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The Fall of the Soviet Union

The Fall of the Soviet Union

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The Fall of the Soviet Union

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  1. The Fall of the Soviet Union

  2. History’s Important? • Russian Revolution in 1917 • Established a communist state; became totalitarian • Tried to create unified, central state where national and ethic differences were eliminated

  3. Historical Problems in Russia • Non-Russian ethnic groups resisted assimilation • Economic planning failed to meet the needs of the State (arms race with US) • Communism never took root and lost influence

  4. Underlying Causes • Years of Soviet military buildup at the expense of domestic development • economic growth stalled/stagnant economy • Failed attempts at reform • war in Afghanistan • general feeling of discontent, especially in the Baltic republics and Eastern Europe (i.e. Chernobyl)

  5. Mikhail Gorbachev • March 11, 1985 • Inherited many problems; recognized need for change (the economy needed fundamental reforms) • Introduced two-tiered policy of reform to meet the needs of the Russian state

  6. Policy #1: Glasnost • Freedom of speech and free elections • 1989 elections - reformist politicians swept into power • unwittingly unleashed emotions and political feelings that had been pent up for decades • Pandora’s Box

  7. Policy #2: Perestroika • Economic reform and rebuilding (complete economic restructuring) • did not have the immediate results Gorbachev had hoped for and had publicly predicted • Unsuccessful – bureaucratic corruption • People used free speech to criticize Gorbachev

  8. Fall of the USSR • Disintegration began on the peripheries • Baltic nationalist movements; demanded autonomy • challenge to glasnost • Non-Russian minority groups agitated for independence during this period

  9. Gorbachev’s Response • decision to not use military force to put down revolutions in Eastern Europe • allowing revolutions to run their course would spell disaster for the Soviet Union • Ultimately eroded the power of the Soviet Union during 1989 and 1990.

  10. August Coup • August 1991 – “hard-line” Communists take over of government • last-ditch effort to save USSR • country went into an uproar; massive protests • soldiers themselves rebelled – “can’t fire on our countrymen” • Coup collapsed after 3 days

  11. Results of August Coup • Gorbachev was unable to reestablish real control • negotiated the transition of power made inevitable by the will of the people. • December 1, 1991 all non-Russian republics declared independence (population wanted democracy) • political movements which had emerged since the implementation of glasnost resulted in immediate fall

  12. Collapse of the Soviet Union • a new entity was formed “Commonwealth of Independent Republics" • Russia and 15 independent former USSR countries • complete political independence, linked to other Commonwealth countries by economic, and military ties • the Soviet Union, with its centralized political and economic system, had ceased to exist • December, 1991

  13. How does America fit in? Russia built up a military arsenal surpassing that of the United States enormous military expenses, in combination with collectivized agriculture and inefficient manufacturing were a heavy burden on the economy Reagan Administration persuaded Saudi Arabia to increase oil production resulted in a three times drop of oil prices in 1985; oil was the main source of Soviet export revenues

  14. President Ronald Reagan • recognized the change in the direction of Soviet leadership • shifted to diplomacy to pursue substantial arms agreements • four summit conferences between 1985 and 1988 • believed that he could persuade the Soviets to allow for more democracy and free speech, this would lead to reform and the end of Communism

  15. Berlin Wall • June 12, 1987, Reagan challenged Gorbachev: • “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

  16. Response in the West • victory for freedom • triumph of democracy over totalitarianism, • superiority of capitalism over socialism • Rejoicing - formidable enemy was brought to its knees • Relief – end of Cold War which had hovered over the two superpowers

  17. Results of the Fall transformed the entire world political situation reformulation of political, economic and military alliances America sole military and world hegemonic power End of Cold War and MAD threat