The Soviet Union was established in 1922 and collapsed in 1991. It was the first state to practice and be based on communism. The communist party obliquely controlled the government at all levels; the party’s politburo efficiently ruled the state whose general secretary was the state’s most influential leader. Soviet factories and industries were owned and managed by the state whereas agricultural land was alienated into state farms, collectively owned farms and small, individually owned plots.
The main reason behind its collapse was the cold war though it took nearly half a century to pull off. The cold war was a major worry on the international affairs front. Soviet Union being a communism state, they had a different perspective regarding the cold war which was to control communism and avoid nuclear conflict. The Soviet Union aimed to spread communism to as many states in the world as possible including the US. This led to a disagreement between the two power houses over political, economic and cultural differences.
Tensions grew and this led to the nuclear arms race where they stockpiled nuclear weapons in preparation just in case need arose to use them. In 1950s, both states engaged in space race which mainly was to build their defense. Many other cold war related issues emerged over the years which also contributed to the tension between the two states; the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs invasion among others. All these events; the arms race, space race and the continued support of the communist regime by the Soviet Union involved a lot of money which was sourced from their economy.
It resulted to a stagnant economy with virtually no growth a factor that contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union. During its fall the Soviet Union was politically made up of 15 consistuent republics that is from (1940 to 1991). the unions included was divided (from 1940 to 1991) into 15 constituent or union republics- Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia , Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tadzhikisan (Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan).
Beginning early1985 the Soviet Union was dissolved into sovereign nations. For years there was a buildup of soviet military in disregard of the domestic development and economic growth lagging behind. Failed efforts on reforms, a dormant economy, and the Afghanistan war led to a common feeling of dissatisfaction, especially in the eastern republics and Baltic States (Remnick, 24). Mikhail Gorbachev, the last soviet leader, instituted superior political and social freedoms, which formed a bad environment of open criticism on the Moscow region.
The huge drop of the oil prices in 1985 and 1986, and subsequent unavailability of foreign exchange reserves in subsequent years to buy grain overwhelmingly influenced measures of the Soviet headship. Several republics of the Soviet Union started resisting central power, and therefore increased democratization led to the declining of the central government. The Soviet Union’s trade gap gradually emptied the reserves of the union, leading to eventual bankruptcy.
The Soviet Union finally collapsed in 1991 when Boris Yeltsin seized power after an aborted coup that attempted to overthrow Gorbachev (Remnick, 37-38). In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded konsantin cherneko as General Secretary of the CPSU. Gorbachev introduced numerous changes in Soviet foreign policy and also in the economy of the Soviet Union by introducing honesty, democratization, reorganization and speeding up of economic development, which were later launched on 27, February, 1986 at the Congress of the CPSU.
Specifically, in 1988, the Soviet Union deserted its war with Afghanistan that had lasted nine years and began to pull out its military forces from the country. Again in the in the late 1980s, Gorbachev declined to propel military reinforcement to protect the Soviet Union’s past protectorate states, which resulted to many socialist regimes in those states being pushed from authority (Remnick, 56-59). On April, 7 1990, many republics held their first free elections in the Soviet era for their own national legislatures.
Several members of the legislature went ahead to bring into being legislation conflicting the Union laws which was commonly referred to as “war of laws. ” (Remnick, 26) With the Russian SFSR having almost half of the Soviet Union’s population, it was the largest consistuent republic and in 1989 it convened a newly elected congress of people’s deputies. During the elections Boris Yelstin was elected the chairman of the congress. Afterwards, on June 12, the congress declared sovereignty if the large Russia over its territory and went ahead to enact laws that were meant to replace some of the USSR’s laws.
The age of legal ambiguity persistent right through 1991 as constituent republics bit by bit became de facto independent (Matlock, 19-21). Some countries like Georgia, Estionia, Lithuania, and Latvia, had before then affirmed their self-rule from the Soviet Union by force. In About a week similar attempts were made by the local pro-soviet forces to overthrow the legitimate Latvian authorities. On June 12, 1990, Russia declared its independence and subsequently restricted the appliance of Soviet laws, especially those relating to finance and the economy, within the Russian territory.
