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The Meaning of Change: Soviet Miners’ Strikes of 1989 and 1991 Revisited

Sun, November 24, 10:00 to 11:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 4, Pacific F

Abstract

The year 2019 marks 30th anniversary since a first wave of miners’ strike in July of 1989 in the USSR. Its second wave in March of 1991 was one of the major factors which combination led to the Soviet Union collapse in December of the same year. However, some years later, many of those involved ardently denied that that had been their goal. How this change in mind can be accounted for?
To answer this question, I explore a number of issues of three newspapers – All-Union daily, Izvestiia, and weekly, Literaturnaia Gazeta, as well as a Belorussian daily, Sovetskaia Belorussiia for the period between 1988 and 1993. The goal is to restore the discursive context of the time. I then apply it as a tool to make sense of the miners’ contradictory demands during the strikes and a drastic change in their beliefs, as well as attitudes and assessments of their own actions and decisions, later on.
From this contextualization, the wave of 1989 strikes emerges as a proto-class struggle that played out within the peculiar socio-political conditions of Soviet society, while the strikes of 1991 appear as a result of the classical merge of the workers’ movement with that of intellectuals and politicians’ who at that time aligned themselves with neoliberal ideas and values.

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