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The fall of communism in the soviet empire

Its population numbered more than 290 million, and 100 distinct nationalities lived within its borders. It also boasted an arsenal of tens of thousands of nuclear weaponsand its sphere of influence, exerted through such mechanisms as the Warsaw Pactextended throughout eastern Europe. Within a year, the Soviet Union had ceased to exist.

While it is, for all practical purposes, impossible to pinpoint a single cause for an event as complex and far-reaching as the dissolution of a global superpower, a number of internal and the fall of communism in the soviet empire factors were certainly at play in the collapse of the U. The political factor When Mikhail Gorbachev was named general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union CPSU on March 11, 1985, his primary domestic goals were to jump-start the moribund Soviet economy and to streamline the cumbersome government bureaucracy.

The former was intended to foster dialogue, while the latter introduced quasi free market policies to government-run industries. Rather than sparking a renaissance in Communist thought, glasnost opened the floodgates to criticism of the entire Soviet apparatus.

The state lost control of both the media and the public sphere, and democratic reform movements gained steam throughout the Soviet bloc. Perestroika exhibited the worst of the capitalist and communist systems: By the end of 1989 Hungary had dismantled its border fence with AustriaSolidarity had swept into power in Polandthe Baltic states were taking concrete steps toward independence, and the Berlin Wall had been toppled.

The Iron Curtain had fallen, and the Soviet Union the fall of communism in the soviet empire not long outlast it. Economic stagnation had hobbled the country for years, and the perestroika reforms only served to exacerbate the problem.

Fall of the Soviet Union

Wage hikes were supported by printing money, fueling an inflationary spiral. Mismanagement of fiscal policy made the country vulnerable to external factors, and a sharp drop in the price of oil sent the Soviet economy into a tailspin.

The military factor It is a widely the fall of communism in the soviet empire belief that Soviet defense spending accelerated dramatically in response to the presidency of Ronald Reagan and proposals such as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

In fact, the Soviet military budget had been trending upward since at least the early 1970s, but Western analysts were left with best guesses in regard to hard numbers.

Soviet Union

Outside estimates of Soviet military spending ranged between 10 and 20 percent of GDP, and, even within the Soviet Union itself, it was difficult to produce an exact accounting because the military budget involved a variety of government ministries, each with its own competing interests. What can be said definitively, however, is that military spending was consistently agnostic of overall economic trends: In addition, the military took priority when it came to research and development talent.

Afghanistan In addition to the fall of communism in the soviet empire matters, the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan 1979—89 was a key military factor in the breakup of the U. The Soviet armylionized for its role in World War II and a vital tool in the repression of the Hungarian Revolution and Prague Springhad waded into a quagmire in a region known as the Graveyard of Empires. As many as a million Soviet troops participated in the 10-year occupation, and approximately 15,000 were killed and thousands more were wounded.

More than a million Afghans—mostly civilians—were killed, and at least 4 million were externally displaced by the fighting. The army that had bested Hitler and crushed dissent during the Cold War found itself frustrated by mujahideen armed with American surface-to-air missiles. As long as the government controlled the press, dissent about the war in Afghanistan remained muted, but glasnost opened the door to the vocalization of widespread war weariness. Many soldiers from the Central Asian republics felt closer ethnic and religious ties to Afghans than they did to Russians, the fall of communism in the soviet empire protests were widespread.

In the European republics, the cleavage with Moscow was even more dramatic. Antiwar demonstrations broke out in Ukrainewhile opposition forces in the Baltic republics viewed the war in Afghanistan through the lens of the Russian occupation of their own countries.

Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?

This fueled the secessionist movements that proceeded, largely unchecked, to declarations of independence by all three Baltic states in 1990.

The image of the Golden Arches in Pushkin Square seemed like a triumph of Western capitalismand customers lined up around the block for their first taste of a Big Mac. But such a display was not uncommon in the final years of the Soviet Union; Muscovites queued just as long for morning editions of liberal newspapers. Glasnost had, indeed, ushered in a flurry of new concepts, ideas, and experiences, and Soviet the fall of communism in the soviet empire were eager to explore them—whether that involved devouring essays about democratization from leading political philosophers or dipping a toe into a market economy via Western-style fast food.

The Cold War Museum

It has to be changed. The Soviet public was disgusted with the widespread corruption endemic to the Soviet state. This is only the material side of the process. The heart of the matter is in the political system…and its relation to man.

What few had considered, however, was that the Soviet Union would be brought down by an incident involving a civilian nuclear plant. The explosion and subsequent fires released more than 400 times the amount of radioactive fallout as the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Communist Party officials acted quickly to suppress information about the severity of the disaster, going as far as to order that May Day parades and celebrations in the fall of communism in the soviet empire affected area should proceed as planned despite the known risk of radiation exposure.

Western reports about the dangerously high levels of wind-transported radioactivity were dismissed as gossip, while apparatchiks quietly collected Geiger counters from science classrooms. Workers were finally able to the fall of communism in the soviet empire the radiation leak under control on May 4, but Gorbachev did not issue an official statement to the public until May 14, 18 days after the disaster.

Whatever trust remained in the Soviet system had been shattered.