As a middle-aged person, I always feel a little strange when asked about my age, especially when asked by young female friends. Looking at their faces full of collagen, “age” has become a topic of “embarrassment if you say it, embarrassment if you don’t say it, and embarrassment if you hesitate.”.
In order to alleviate this embarrassment, whenever a young friend asked me my age, I would always lean back, put on an inscrutable and meaningful expression, and then say in a leisurely manner: when I was born, the North was still called the Soviet Union.
I was born in 1990. In that year, Gorbachev lived in the Kremlin.
Today, August 31, 2022, Gorbachev died, and the last shadow of the Soviet Union also dissipated. (in view of his character and behavior, I really don’t want to use words like “death” or “death”.)
Today, when Gorbachev’s soul is in the Gulag, let’s talk about some in-depth topics: Why did the Soviet Union not catch up with the new technological revolution? How did the new technological revolution affect the national fate of the Soviet Union?
Things should start with a war thousands of miles away from the Soviet Union.
Saturday, October 6, 1973. In the eyes of Jews, this day is a sacred day, because according to the Jewish doctrine, it is “atonement day”. All Jews should put down their work on this day, go into the church, and sincerely repent of their sins.
The Israeli soldiers stationed in the “barev line” on the East Bank of the Suez canal are no exception. They are all Jews. On that day, all of them entered a vacation state – half of the soldiers have gone home for the festival. The rest abide by the provisions of the doctrine and pray piously under the leadership of the rabbi. They did not enter the rice drop on that day.
At two o’clock that afternoon, the Israeli soldiers stationed in the barev line suddenly heard the roar from the other side of the Suez Canal. They looked up and were shocked by the scene in front of them: hundreds of fighter jets painted with the Egyptian air force logo were roaring at them.
The fourth Middle East War (Israel called “Yom Kippur War”) broke out.
Israel is the sworn enemy of Arab countries. In order to support Egypt, which is also an Arab brother, the members of the organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed unprecedented unity. Ten days after the outbreak of the war, on October 16, 1973, they announced that the price of crude oil would be raised from the original $3.01 to $5.12 per barrel. The organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) went further, declaring that it would not export oil to Israel and any countries supporting Israel before Israel withdrew its troops.
This is the “first oil crisis” sweeping the world in the 1970s. At the peak of the crisis, the international oil price was 19 times higher than before.
Under the shock wave of the oil crisis, some people are happy and others are sad.
As the price of crude oil rises, the price of fuel such as gasoline and diesel also rises. Fuel prices have risen, and the operating costs of agricultural machinery burning gasoline and diesel have also soared. Grain prices have also risen. What’s more, some enterprises that are not likely to be affected by the oil crisis can’t sit still when others raise their prices. They take advantage of the fire to rob and talk about the rise… The world’s economy is in chaos in the blink of an eye.
The U.S. economy, which was mired in the Vietnam War and heavily dependent on oil, was hit hard, and the momentum of economic development was interrupted. Europe and Japan have also been affected. Prices have soared, and people are complaining everywhere – in Japan, officials have long been at a loss as to what to do in the face of soaring prices. They have only written articles as usual in vain. Even the officials who wrote the reply have roast about what they wrote: “how can inflation be suppressed by relying on these measures”.
But for the Soviet Union, the “first oil crisis” became a windfall. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union had the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world, and was also a major oil exporter. The soaring oil prices in the international market made the Soviet Union a lot of money. It can be said that since the October Revolution, the Soviet Union has never lived such a rich life.
The Soviet Union, which suddenly became a “nouveau riche”, first showed its local pride temperament in the international grain market.
Due to the poor natural conditions and the small population, grain production has never been the strong point of the Soviet Union. In fact, from Comrade Khrushchev’s love of corn mystery, we can more or less see the Soviet people’s desire for food.
Since 1963, the Soviet Union has become a net importer of grain. Since the 1970s, the Soviet Union has overtaken Japan and become the largest importer of grain. In the 1980s, one ton of every three tons of grain and food in the Soviet Union was processed with imported grain – the Soviet Union imported 40 million tons of grain from overseas every year, and became an influence on the national grain price by itself.
The reason why the Soviet Union acted like this was because it had enough “petrodollars” – what kind of food? If you are short of grain, go to the international market to buy it. The grain in the United States is good and cheap. Why do you have to make efforts to grow it yourself?
Arbatov, director of the North American Research Institute of the Soviet Academy of Social Sciences, commented on the mentality of the Soviet leadership at that time as follows: if we can order all foreign factories, then we still need to develop science and technology ourselves? If we can easily buy food, meat, eggs and milk from the United States and Canada, is it necessary to study ways to solve the food problem? If we can invite engineers from Finland and Sweden, is it necessary to do engineering projects by ourselves? Medical equipment, furniture, department stores… Can’t we just import from the west?
The Soviet Union, accustomed to hard struggle and hard construction, did not expect to be so rich one day. Mencius said, “born in adversity, died in happiness” — the Soviet Union, which was suddenly rich, went astray from then on. The Soviet Union, which was in an unprecedented financial position, began to start large-scale projects everywhere. The entire Soviet Union was full of confidence from top to bottom. It felt that it had endless money and communism was just around the corner.
At this time, the industrial crisis of the Soviet Union came.
What era was 1970-1980?
The answer is: This is an era of scientific and technological revolution.