SFSR adopted laws that contradicted the mainstream Soviet laws (the war of laws). Gorbachev was voted as the only president of soviet Union by the Congress of People’s Deputies on march 15, and he therefore chose a Presidential Council of 15 politicians. Gorbachev was in actual fact molding his personal political hold up base free from CPSU conservatives and major reformers. In the face of the obvious swell in Gorbachev’s control, he was vividly not able to bring to an end the progression of nationalistic statement.
Things were made worse about soviet history in April on the realization that NKVD was responsible for the notorious Katyn Massacre of Polish army officers for the period of World War II; until that time, the USSR had held responsible Nazi Germany. The government admitted to these claims later (Encaucse, 26-28). Another blow to Gorbachev’s position, Boris Yeltsin was getting a new height of eminence, since in May; he was voted Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR. This efficiently made him the de jure leader of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
In June more Problems for Gorbachev were to troop in once more when the Russian parliament declared the superiority of Russian laws over All-Union level legislation. In July, Gorbachev was re-elected General Secretary at the 28th CPSU congress, even though this position was at this time totally independent of Soviet government, and the Politburo did not have power in the ruling of the country. Once again, Gorbachev condensed the authority of the Party within the same month, after issuing a decree banning Party authority of every area of the media and broadcasting.
Similarly Gorbachev was running to strengthen his Presidential position; he was thereby culminating in the Supreme Soviet to grant him outstanding powers to rule by decree to get a chance to pass a badly needed plan for change toward a market economy. His plans hit a snarl because Supreme Soviet did not have an agreement on which course to approve (Yegor, 18). Gorbachev pursued on with his pursuit for political reforms and on august 20, 1991, he made a proposal that the republics were to sign a fresh union accord, to make them sovereign republics in a coalition with a universal president, military and foreign policy.
In the meantime, Gorbachev was trailing additional position to nationalist, this was evident in October 1990, which saw the formation of demorossiya, which was formed by Russian nationalists, in no time, Ukraine and Russia affirmed their laws wholly self-governing in excess of Soviet laws (Yegor, 19). Gorbachev’s ambitious programs of reforms, perestroika and glasnot, which meant “economic/political restructuring and openness” caused resistance and mistrust on the side of hard-line members of the Communist system. They also gave rise to some reactions and movements to the surprise Gorbachev.
To be specific agitation on the part of the nationalists of soviets union party’s minorities widened. This led to fears that some republics in the union were going to secede (Remnick, 31). In 1991, the Soviet Union was in harsh political and economic catastrophe, they were in shortage of nearly every product, and people being forced to stand in long lines to buy essential goods. On March 17, 1991, Baltic States, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova boycotted the union wide referendum in which the greater part of the inhabitants of the other republics wanted to retain the converted Soviet Union.
After some negotiations were done, out of the nine republics eight of them, except Ukraine, accepted the New Union Treaty, however they gave some conditions. The agreement would create the Soviet Union as an alliance of sovereign republics with one president, military and foreign policy. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and the Russian federation were supposed to sign the Treaty on August 20, 1991 in Moscow. The ‘war of laws’ had turn out to be an open scuffle, by the means of the Supreme Soviet refuting to acknowledge the actions of the two republics.
Gorbachev would issue the summary of a latest unification agreement in November, which was to put in place an unrelenting blending called the Union of Sovereign Soviet Republics, but, getting started in 1991; however his actions were increasingly being overtaken by the centrifugal secessionist forces (David, 82-85). Vladimir the chairman of the KGB made a call of order on December 11, 1990, through the central television in Moscow. He asked two officers from the KGB to put in order measures to be taken in the event that a state of emergency was declared in the USSR.
USSR Defense Minister, Yazov, Boris Pugo the Internal Affairs Minister, the Prime Minister, Pavlov, the Vice President, Gennady, the deputy Chief of the USSR Defense Council, the head of President’s Secretariat, Boldin , and Shenin of CPSU central committee were among the conspirators. They were hoping that President Mikhail Gorbachev can be somehow convinced to “restore order” and declare the state of emergency (David, 78-80). The moment of truth for Gorbachev came in August 1991.
before he had initiated the “glasnost” policy which further worsened the nationalist position in the various Soviet republics, at the same time many still within the Communist party got overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the reforms by Gorbachev. Lastly, the communist hardliners had taken enough and started plotting a coup. With Gorbachev on vacation in the Crimea, they attempted a coup (Remnick, 35). On July 23, 1991, several party literati and functionaries published an article, ‘sovetskaya rossiya’ in the labeled hard-line newspaper which was against the perestroika manifesto entitled A Word to the People.
