers and oil companies. 

   USA                     The region is next to Russia, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, an close to West Asia. After 11 September 2001, the US wanted military bases in the region and paid the governments of all Central Asian states to hire bases and to allow airplanes to fly over their territory during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

  RUSSIA                 However, Russia perceives these states as its ‘Near Abroad’ and believes that they should be under Russian influence.

  CHINA            China has interests here because of the oil resources, and the Chinese have begun to settle around the borders and conduct trade. 

India and Post-communist Countries.

India’s relations with Russia are an important aspect of India’s foreign policy. 

Indo-Russian relations are embedded in a history of trust and common interests and are matched by popular perceptions. 

Russia and India share a vision of a Multipolar World Order


A multipolar world order is the co-existence of several powers in the international system, collective security (in which an attack on any country is regarded as a threat to all countries and requires a collective response),

••••> greater regionalism, negotiated settlements of international conflicts, an independent foreign policy for all countries, and decision making through bodies like the UN that should be strengthened, democratised, and empowered

More than 80 bilateral agreements have been signed between India and Russia as part of the Indo-Russian Strategic Agreement of 2001. 


During the Cold War era, India and the USSR enjoyed a special relationship 

 It was a multi-dimensional relationship:

Economic: The Soviet Union assisted India’s public sector companies at a time when such assistance was difficult to get. It gave aid and technical assistance for steel plants and machinery plants. The Soviet Union accepted Indian currency for trade when India was short of foreign exchange. 

Political: The Soviet Union supported India’s positions on the Kashmir issue in the UN. It also supported India during its major conflicts, especially during the war with Pakistan in 1971.

Military: India received most of its military hardware from the Soviet Union at a time when few other countries were willing to part with military technologies. The Soviet Union entered intovarious agreements allowing India to jointly produce military equipment.

Culture: Hindi films and Indian culture were popular in the Soviet Union. A large number of Indian writers and artists visited the USSR.

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