ECONOMIC TRANSITION IN POLAND & RUSSIA



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