Gorbachev, Yelstin and nursultan nazarbayev discussed the likelihood of replacing hardliners like Pavlov, Yazov, Kryuchkov and Pugo. This conversation was leaked and rumored on by the KGB and Vladimir became aware. Later in august 4, 1991, Gorbachev went on holiday to Crimea peninsula in his dacha in foros. He intended to go back to Moscow on august 20, when the treaty of the union was to be signed. Before his return, on august 17, the conspirators held a meeting in a guesthouse in KGB, in Moscow.
While there, they went through the new union accord, which they thought would make way to the break up of the Soviet Union’s and agreed that they should do something. On August 18 Sunday, they flew to Crimea to force gorbachev to declare a state of emergency or to resign and publicly declare his Vice, Gennady as the acting president and by so doing he will allow the conspirators to restore “order in the country. ”(Matlock, 25-27). Hard-line conservatives of this Convention played a big role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and In Aug 18, 1991.
because on the same date When Gorbachev was in vacation in the Crimean peninsula with his family, a group of hardliner leaders in the Soviet Union visited him and asked him to declare a state of emergency to stop signing the new treaty submitted by Gorbachev to the leaders of the Soviet Union on August 20, which was meant to make the 15 republics autonomous. In august 18, Gennadi Yaneyen led a faction of Gorbachev’s ministers who were backed by the KGB and the military, staged a coup de’tat. The new leaders (communist hardliners), led by the former vice-president, Yaneyen, declared a state of emergency.
At this time Gorbachev was a seized captive in his holiday summer house on the Crimean peninsula (Ukraine). Gorbachev was held under house arrest for three days. The perpetrators who had gone to Crimea returned and met with the rest like yanayev in the Kremlin. And signed a treaty they called “declararation of the soviet leadership” through which they affirmed the state of emergency on some territories that were not specified. These conspirators later formed a group called the GKChP (State of committee of state of emergency) that was formed to sustain the regime of the state of emergency and manage the country effectively (Matlock, 31-32).
During the same time martial law was declared in Russia august 19, the day after the coup. Moscow was being controlled by a large group of soldiers however no politicians were arrested. It was reported that Mr. Gorbachev was unable to perform his presidential duties due to health problems. On an earlier Monday, news bulletin of the overthrow was conked out in a broadcast on state radio. Soviet television had since been airing regular broadcasts geared toward condemnations of President Gorbachev’s policies.
When the eight coup d’etat plotters, who incorporated the heads of the military, the KGB and the police force, were interviewed in a televised broadcast, they argued that they were saving the nation from a “national catastrophe. ” (Yegor, 36-37). Gennady yenavev signed the declaration identifying himself as the acting USSR president on the alleged reason of Gorbachev’s incapability to carry out presidential functions owing his “illness. ” These eight perpetrators collectively came to be known as the “Gang of Eight” The GKChP barred all correspondents in Moscow, apart from the nine newspapers that were communist-controlled.
The eight issued a populist announcement which acknowledged that “the honor and dignity of a Soviet man must be restored”, and they promised that “the new union treaty will be discussed by all the people”, that “the streets of the cities will be purged of crime”, and that the GKChP will center on attempts to solve the crisis of food shortages. GKChP also guaranteed the people that it supported “genuine democratic processes,” free enterprise and reforms (Remnick, 45-46).
On august, 20, At around noon general kalinin who was the commander of Moscow military who had been chosen by Yanayev military commander-in-chief of Moscow, confirmed the curfew in Moscow starting from 11 p. m. to 5 a. m. , in operation from August 20. This was understood as the indication that the attack on the White House was impending. The defense force of the White House geared themselves. Some were armed but most volunteers were without arms. The tank corporation which was under the authority of Major Evdokimov who had stated his allegiance to the leadership of the Russian SFSR was moved from the White House at dusk.
