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Soviet Union


After Gorbachev's accession to power, the leadership promulgated a new series of telecommunications and computerization goals. Some of those efforts had already been incorporated into the Twelfth Five-Year Plan (1986-90). They included a universal implementation of computers and data bases throughout the economy and an all-union computer modernization and training program aimed at the younger generation. In 1988 Western estimates put the number of computers at 30,000 mainframes and 70,000 smaller computers. In 1985 a law requiring ninth and tenth graders to learn computer fundamentals was introduced. In the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, the leadership declared its goal to furnish high schools with at least 500,000 computers by 1990, representing 45 percent of national computer production. By the year 2000, the leadership projected that 5 million computers would be distributed throughout the schools. The Soviet Union developed a copy of the Apple II computer (called the Agat) and International Business Machines personal computer clones. In addition, the Soviet Union developed the Janus with Hungary and the MMS-16 with the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). All of these computer models, however, encountered production problems.

Achievements in computer technology may have benefited the national economy, especially industry and the military, but they also may have imperiled the leadership's ability to control access to information. The leadership's control of information was likely to be further reduced by a continuing rise in the number of VCRs, access to direct-broadcast satellite transmissions, and access to Western data networks that managers and scientists desired. Despite measures to suppress the dissemination of mass information, the regime faced a dilemma. It could not expect to compete with the West unless it modernized its technology and improved its computer facilities, yet it wanted to maintain strict controls over data networks and personal computer use.

Data as of May 1989