Collapse of The Soviet Union

(1991)
   The 1985 appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) heralded a period of transition in the country that would ultimately lead to its dissolution. Gorbachev’s rule was characterized from the outset by “perestroika” and “glasnost” policies of liberalization and reform that sought to remedy the rapidly deteriorating Soviet economy and polity. This openness and social relaxation in turn gave encouragement to burgeoning independence movements in the Soviet Union’s constituent republics. By the end of the 1980s, in a context of successive communist regimes across Eastern Europe foundering under popular pressure, independence groups pushed for and gained constitutional changes legalizing their existence. With the emergence of multi-party politics for the first time since the 1917 Russian Revolution, CPSU hegemony was under threat. Wary of this, in August 1991 party hard-liners attempted a coup d’état against Gorbachev but were soon repelled. This further highlighted Gorbachev and the Soviet Union’s vulnerability to both internal and external pressures, and on Christmas Day 1991 the leader handed the reigns of government to Boris Yeltsin. The dissolution of the Soviet Union was announced the following day, and its 15 member countries became independent, though some temporarily remained aligned to Moscow in the short-lived Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Outside of the Soviet Union, the events of 1991 had marked effects. In Africa and across other parts of the world, MarxistLeninist regimes formerly reliant on Soviet aid were forced to disband or embrace social democratic politics. For critics, the collapse of the Soviet Union signified the end of the Marxist epoch and the triumph of the values of liberalism and capitalism.

Historical dictionary of Marxism. . 2014.

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