Collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union a brief Thawing of the Cold War 1970’s – Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev

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Collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union
A Brief Thawing of the Cold War
1970’s – Richard Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev start a period of détente (lessening of tensions)

This includes: - arms control talks and treaties

- cultural exchanges

- trade agreements

Soviets Invade Afghanistan (1979)

- ends détente

- U.S. increases defense spending to match the Soviet build up

- extremely unpopular war in the Soviet Union

Soviet Union under Gorbachev (1985 - 1991)

– goal of this was to stimulate economic growth and to make industry more efficient.

- results in higher inflation, food shortages, and medicine shortages

- period of openness that calls for an end to censorship and encourages people to

speak their minds
Breakup of the Soviet Union
- 1991 – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania claim their independence then all Soviet republics followed suit ending the Soviet Union.
Challenges Ahead
- 1991 – Boris Yeltsin becomes president and he works to ease hardships and continue the process of making Russia a free market

- 1999 – Vladimir Putin is elected making it the first time power has transferred peacefully in Russia

- 2002 – sign an arms reduction agreement and began to cooperate with NATO

- 1991 – Present – Russians battle with Chechnya as it attempts to become an independent nation.


Fall of the Soviet Union


- leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev

- openness to democratic ideas

- reshaping of economy and government

- economic problems

- freedom movement in Eastern Europe

- formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States

- loss of the role as world superpower

- end of Cold War

- economic hardships

- conflicts between pro/anti communist groups

- minority revolts and civil conflicts

Changes in Eastern Europe


East and West Germany



- 1989 the first free elections in 50 yrs. are held with Lech Walesa winning with support of the Solidarity party

- In November of 1989 the Berlin Wall is torn down and Germany is re-united.

- split into Czech Republic and Slovakia

- Yugoslavia becomes Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia.

- Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia under Slobodan Milosevic

The Collapse of Communism
Cracks began to appear in the iron curtain by the mid-1980's.  Movements in many of the satellite nations were calling for change. Most notably was the role played by Lech Walesa of Poland and his Solidarity movement.   Under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union did make some attempts at reform and an easing of communist hard-line policies.  Perestroika was a complete overhaul in the structure of the Soviet government and economy.  Another reform policy, called Glasnost, was the creation of an open atmosphere in national and global affairs.  Despite the efforts at change, the Soviet Union had already weakened to the point where it was not able to recover. 

A major sign of this was its loss of control of East Germany.  In 1989, the Berlin Wall was literally torn apart by the citizens of both East and West Berlin.  The fall of the wall and the reunification of Germany was one of the most dramatic episodes in 20th century history. 

By the end of the 1980's, Gorbachev was blamed for the decline of the Soviet Union.  In an attempt to regain power, he began reversing some of his reforms, and attempted to return to hard-line communism.  His biggest critic, Boris Yeltsin, called on the nationalistic pride of Russians and demanded Gorbachev's resignation. 

Following Yeltsin's lead, many of the satellite states called for independence.  Gorbachev was close to giving in, which terrified conservative communists still in the government.  These hard-liners attempted a military coup d'état in 1991, but failed after a total lack of support on the part of the military and the public.  Yeltsin saw this as his opportunity and denounced the leaders of the coup in what is known as the Russian Revolution of 1991. 

Yeltsin went on to declare Russia an independent state.  The authority of the Soviet Union was discarded, and communism came to an abrupt end in Eastern Europe.  Yeltsin was elected president of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States, which included Russia and many of the former republics of the Soviet Union.


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