A Portrait of the Worker against the Backdrop of the Soviet Union’s Collapse

In: East Central Europe

The coal miners’ strikes of 1989 and 1991 in the ussr have received significant attention from scholars in the country and abroad that peaked in the 1990s. Drawing on the existing scholarship, I argue that our understanding of the strikes remains incomplete unless we consider these events in their proper discursive contexts, which were different for the two waves of strikes. I explore the All-Union daily, Izvestiia, and weekly, Literaturnaia Gazeta, as well as a Belorussian daily, Sovetskaia Belorussiia, in order to restore the discursive contexts and apply them as a tool to explain the miners’ contradictory demands. From this contextualization, the wave of 1989 strikes emerges as a proto-class struggle played out within the peculiar sociopolitical conditions of Soviet society; while the strikes of 1991 appear as a result of the classical merging of the workers’ movement with that of intellectuals and politicians, who at that time aligned themselves with neoliberal ideals.

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