Collapse of Communism and breakup of USSR

Collapse of Communism and breakup of USSR

Gorbachev’s Reforms

  • Perestroika: Gorbachev’s economic and political reform policy introduced in 1985 intended to revitalise the Soviet economy by adopting elements of free-market systems.
  • Glasnost: Introduced in 1986, this was a policy of political openness, essentially greater transparency and freedom of speech in the Soviet Union.
  • Democratisation: Gorbachev aimed to introduce a more democratic political system by allowing multiple candidates in elections and reducing the power of the Communist Party.

Economic Crisis

  • Failure of Economic Reforms: Despite Gorbachev’s reforms, the economic situation remained dire, with shortages of goods, high inflation, and lack of investment.
  • Increased Dependence on the West: The Soviet Union increasingly relied on Western loans and technology, which further highlighted the weaknesses of its own system to its citizens.

Nationalist Movements

  • Baltic States Independence: Nationalist movements in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia successfully pushed for independence in 1990-91.
  • Rise of Nationalism Elsewhere: Nationalist movements in other republics such as Ukraine and Georgia sought increased autonomy and independence from Moscow’s control.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

  • Attempted Coup: In August 1991, hardline Communists attempted a coup to remove Gorbachev and reverse his reforms, but this failed due to lack of support and public resistance led by Boris Yeltsin.
  • Fall of Communism: In November 1991, the Communist Party was banned and Gorbachev resigned as its general secretary.
  • End of the USSR: On 25th December 1991, Gorbachev resigned as President of the USSR, marking the end of the Soviet Union. The USSR was officially dissolved and replaced by the Russian Federation on 26th December 1991.


  • Transition to Free-Market Economies: Newly independent states faced the challenge of transitioning from planned economies to free-market systems, often accompanied by economic hardship.
  • Yeltsin’s Leadership: As President of Russia, Yeltsin faced huge challenges including economic crisis, political instability, and a powerful oligarchy.
  • Legacy: The breakup of the USSR ended the Cold War, reordered international relations, and led to conflicts both within and among the former Soviet republics.