The temporary White House security headquarters was supervised by general kobets, people’s deputy of the Russian SFSR. At his disposal were several generals and superior officers who often volunteered for the security of the White House (Matlock, 35-36). Two or so days after the aborted coup, a new reign of terror began. Tanks were then patrolling the streets of Moscow to maintain calm, but even with the heavy presence of tanks, people in their thousands came out to protest against the conquest. Such people included Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian Federation.
Boris Yeltsin spearheaded the resistance. Condemning the coup, he rallied mass resistance. He climbed on to a tank which was outside the white house- parliament building of Russia (now home to the Russian government) and confronted the troops to plea to the armed forces not to betray or turn against the people. To him the coup was like new reign of terror and he immediately called for civil assistance. Boris was turning into a popular hero (Matlock, 38). Boris Yelstin was one of the Gorbachev closest allies until they fell out on the “communist policy.
” Yelstin was specially selected by Gorbachev to tremble up the dishonest Moscow party chain of command, because he had confirmed to be an enthusiastic and vigorous reformer. The way and pace in which he rose through the position went dramatic and soon he grew tired of the rate of “perestroika” policy and locked horns with Gorbachev. In the end Yelstin quit the Communist Party during a communist party congress in 1990. In 1991, he became the first elected president of the Russian Federal Republic within the USSR (Remnick, 47)
The ban on demonstrations were made, however a number of hundreds of demonstrators assembled outside the Kremlin demanding the restoration of the lawful administration. Interestingly, close by troops made no attempt to disperse the protest save for the militia which is alleged to have warned hospitals to be prepared for war casualties. The coup and the demonstrations forced the then US president George Bush was forced to cut short his holiday and termed the coup as a “disturbing development”. The coup had in a way suffered from an evident lack of plan and it aborted.
However, none of the coup plotters or opposition leaders was under arrest and they continued to mop up public opinion and influence the army in opposition to the new regime. The coup leaders attempted to run away from the country in less than three days afterwards. Mikhail Gorbachev was released from house capture and resumed power. The coup was successfully dispirited and Gorbachev got back to Moscow however hold up and attention had turned to Yeltsin. Later, one of the coup planners committed suicide while the other seven out of the eight coup plotters were arrested.
The attempt to stage a coup clearly demonstrated general disappointment with the Communist system (Matlock, 23-24). Things were getting out of control for Gorbachev. Yeltsin signed an order outlawing the Communist Party in Russia in November 1991. Very closely after that, in early December, Ukraine voted in favor of being independent from the Soviet Union. Just a week later, on December 8, 1991 Boris Yeltsin planned an underground meeting with two presidents (the president of Ukraine and Belarus) which was held in the Belarusian Belovezh Forest. During the meeting they came up with the Belavezha Accords.
Their claimed Belavezha Accords stated that the Soviet Union was dissolved and that it was replaced with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Gorbachev had to face the inevitable situation and on December 25, 1991 he resigned as the president of the Soviet Union. Vladimir Ivashko who was the acting secretary of CPSU After two days, Boris Yeltsin assumed Gorbachev’s past office, reining the new Russia. By the end of 1991 the Soviet Union had been replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States and many republics eventually gaining full independence (Yegor, 14-15). The attempted Soviet coup took place in August 19–21, 1991.
It was an attempt by several members of the Soviet Union government to take over President Mikhail Gorbachev . The coup leaders felt that Gorbachev’s change program was out of the league and the new treaty he had signed gave the too much power to the republics. Although Gorbachev returned to command after the coup, it weakened the Soviet Union and it is seen to have assisted in bringing the end of the Communist Party and the fall of the Union. Gorbachev faced lots of opposition since the union consisted of over 100 ethnic groups and they started to engage in warfare with each other.
He could not contain the situation and was considered to be weak by the Communist. The manufacturing and agricultural productions were falling and the previous scheme, in which the economy was controlled by a centralized government, did not work out right. Gorbachev was more interested in international affairs and put less focus on ethnic diversity and the financial situation. Perhaps prejudiced by more conformist opponents, he cracked the Lithuanians soon after they confirmed their self-government in 1990. Also, he tried to move in the direction of a private scheme of farming and individual owned industries (Matlock, 25-27).
