By the late 80s, if the cold war was becoming a major limitation for the Soviet Union, the US administration was also getting cognizant of the constraints being posed by that icy conflict. Thus a thorough understanding of the decline of the Soviet Union during the Gorbachev era raises many hitherto unexpected issues (Dukes, 1993). Therefore the onus for the decline of the Soviet Union both before and after Gorbachev needs to be interpreted in the context of the socio-economic, political and cultural changes that defined the Soviet Union in 1991.
Communism was as much an economic and social doctrine as a political strategy. It is really surprising to note that the Bolsheviks primarily came to power by riding on a band wagon of simple economic promises that is the extension of food, clothing and shelter to the suffering masses (Sviderskii, 1930). Hence the demise of the Soviet Union was as much a failure of the Communist economic model, as a victory of the Western democratic and capitalist ideals.
The Gorbachev era was the culmination of a long history of disastrous economic policies pursued by the successive soviet regimes over the decades. So the decline of the Soviet Union when Gorbachev came to power needs to be understood in the subaltern context of the failure of the Soviet state to provide the basic means of sustenance to the masses. Food definitely constitutes an important aspect of this state failure on the part of the communist regime.
In the late 20s, the Soviet regime went ahead with a positive note in the sense that it supported the idea of allowing for private agriculture and the free market economy pertaining to food grains, while retaining the Communist Party's hold over the basic market frameworks (Sviderskii, 1930). However, the agents of doom were let lose when Stalin decided in favour of the state control over agriculture and the production and the management of food stocks (Gaider, 2007). Stalin chose to do so despite the cautions extended by many of his trusted comrades like Bukharin and Rykov (Gaider, 2007).
The pursuance of this food policy between 1920 and 1950 resulted in a sharp decline in the Soviet agricultural production, despite the fact that it had access to some of the largest farming tracts in the world (Desai, 1986). In fact Nikita Khrushchev wrote a letter delivered to many of his friends, mentioning that, "In the last fifteen years we have not increased the collection of grain. Meanwhile we are experiencing a radical increase of urban population. How can we resolve this problem (Gaider, 2007)"
At some time in the 50s, the Soviet planners alarmed by this scarcity, put their heads together to grapple with this pressing issue and several options were