Since approximately 1988, Poland and the republic of Russia (formerly Soviet Union) have gone through major economic reform. The main emphasis of this paper is to identify the different approaches that the governments in these two countries have taken and to look at the positive and negative effects that these drastic changes have had on their economies. Specifically, the question asked in this paper is, “Why has the economic transition in Poland been more successful than in Russia? We will be looking at what factors are being used to measure this success and what their prospects are for the future.
With almost half of the world stayed under the communist ties, Poland took risk and applied revolutionary economic reforms under which it started closing inefficient plants, ended subsidies for plants working at a loss, introduces mass privatization and lifted price controls. The shocking therapy successfully introduced Poland to the path of rapid economic growth and made it the reform model for other post-communist countries. Also, to increase the educational quality and adjust its profiles to the present labor market needs, in 1998 Polish government implemented the education system reform. The modifications, including every field of schoolwork, brought the system closer to the western education standards and gave Polish students, and well as their teachers greater flexibility in shaping their career.
For Decades, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union swore that the red tide initiated within its borders would sweep the world covering every nation with the ideals of Marxism. Karl Marx’s promise of a communist utopia was embraced by the governments of many nations and his philosophy became one of the prevalent worldviews of the 20th century. However, in the late 1980’s, the leaders of the Communist Party bowed to a revolution of different type. This concession was the result of the reform efforts of Mikhail Gorbachev as the party agreed to end its monopoly on power in the Soviet Union. As the world enters a new decade, Karl Marx’s bold statement appears destined to be proven wrong. After a decade of massive social upheaval in countries behind the Iron Curtain, the communist philosophy became a system of a bygone era. The Soviet Union, the nation with the world’s largest land mass and the leader of the communist world, has suddenly had its political power base challenged and its economy shaken to the core.
As the reality of Gorbachev’s message dawned, Poland took the lead. Solidarity became a political party, then won a parliamentary election, then-at Jaruzelski’s request-put one of its strategists, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, into the premiership. Soon Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was President of Poland. Meanwhile, Hungary took down its barbed-wire barriers to the West, literally dismantling a sector of the Iron Curtain, and thousands of East German vacationers came through. Demonstrators in East German cities discontinued Erich Honecker and his command, and on Nov. 9, 1989, they dismantled, almost stone by stone, the symbol of communism’s inadequacy: the Berlin Wall.
A similar bloodless onslaught, which Czech leader Vaclav Havel called the “velvet revolution,” snuffed out the communists in Prague and then in Sofia. In all the East bloc, only the December 1989 uprising that ended Nicolae Ceausescu’s reign in Romania touched off bloodshed, when both the Ceausescu and his wife were executed. Still, the contemporary joke had it about right: in the surge toward freedom, Poland took 10 years, Hungary 10 months, East Germany 10 weeks, Czechoslovakia 10 days and Romania 10 hours. Gorbachev the liberator was not a success at home. The Soviet economy drifted further into decline, strikes erupted, and most threatening of all–the forming republics of the union began declaring their “sovereignty.” Even so, Gorbachev plunged ahead with his version of reform and in February 1990 directed an overhaul of the Soviet constitution that eliminated Article 6, the provision that gave the Communist Party a monopoly on political power.
According to Gorbachev, communism has not been successful in the Soviet Union because there is a need for further reform. Gorbachev’s goal is to implement democratic ideals and freedoms in a socialistic structure. In the meantime, Soviet society is in the process of recomvery and renewal. Gorbachev firmly believes that an ideal communist society is in the process of recovery and renewal. Gorbachev firmly believes that an ideal communist society can yet be created in which democratic ideals are cultivated in the hearts of the people. When the Soviet Union is revolutionized through perestroika, he claims, the people will submit willingly to the structure of communism. In 1990, Gorbachev quotes, “Today our main job is to lift the individual spiritually, respecting his inner world and giving him moral strength. We are seeking to make the whole intellectual potential of society and all the potentialities of culture work to mold a socially active person, spiritually rich, just, and conscientious. An individual must know and feel that his contribution is needed, that his dignity is not being infringed upon, that he is being treated with trust and respect. When an individual sees all this, he is capable of accomplishing so much”.
Of all the republics of the former Soviet Union, Russia being its successor has remained not only economically the strongest state, but also a kind of “pacesetter” in democratic reformation. Any law ratified by the Russian government inevitably evokes a response in other republics. The deep crisis of the Russian legislature made the situation more complicated. How should one consider decrees and laws ratified by the Parliament that had been dissolved? The more so, as many of them are contrary to standards of international law that were signed by Russian officials.
One instance of this kind is an amendment of the 14th article of Russia’s law “On Religious Freedom” that was ratified on July 14th, 1993 after a long and difficult discussion at the Supreme Council (Soviet) of the Russian Federation. Debates flared up that forced the parliament into extreme positions. Persistent opponents, as well as most earnest supporters of the amendment, well understood that this step would mean a turn from the straight path of reforming the totalitarian system to narrow and dirty ways of bureaucratic willfulness. So what is the ratified amendment all about? According to the latest version of the law, a person that does not possess a Russian citizenship has no right to be involved in activities of religion, missions, publicity, and propaganda in Russia. Other activities, such as acts of charity, must be permitted by an authorized committee that gives exclusive permission for particular activities. Documents to regulate a work of the committee must be prepared by the Russian government. According to the amendment, any activity that is to be permitted must correspond to “the interests of the State” and “the harmony of the society”. What kind of “harmony” this must be so that religious activities may meet “the interests of the State” is not known. It might only be clear to those registered religious organizations, which have been consistently applying for the right to participate on activities in Russia.