He faced rivalry from Boris Yeltsin who rose to become the leading activist of fundamental economic change making him to have a large support base. Yeltsin led the triumphant confrontation to the coup, which subsided within a few days. When Gorbachev came back from Moscow, he was surpassed by Yeltsin, though there were some rumors that Gorbachev was involved in the organization of the coup. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union had separated with most states like Ukraine considered being independent with Yeltsin becoming president of the Russian Republic.
Gorbachev resigned from political office on Christmas Day in 1991. After Yeltsin took over, congress confirmed control over its natural assets and the dominance of Russia’s laws were to be above those of the Soviet government. Yeltsin utilized his role as president to declare Russians patriotism and his authority as president. He took over the trade and industry situation and gained popularity to the locals. Yeltsin did a good job of exploiting the communal grounds created during Gorbachev efforts to alter the Soviet system.
He improved schooling, healthcare and the police service (Matlock, 28-30). Gorbachev failed to realize by giving people political freedom, they would form parties to overthrow him. The policies he had like the policy of economic change failed to bring instant results like he had publicly declared. When Yeltsin took over he was authoritative and all parties had to oblige to his laws making him more powerful and political groups were afraid to oppose him. The economic situation had weakened during Gorbachev era. He was highly criticized for falling to admit to this fall.
Yeltsin tried to revive the economy by opting for opening of the industries in the Union and used economists to advice him on options to end the crisis. Gorbachev mainly focused on the war and to compete with the US and much effort was put to stabilize the political movements that were against him. Before the coup took place Gorbachev had instituted laws that were to recognize citizens’ rights and have supremacy over the other members of the Union. This did not take place under his rule but as soon after Yeltsin took office he initiated the laws and was recognizable.
Yeltsin took advantage of the coup since he knew what the people wanted and used this chance to utilize it into reality for the people. Yeltsin was able to bring an end to the military coup; he preserved the democratic freedoms and abolished censorship in the media. These achievements made him stronger and powerful than Gorbachev who had portrayed levels of weakness and was unable to resurface the country from crisis. Most of what Gorbachev was not ale to achieve all he had planned and Yeltsin was the one who finalized what he had started taking all the credit (Remnick, 60-62).
The Unions termination into self-governing states began in 1985. After years of Soviet Military training at the cost of local growth, the economy came stop Unsuccessful efforts at development, a dormant economy, and fighting in Afghanistan led to a universal reaction of dissatisfaction and created a horrific impression of criticism of the Moscow government. The fall of oil prices in 1985 and 1986, and lack of foreign exchange in the subsequent years affected the Soviet leadership. Several Soviet Republics began opposing control, and it led to declining of the government.
The USSR’s business gap increasingly led to poor economy leading to ultimate liquidation. The Soviet Union eventually shrunk in 1991 when Yeltsin took over power in the result of an unsuccessful coup that had planned to bring down development minded Gorbachev. East-West pressure increased through the first term of the then U. S. President Reagan (1981–1985) who increased US military spending to 7% of the GDP. To compete with the US, the Soviet Union enlarged its own military expenditure to 27% of its GDP and froze manufacture of national goods causing trade and industry to fall (Yegor, 19-21).
Reagan further slowed down the Soviet Union’s ability to vend gas to Europe and at the same time he maintained low gas prices. This made the prices of Soviet oil low and additional reduced the Soviet Union overseas assets The Law on Cooperatives introduced in 1988 was the most fundamental of the economic reforms throughout the Gorbachev era. This law allowed private ownership in production and foreign-trade areas. In this condition, cooperative and manufacturers became a component of the Soviet scene.
In 1988, at the CPSU’s Nineteenth Party Conference Gorbachev initiated essential reforms destined to decrease party control of the government devices. In December 1988, the highest Soviet accepted the establishment of a Congress of Peoples Deputies which constitutional alterations had recognized as the Soviet Union’s new lawmaking body . Elections were held all over the USSR in March and April 1989. Gorbachev aimed to combine authority in a new position. Gorbachev’s efforts to rationalize the Communist proved uncontainable and resulted in a fall of events that finally concluded with the disbanding of Soviet Union (Matlock, 34).
