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Fon Zaal' Yu. The Helsinki process and the disintegration of the Soviet Union

Published in journal "History magazine: researches", 2014-6 in rubric "EVOLUTION, REFORM, REVOLUTION", pages 635-659.

Resume: The Perestroika, the collapse of the Soviet ideology and of the USSR can be associated with a series of causes and factors that in sum permit to understand the completely unpredictable fall of the Soviet Union. One of these factors was the CSCE experiment. Already immediately after the signing of the Final act in 1975, the Helsinki process, in spite of the optimism of the Soviet leaders, began to affect the political system of the country in a destructive manner. The code of conduct for governments in a state of peace with each other and in relation to their citizens was developed on a global European level and had a far-reaching echo in Western society, as well as in the Soviet one despite the criticism and doubt of the Western community at the beginning of the 1970s. If before the coming to power of Gorbachev the proclamation of new principles and the demand for their implementation remained an issue only for the dissident movement, which was subjected to repression, while the Helsinki process acted rather like a forum for the political and propagandistic confrontation between the East and the West, then with the beginning of the Perestroika the international obligations began to have widespread voicing and activity in the Union with the CSCE becoming one of the priority directions of the Soviet foreign policy. The liberalisation of social life in the USSR (amnesty of political prisoners, cessation of dissident persecutions, informational and emigrational policies) and the addition of humanitarian aspects to the concept of homeland security had their roots in the Helsinki process and legitimatised the ensuing results in its framework of liabilities. At the same time the Viennese encounter of the CSCE was of great historical significance with the Kremlin put forward the initiative to assemble a conference on human rights in Moscow which, along with other accepted new obligations, was used by society and the new leaders for the further democratisation of the country. Because of the CSCE the USSR solved a number of humanitarian questions and passed a series of laws aimed towards becoming a constitutional state. Under the influence of the Helsinki process the democratic Western-liberal principles penetrated the Soviet political and ideological life which, in turn, led to an ideological crisis and in conjunction with other factors to the fall of the USSR. The global historical significance of the Helsinki process consisted in its overcoming ideological marks, the de-ideologisation of international relations and the recognition of the universality of human rights, as well as the legitimacy of these rights international protection. It was precisely as a result of the Helsinki process that human rights became a constituent part of diplomatic relations. Ultimately this all served as the precondition for the end of the Cold War.

Keywords: Moscow Helsinki group, human rights movement, human rights, Soviet Union, Helsinki process, CSCE Final act, CSCE, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Perestroika, Openness

DOI: 10.7256/2222-1972.2014.6.14879

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