History & Culture

The collapse of the Soviet Union

Let's describe the collapse of the Soviet Union. In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union that was in recession. He realized that the Soviet Bloc needed radical reforms and he tried to modernize socialism. The result was the complete dissolution of the USSR, which changed the map of Europe and created a new world order.

Understanding the collapse of the Soviet Union

Mikhail Gorbachev was a popular leader. He introduced two concepts named glasnost and perestroika—openness and restructuring—and advocated a more dynamic, liberal society. The popularity of Gorbachev increased even more when he decided to withdraw the Russian soldiers in Afghanistan. However, the non-Russian minorities living in the USSR were in the turmoil of independence. In July 1990, Gorbachev announced that the countries within the Warsaw Pact can determine their own destiny through free elections.

Eastern and Central Europe responded more to Gorbachev's offer of freedom: Poland chose to end the communist rule in 1989; Hungary has opened its borders with the West, and the Berlin Wall was destroyed. Czechoslovakia and Romania left the Soviets after the modest response from Gorbachev. Then, the same followed by Ukraine and Armenia in 1990, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan in 1991.

The collapse of the Soviet Union
Yeltsin and Gorbachev.

From the outsider perspective, Gorbachev was a hero. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and was treated with honour by foreign statesmen. However, living standards in Russia fell considerably and he struggled with deep economic difficulties. Gorbachev tried to hold his empire together as his ministers abandoned him and the Baltic states' desire for independence became irresistible. Boris Yeltsin was elected president of Russia in July 1991 and became the pioneer of reforms when he saved Gorbachev from the hard-line opposition's August coup. In the same month, Yeltsin ordered the Soviet Communist Party to stop its activities in Russia. The Soviet Union faced extinction as Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus secretly planned to establish a new union. The situation became unsustainable, and Gorbachev resigned from the Soviet presidency at Christmas 1991. Of the remaining 15 Soviet republics, 12 states gained independence and the USSR collapsed and became a thing of the past.

The rise and fall of communism

Communism was one of the most powerful political movements in the modern world that inspired both great thinkers and guerrilla fighters. Communism was thought to offer ordinary people redemption and oppression and the capitalist system was the thing of the Western opponents. This great social experiment started with the capture of the Winter Palace in Petrograd in 1917, and ended in 1989-1991, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the USSR empire. Although China, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea still define themselves as communists today, communism is now a dead end with the absence of the USSR as the power that used to hold the member countries together.

The collapse of the Soviet Union
The last communist regimes on earth.

Communist regimes could be found all over the world at the time of the strongest communist influence. After the World War II victory, communism was adopted by one-third of the world's population. The fear that communism could expand further led to the beginning of the Cold War. There are only five communist countries in today's world. While China is the foremost state, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea, and Cuba also have a communist regime. Communist parties still exist in many democratic countries.