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    Consequences of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

    For nearly three decades, the Berlin Wall was a tangible representation of the so-called Iron Curtain and the political divisions in Europe. When Mikhail Gorbachev took control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1985, he did so with the intention of revamping the country’s economy and government. He dismantled the secret police and introduced perestroika

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    Consequences of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

    by Norwich University Online October 2nd, 2017

    For nearly three decades, the Berlin Wall was a tangible representation of the so-called Iron Curtain and the political divisions in Europe. When Mikhail Gorbachev took control of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1985, he did so with the intention of revamping the country’s economy and government. He dismantled the secret police and introduced perestroika (economic restructuring) in an attempt to begin mending relationships with Western European countries and the United States. By studying the consequences of the collapse of the USSR, students today can gain an understanding of how the end of the Cold War affected U.S. and Soviet relationships, and how it led to the current political and economic climate between the two countries.

    The Fall of the Soviet Union

    In order to understand the consequences related to the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is critical to first examine the overarching causes for the USSR’s downfall. Gorbachev’s loosening of governmental power created a domino effect in which Eastern European alliances began to crumble, inspiring countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia to declare their independence. The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989, leading East and West Germany to officially reunite within a year, ending the Cold War. Once the Berlin Wall fell, citizens in Eastern European countries such as Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria and Romania staged protests against their pro-Soviet governments, hastening the collapse of communist regimes across the former Soviet bloc. Other countries—such as the Republic of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine—followed suit, creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. By the end of 1989, eight of the nine remaining republics had declared independence from Moscow, and the powerful Soviet Union was finally undone. By the summer of 1990, all the formerly communist Eastern European officials had been replaced by democratically elected governments, setting the stage for the region’s reintegration into Western economic and political spheres.

    The dismantling of the Soviet Union had many long-lasting effects on the global economy and the region’s foreign trade. Its downfall increased the United States’ influence as a global power and created an opportunity for corruption and crime in Russia. It also prompted many cultural changes and social upheavals in former Soviet nations and smaller neighboring communist countries. Between 1989 and 1991, the gross national product in Soviet countries fell by 20 percent, ushering in a period of complete economic breakdown.

    Eastern European Economy, Economic Collapse, and Foreign Trade

    By the time Gorbachev took office in 1985, the Soviet economy had been stagnant for 20 years and was badly in need of reform; to wit, the country’s gross national product (GNP) went from 5.8% in 1940 to 2.6% in 1970. Grocery store shelves were often empty, and lines for food were long. The Soviet economy historically had relied little on foreign trade because of the region’s large energy and raw material base; in 1985, exports and imports accounted for just 4 percent of the Soviet GNP. The trading the Soviet Union did engage in was mostly with communist countries, many of which were in Eastern Europe. In 1988, Soviet trade with socialist countries amounted to 62 percent of the country’s total foreign trade, while 15 percent of its foreign trade was made with Third World countries. Soviet trade with Western countries largely consisted of currency and Soviet oil exports, as well as trading one manufactured good for another (Pepsi for Stolichnaya vodka, for example).

    In September 1990, Gorbachev rejected Russian economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky’s 500-day economic reform plan, which lost the former any remaining support he had from the Soviet people, leaving him with few allies. Gorbachev’s attempts to modernize the Soviet system failed, in part, because he was unable to implement a complete overhaul, instead of making a series of minor reforms. For example, he tried to stop the production and sale of alcohol, forcing the industry underground. He also began leasing state-owned land to farmers and cut state spending on the military. Gorbachev’s continued promises that his reforms would drastically improve living conditions alienated citizens who didn’t see the promises come to fruition. Gorbachev’s failed plan for a slow, gradual economic reform negated any positive effects the reforms may have had, and the economy fully collapsed.

    A few years prior, in April of 1988, Soviet and American trade delegations met in Moscow to examine possibly expanding trade relations. The Soviet government’s hope was to gain an understanding of Western management and marketing processes and learn new manufacturing skills. That same year, the Soviet Union signed a normalization agreement with the European Economic Community. Gorbachev’s economic policies of Soviet expansion and cooperation with the Western world changed the attitude of the country from one that regarded foreign trade as a means to compensate for short-term scarcities to one that considered imports to be long-term alternatives to domestic production. This helped open the door to Soviet expansion into the world market, bolstering relations with not only former Soviet bloc nations, but also Western powers such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In the mid-1990s, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and U.S. President George H.W. Bush signed trade agreements designed to make it easier for U.S. citizens to conduct business in Russia. In 1997, for the first time, Russia participated in economic discussions at the G7 summit in Denver, Colorado. The following year, Russia was integrated as a full member, and the G7 became the G8. By the early 2000s, Russian President Vladimir Putin was working to create a free-trade zone in Russia, and the country eventually joined the World Trade Organization in 2012.

