The Soviet Union was one of the biggest and most significant political and economic experiments, since it used communist policies never used before by any government. Vladimir Lenin and his party led the red October revolution on the 25th of 1917 to overthrow the capitalist Czar government ruling Russia, and replace it with a new communist state led by Lenin and his communist party, which he succeeded to do, Russia was then declared Union Soviet Socialist Republic or USSR. Although communist theories created by Karl Marx or the practical implication of it by Lenin, seemed quite promising and successful, however, later on it proved to have great flaws which later on led to the collapse of the USSR, which practically meant the end of communism. The Soviet Union failed due to three main reasons, political conflict, ineffective economic policies, and civil unrest. In this research I will not talk about the history of the Soviet Union. However, I will state the reasons which caused its collapse over the 20th century using a variety of credible sources to support my argument.
As the Soviet Union first started, most of its problems were internal, conflicts between parties, the Stalin Massacre after Lenin’s death in order to take power and civil unrest. However, the Soviet Union also had external conflicts with western countries due to its anti-capitalist ideologies. The first and the biggest being the Second World War, where the Soviet Union underwent death and destruction by Nazi Germany, only then to counter attack and occupy Berlin. Even though the Soviet Union suffered the greatest casualties in WWII their success in the eastern front made the USSR a world super power and a feared threat to the west. The Soviet Union also gained many territories in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. However, the actions of Stalin during WWII, seeking to create a war between the Axis and the Allies by signing a peace treaty and splitting Poland, allowing Nazi Germany to strike the west, lost him the trust of the allies and he got betrayed by the Axis. Post WWII, the Soviet Union and communism were in their golden age, however, external conflicts soon began to damage the Soviet Union greatly. The cold war between the USSR and the USA was the main conflict which helped collapse the Soviet Union (Vladimir Batyuk, 1999). Although the Soviet Union was very close to win the cold war, things turned around after Leonid Brezhnev. The cold war made the USSR’s already staggering economy even worse, which was followed by the failure and retreat from Afghanistan. The destruction of the Berlin wall and the borders, also helped push back Soviet ideologies from Europe, furthermore weakening the Soviet Union (Joseph Hyder, 2004). Some might also suggest Russia’s immense size as a contributor to the failure of the communist system.
The communist economy in the USSR collapsed due to several economic reasons. First, the extensive industrialization of the cities which caused people to stop working in farms and rural areas, thus causing a food shortage for over-populated cities. Second, a centralized economy requires so much staff for the bureaucratic work, which drained the manpower of the USSR. Third, the USSR required so many recruitment in military and police, which furthermore drained the manpower from factories and farm into military, staggering the economy. Another main reason which caused the USSR to collapse is the lack of incentive for the workers, in a communist system you get what you work for, no more no less. A system which shows no motive for people to work can’t be expected to produce enough output to support a growing country (Mr. Sullivan, 1961). In addition, the production of goods was entirely planned by the government, which meant the consumer never had a say in what’s sold in the markets, this caused a surplus because shops sold goods that people did not want, furthermore damaging the economy.
Absolute communism, like that in Soviet Russia, is an oppressive system, it deprives the people from freedom of speech, from the ability to become wealthy and own property and it’s a quite militaristic system. Furthermore, during Lenin and Stalin’s rule, they committed many murders and massacres in order to stay in power. This constant oppression of the people by the government began showing slowly during the late 70’s and 80’s. In addition, the living standards were low in Soviet Russia, due to shortage of manpower and misallocation of goods. The majority of the Russian population suffered from low living standards, no different from the way people lived under Czar (Rule Mr. Sullivan, 1961). Also, Mikhail Gorbachev contributed greatly to the fall of the Soviet Union, he began introducing non-communist policies, and tried to enhance diplomatic relations with the west and the USA, he also initiated the act of democratization which opposes the communist theory (James Graham, n.d). Lastly, the most iconic event prior to the fall of the USSR is the destruction of the berlin wall and Germany break away from communism. Russia witnessed several riots and coups, until resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Union, and almost no blood was spelt during the process.
In conclusion, the Soviet Union collapsed over a very long period for many complex reasons. However, the main reasons the USSR collapses are the political conflict, ineffective economic policy and civil unrest. The USSR and communism succeeded only under dictatorship and violence during the rule of Lenin and Stalin after him, proving to be an ineffective and oppressive system.
Batyuk, V. (1999, n.d). The End of the cold war: A Russian View. History Today. Retrieved from http://www.historytoday.com/vladimir-batyuk/end-cold-war-russian-view
Graham, J. The Collapse of the Soviet Union. History orb. Retrieved from http://www.historyorb.com/russia/intro.php
Hyder, J. (2004, n.d). Cold War (1972–1989): the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Retrieved from http://find.galegroup.com/gic/infomark.do?&contentSet=EBKS&idigest=fb720fd31d9036c1ed2d1f3a0500fcc2&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodId=GIC&docId=CX3403300164&source=gale&userGroupName=itsbtrial&version=1.0
Sullivan, L. (1961, April 1). The collapse of communist economic theory. The Freeman. Retrieved from http://fee.org/the_freeman/detail/the-collapse-of-communist-economic-theory