The Collapse of Communism and the Break-Up of the USSR

The Collapse of Communism and the Break-Up of the USSR

Political Factors Leading to the Collapse of Communism

  • Perestroika: Introduced by Gorbachev in 1985, it aimed to restructure the Soviet economy and political system. However, this reform led to economic instability and dissatisfaction among the people.
  • Glasnost: Also a reform by Gorbachev, it allowed greater political openness and freedom of speech, which led to criticism and questioning of the Communist Party.
  • Nationalism: The relaxation of control over the Soviet bloc countries resulted in increased nationalist sentiment and demands for independence.
  • Gorbachev’s Leadership: His inability to control the changes brought about by perestroika and glasnost accelerated the collapse of communism.

Economic Factors Leading to the Collapse of Communism

  • Economic Decline: The USSR faced severe economic issues, such as falling oil prices, inflation, and food shortages, which impacted public opinion and confidence in communism.
  • Military Expenditure: The arms race with the USA led to excessive spending on military, causing strain on the Soviet economy.
  • Ineffectiveness of Central Planning: The centralised control of the economy led to inefficiency and corruption, which weakened the faith in communism.

Social Factors Leading to the Collapse of Communism

  • Demand for Freedom: Gorbachev’s policies allowed for increased freedom of speech, leading to the USSR’s citizens questioning the communist government and its policies.
  • Dissatisfaction with Living Standards: There was widespread dissatisfaction with low living standards, food shortages, and lack of consumer goods.
  • Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: The disaster in 1986 and subsequent cover-up intensified distrust of the government.

The Break-Up of the USSR

  • Independence Movements: The republics within the USSR, including Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, declared independence between 1990 and 1991. The Central Asian republics also followed, leading to the breakup of the USSR.
  • August Coup: In August 1991, hardliners attempted to take over the government. This coup failed, but Gorbachev’s position weakened, and Boris Yeltsin became the dominant figure.
  • Formation of CIS: In December 1991, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gorbachev resigned, marking the end of the USSR.