    Source : online.norwich.edu

    Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?

    There were many factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, including political policies, economics, defense spending, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Find out more about how this political entity dissolved.

    Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?

    By Michael Ray

    © agustavop—iStock/Getty Images

    On January 1, 1991, the Soviet Union was the largest country in the world, covering some 8,650,000 square miles (22,400,000 square km), nearly one-sixth of Earth’s land surface. 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 weapons, and its sphere of influence, exerted through such mechanisms as the Warsaw Pact, extended 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 external factors were certainly at play in the collapse of the U.S.S.R.

    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. When his initial attempts at reform failed to yield significant results, he instituted the policies of glasnost (“openness”) and perestroika (“restructuring”). 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: price controls were lifted in some markets, but existing bureaucratic structures were left in place, meaning that Communist officials were able to push back against those policies that did not benefit them personally. In the end, Gorbachev’s reforms and his abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine hastened the demise of the Soviet empire. By the end of 1989 Hungary had dismantled its border fence with Austria, Solidarity had swept into power in Poland, the Baltic states were taking concrete steps toward independence, and the Berlin Wall had been toppled. The Iron Curtain had fallen, and the Soviet Union would not long outlast it.

    The economic factor

    By some measures, the Soviet economy was the world’s second largest in 1990, but shortages of consumer goods were routine and hoarding was commonplace. It was estimated that the Soviet black market economy was the equivalent of more than 10 percent of the country’s official GDP. Economic stagnation had hobbled the country for years, and the perestroika reforms only served to exacerbate the problem. 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. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Soviet Union ranked as one of the world’s top producers of energy resources such as oil and natural gas, and exports of those commodities played a vital role in shoring up the world’s largest command economy. When oil plunged from $120 a barrel in 1980 to $24 a barrel in March 1986, this vital lifeline to external capital dried up. The price of oil temporarily spiked in the wake of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, but by that point the collapse of the Soviet Union was well under way.

    The military factor

    It is a widely held 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. 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: even when the Soviet economy lagged, the military remained well-funded. In addition, the military took priority when it came to research and development talent. Technological innovators and would-be entrepreneurs who could have helped support Gorbachev’s partial transition to a market economy were instead funneled into defense industries.


    In addition to budgetary matters, the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan (1979–89) was a key military factor in the breakup of the U.S.S.R. The Soviet army, lionized for its role in World War II and a vital tool in the repression of the Hungarian Revolution and Prague Spring, had 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. The army, perhaps the single most powerful opponent of Gorbachev’s reform efforts, found itself back-footed by the stalemate in Afghanistan, and it lost whatever leverage it might have had in checking the advance of perestroika. In the Soviet republics, the Afgantsy (veterans of the Afghan conflict) agitated against what they perceived to be Moscow’s war. Many soldiers from the Central Asian republics felt closer ethnic and religious ties to Afghans than they did to Russians, and protests were widespread. In the European republics, the cleavage with Moscow was even more dramatic. Antiwar demonstrations broke out in Ukraine, while opposition forces in the Baltic republics viewed the war in Afghanistan through the lens of the Russian occupation of their own countries. This fueled the secessionist movements that proceeded, largely unchecked, to declarations of independence by all three Baltic states in 1990.

    Source : www.britannica.com

    Ch 21 Flashcards

    Start studying Ch 21. Learn vocabulary, terms, and more with flashcards, games, and other study tools.

    Ch 21

    Land reform and guerrilla warfare

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    Which of the following reflects aspects of the Chinese Communist Party's strategy on its revolutionary path to power?

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    A vision of the good society in a modernizing future

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    What did the Russian and Chinese revolutions share in common with the French Revolution?

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    Terms in this set (41)

    Land reform and guerrilla warfare

    Which of the following reflects aspects of the Chinese Communist Party's strategy on its revolutionary path to power?

    A vision of the good society in a modernizing future

    What did the Russian and Chinese revolutions share in common with the French Revolution?

    focused on building peasant support in the countryside.

    In contrast to Russia, the communist revolution in China

    The larger population in China

    Which of the following made modernization more difficult in China than in Russia?

    They were largely state-directed

    Which of the following was a feature common in both Soviet and Chinese policies toward women?

    was marked by extensive violence and the execution or deportation of wealthier peasants

    In contrast to China, the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union

    It promoted individualistic and careerist values

    Which of the following was a criticism of the Soviet model of industrialization made by Chinese leaders in the mid-1950s?

    They occurred in largely agrarian societies.

    In what respect did the communist movements in the twentieth century depart from Marxist theory?

    The death and ruin of tens of millions, and the widespread discrediting of communism

    What was the end result of Mao's two great campaigns—the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution?

    Both the United States and the Soviet Union gave them military and economic aid in the hope of gaining their support.

    How did the cold war affect countries emerging from colonial rule in the second half of the twentieth century?

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