In 1965, Gordon Moore proposed Moore’s law. In 1968, intel was founded in Santa Clara, California. In 1969, amd was established in Sunnyvale, California. Throughout the 1970s, the international semiconductor industry could be described as a group of competitors: Intel, Fairchild, Texas Instruments, amd… Almost all of these enterprises with great prestige in today’s market began to take off in the 1970s.
In addition to these American enterprises, Sony, Panasonic and Toshiba in Japan, Siemens and Bosch in Europe also began to enter the “rampant mode” in the 1970s. In 1975, Sony launched the world’s first video recorder for the civilian consumer market. In 1979, Toshiba produced the world’s first CD-ROM file generation system. In 1970, the first program-controlled digital switch was put into commercial test in France – you know, the switch has always been one of Huawei’s strongest product lines.
The rise of star enterprises is only an appearance. Behind it, it reflects the change in the direction of productivity development – the whole world has begun to transform towards high added value, technology and knowledge intensive. The technological trend of the 1970s has outlined the vague outline of contemporary technology.
But at that time, few people knew what would happen in the future.
The Kremlin feels that steel, coal and oil will compete in the future world, but in fact, chips, computers and the Internet will compete in the future.
At its peak, the GDP of the Soviet Union had reached about half of that of the United States, but at the same time, the number of industrial computers in the Soviet Union was only 1 / 45 of that of the United States. Even compared with less advanced Western European countries, the Soviet Union was only 1 / 15 of that of Western Europe.
The Soviet Union is not without scientific and technological personnel. In fact, the scientific and technological strength of the Soviet Union is extremely strong – one in four scientists in the world is in the Soviet Union. The new inventions of the Soviet Union account for one third of the world, second only to Japan, which was at its peak at that time.
The problem of the Soviet Union in the science and technology industry is that its science and technology only stays at the level of science and technology, and does not continue to develop into product applications that can benefit society and the people – only 6% – 7% of the scientific research personnel in the Soviet Union Work in enterprises, and the vast majority of scientific research personnel work in research institutes and schools – while the research institutes and schools of the Soviet Union are all operated by financial grants, The promotion of scientific researchers is also mainly evaluated by research results – the advantage of this is that they can concentrate on research without worry, while the disadvantage is that they have no motivation to turn technology into practical products.
However, it takes 10-12 years for the scientific research achievements of the Soviet Union to be put into practical application, while it takes less than five years for the Americans.
As a result, the Soviet Union produced so many scientific research results that only one fourth of them could be used in the mainland. As a result, in the late Soviet Union, it often happened that “one’s own technology was secretly transferred abroad, and then he spent a lot of money to introduce it a few years later”.
To be honest, these problems already exist in the Soviet system. It’s just that no one has pierced it and no one has the motivation to reform it – after all, in the 1970s, the Soviet policy-making layer was still obsessed with the dream of selling oil.
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union was very strong. The output of steel, machine tools, oil and cement in the Soviet Union increased year by year. The number of tanks and armored vehicles in the Soviet army was more than that of the entire NATO group. The number of intercontinental missiles and hydrogen bombs in the Soviet Union was enough to destroy the whole earth more than ten times.
The Soviet Union in the 1970s was also very weak, because as long as there was no war, these tanks, armored vehicles and missiles would be difficult to play their role. Although national defense is important, it would be bad if the military industrial complex were allowed to kidnap national development.
In a word, while Moscow was counting petrodollars and laughing, the Soviet Union, which sent Gagarin to heaven, began to be at least 15 years away from the West in microelectronics, new materials, bioengineering and other emerging industries.
Finally, the cruel 80s came.
The Soviet Union, which became rich on oil, eventually fell on oil.
In the late 1980s, oil prices began to plunge. In the 1970s, oil as high as $110 per barrel was only $26 at the end of 1985 and $19 in 1989.
The oil price plummeted, which meant that there was less money to sell oil, and the days when the Soviet Union lay down to make money were gone – the problems of the Soviet Union that had long been covered by false prosperity began to erupt.
A few years later that winter night, Gorbachev sat in front of the camera and announced the death of the Soviet Union – the red flag fell and the Soviet Union disintegrated.
In 1982, in the ward of a hospital in Moscow, a patient with cerebral hemorrhage left the world. The deceased patient’s name was glushkov, and he was a Soviet scientist born on the Tonkin river.
When later generations mention glushkov, they will probably mention another word – “ogas”.
Ogas, the Soviet Internet concept proposed by glushkov.
In the ogas system, the economy of the whole Soviet Union will be interconnected, the production data of every factory and farmhouse will become transparent, the national economy can play a chess game, the planned economy will usher in its own era, and the operation of the country will be as simple and straightforward as solving mathematical problems.
Even, glushkov believes that the application of ogas system can gradually eliminate real currency and establish a national electronic file that includes all Soviet citizens. It should be noted that glushkov proposed these concepts in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which are infinitely close to digital currency, big data, cloud computing, smart city and so on.
However, ogas eventually miscarried.
The reason for abortion is very simple. First, it costs too much money, and second, it moves the cake of certain interest groups. The Soviet Union did not have great scientific researchers. It just did not have the motivation to do the right things.
So, back to the question at the beginning of the article: Why did the Soviet Union not catch up with the new technological revolution? How did the new technological revolution affect the national fate of the Soviet Union?
The answer is: the sudden wealth brought by the oil crisis made the Soviet Union too easy to obtain astronomical income, lost the motivation for development, and missed the motivation for the new technological revolution. At the same time, the entire world economy is undergoing transformation, and the technology / knowledge intensive industries represented by new technologies have become the mainstream. The Soviet Union, which missed the opportunity of the new technology revolution, has also ruined its national fortune.