The Union of Soviet Socialist republic or other wise the Soviet Union was a constitutionally socialist state that existed on the territory of Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union was formed in the aftermath of the Russian revolution in 1917. Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika I.e., openness and removal of public censorship, created significant changes in the country. The break up of the Soviet Union cannot be linked with the reforms introduced by Gorbachev alone. The immediate collapse of the Soviet Union was purely economic because the union lost the arms race and faced severe competition from the west. One man responsible for ending the cold war was Gorbachev. The end of the cold war was just a byproduct of the reforms that he initiated the others being fall of communism worldwide and the breaking up of the USSR.
The Collapse of the Soviet Union
The Union of Soviet Socialist republic or other wise the Soviet Union was a constitutionally socialist state that existed on the territory of Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. It existed in between 1922 to 1991 before it was segregated into independent republics due to the collapse of communism in the erstwhile Soviet republic. The Soviet Union had a single party political system which dominated till 1990. It had a centralized economy and a planned economy. Before the collapse, it had 15 republics with the capital in Moscow. The Soviet Union was formed in the aftermath of the Russian revolution in 1917. The communists who emerged victorious during the civil war were responsible in creating the Soviet Union. Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin and later Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Union became one of the two superpowers in the world. This continued till 1990 when the secretary of the communist party Mikhail Gorbachev introduced his two principles, Perestroika and Glasnost which led to the collapse of the union.
During its reign as a super power, the Soviet Union participated actively in the cold war with western countries. The union viewed the eastern European states as a buffer zone for its expansion policies in Europe. Moreover the post Stalin period saw an alienation by the western nations towards the union. This led to the split in many alliances as well as crisis like the Cuban crisis. Even though the collapse of the Soviet Union was initiated by Mikhail Gorbachev, it was actually started by the Reagan administration. They encouraged Saudi Arabia to lower oil prices whereby the soviets were denied profit from their sale of oil. This rapidly depleted the cash reserves prompting the soviet administration to bring economic reforms.
Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of glasnost and perestroika I.e., openness and removal of public censorship, created significant changes in the country. During his reign, the Soviet Union was in bad economic shape and its satellite states in Eastern Europe was quickly abandoning communism. Moreover the nine year war in Afghanistan had created irreparable damages in the country. This resulted in a changed policy by the government resulting in widespread openness and liberalization and more cooperation with the west. The western nations were exerting high pressure on the Union. Moreover the tearing of the Berlin wall and the unification of Germany led to the mighty collapse of the union.
During the late 1980's many soviet republics had started legal moves to declare sovereignty over their territories. They cited the article 72 of the constitution which said that any republic was free to secede if more than two thirds of the population voted in favor of secession. In April, 1990 a law was passed whereby if more than two thirds of the population ask for secession in a referendum, they are free to secede from the union. During the 1990's many republic held their first elections for their own legislatures. Many of these legislatures produced legislation contradicting the Union laws. These situations were known as war of laws. A referendum for the preservation of the republics was held on March 1991, majority of the population voted for preservation of the union in nine out of fifteen republics. In the summer of 1991, a new union treaty was designed and agreed by eight republics for forming a much looser federation then the previous one.
The signing of the treaty was interrupted by the August coup against Gorbachev by the former communist aides. The coup did not succeed due to strong opposition especially from the Russian federation under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin. This made Yeltsin a popular leader and ended Gorbachev's power. On December 1991, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha accords formed the commonwealth of independent states. On December 26th 1991, Russia was internationally recognized as the legal successor of the Soviet Union. Russia voluntarily accepted all international debt of the USSR and claimed all overseas Soviet properties.
The break up of the Soviet Union was mainly attributable to Mikhail Gorbachev's appointment as general secretary of the communist party and his early reforms. His major reforms like perestroika, glasnost and democratization allowed the problems of the USSR to get uncovered and become public knowledge. Moreover ethnic unrest, economic inefficiencies as well as historical atrocities added salt to the wound of the union. The collapse of the USSR radically changed the globes political, economical and social environment. It was true that no other conflict of interest dominated the post world war period than the cold war. One man responsible for ending the cold war was Gorbachev. The end of the cold war was just a byproduct of the reforms that he initiated the others being fall of communism worldwide and the breaking up of the USSR (Graham 2011).
Decline in the power of the communists during the Gorbachev era had a profound impact in soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe. This was particularly true in the case of Poland where the solidarity party under the leadership of Lech Valesa was instrumental in the eventual collapse of soviet influence in Poland and it also acted as a primary catalyst that would transform Poland from a repressive communist country towards a democratic country. The solidarity movement gained international recognition for its anti communist movement through the other communists' blocks. Its influence in the fall of communists' regimes in the rest part of Europe cannot be forgotten (story of solidarity movement 2011). The failed coup at Moscow during 1991 and the war in Croatia sounded death bell for Yugoslavia. All the six republics decided to go separate after the fall of the Soviet Union. Croatia and Slovenia were the first to declare independence followed by other states (Rich 2003).
In short the break up of the Soviet Union cannot be linked with the reforms introduced by Gorbachev alone. The immediate collapse of the Soviet Union was purely economic because the union lost the arms race and faced severe competition from the west. Moreover the economic factors were linked with political and psychological factors as well. Examples for this are the gloomy and worsening market situations, failure of the Afghan war, and explosion at the Chernobyl. Another important fact was the lack of honest information. The soviet people became more and more cynical about the propaganda in the government controlled media. Moreover this was exacerbated by the propaganda warfare undertaken by the western media. All these factors along with the new reforms signaled the end of the Soviet Union (Collapse of Soviet Union, 1989-1991. 2011).