The Soviet Union began experiencing confusion and political costs were felt everywhere. Even with efforts to manage the mess, in Eastern Europe unavoidably extended to nations in the USSR. In the local assemblies Union elections, the autonomists and reformers were in disagreement and led to a war of words. Gorbachev had destabilized the capability of the USSR to pass its will. The increase of nationalism activated cultural anxiety in some of Soviet republics, hence damaging the character of the Soviet State. Gorbachev’s hard work at financial enhancement was not important to revive the country’s slow economy in late 1980s.
In the beginning of 1990, the Soviet government had no power over financial condition. The tax returns dropped since local governments had postponed tax returns from the core administration. The elimination of central power in the consumer goods division led to collapse in merchant and manufacturer affiliation and resulted in major industry collapse. Instead of reforming the coordination, Gorbachev’s decentralization caused new form where the producers were restricted access. Gorbachev was not able to stabilize the economy it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union (David, 87-90).
The prime cause that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union was monetary issues. This made the Soviet Union to loose the arms race facing international competition from the Western States. The US profited from its imperialist utilization of other nations while communism could only lose reasonably in the rivalry. After the collapse, Soviet Union consumers shifted their focus to imports in order to satisfy their basic needs. They were not able to acquire a pair of leather shoes or a television set made in the Soviet Union, because all the goods were taken by the military into procurement.
Despite all these, there were no quality goods to sell abroad so as to stabilize the imports. Monetary factors were as a result of political and psychological issues. The Soviet Union economists said due to the depressing market situation it had a negative effect leading to hopelessness. Some of the policies that led to failure included the explosion Chernobyl power plant and the fighting they engaged with Afghanistan. Another factor was the lack of honest information, to the secrecy and misinformation that was important during the war.
Contradictions accumulated making the Soviet nationals to be cynical about the control of the media by the government. This secrecy of information had disastrous financial and political consequences. The Gorbachev government realized they had to convert the armed forces to civilian production and it was able to acquire its own complex (Remnick, 64-66). Economic indicators and points of weakness were never issued by the economists for fear of torture by the government and at the fall of the economy, there were no correct figure to measure the extent of the weakness.
The failed to admit it was running low on budge deficit till 1988and they had no option to revive the economy. People were afraid to express their views and most did not participate in governance or political issues. Labor camps were mainly scattered in the Brezhnev years, but the isolation remained. By the time Gorbachev took over, it was extremely late. The economic fall down and the defeat in Afghanistan came on top of generations of resentment. Few seemed to be concerned when the government malformed. This collapse caused the Soviet Union an estimated 40 billion US dollars.
The Soviet collapse showed that a communist culture of war cannot win over an entrepreneurial culture of war on financial terms (Remnick, 143-145). Even though the 2 days coup of 1991, aborted it made significant impressions on the feelings of the communists toward the Gorbachev policies. It was the landmark that signified the fall of the USSR and the failure of the communist system. It marked an end towards poor governance and a rise in the economy of the Union. The eight hardliners mainly contributed to the economic reforms and political change that took place after coup.
There was increased media freedom and equitable distribution of resources. The communist system was almost turning USSR into a monarchy or dictatorship Union. The rise to power of Yeltsin was too late and could not save the Union from collapse and most States had declared their sovereginity. Yeltsin made several attempts to initiate reforms by issuing several decrees to aid in the radical economic reforms. Lately Russia is still coming to terms with the economic impacts it faced during the rule of Gorbachev.
- BBC. 1991: Hardliners stage coup against Gorbachev. Retrieved from http://news. bbc. co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/august/19/newsid_2499000/2499453. stm on August 16, 2010.
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- Yegor, Gaidar. The Soviet collapse: Grain and oil. Washington: Inst. Press. 2006. 23-60.
Cite this essay
Fall of the Soviet Union After Cold War. (2016, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/fall-of-the-soviet-union-after-cold-war-essay