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The Collapse of the Soviet Union

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1 The Collapse of the Soviet Union
And the world watched with wonder …

2 Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Eastern Bloc Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 15 Republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan 7 Satellite Countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia

3 Technological Ambitions
Ideological Differences Democratic Capitalism v. Totalitarian Communism Military Strength Arms Race Technological Ambitions Space Race

4 Was the Collapse Due to Force? No
The Cold War cost more than $11 trillion. But the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites was not a result of force. No NATO tank fired a shot. No bomb fell on the Kremlin.

5 A Home-Grown Insurgency
Instead, a massive, home-grown insurgency, led by a number of different participants, contributed to the collapse: Workers Dissident intellectuals Advocates of national self-determination Reformers

6 Polish Trade Union: Solidarity
The downfall began in 1980 when striking Polish workers organized Solidarity, an independent trade union of nearly 10 million members.

7 Support from Catholic Church
Solidarity, which had strong support from the powerful Polish Catholic Church, demonstrated how a working-class movement could offer an entire nation moral and political leadership.

8 Solidarity’s Chairman: Lech Walesa
The Polish military drove Solidarity underground in However, in 1983, Solidarity’s chairman, Lech Walesa, won the Nobel peace prize. In 1990, he would be the first freely elected president of the Polish nation in more than sixty years.

9 The Gorbachev Revolution
Mikhail Gorbachev, who came to power in 1985 as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), recognized that the Soviet Union could not remain politically and economically isolated and that the Soviet system had to be changed if it was to survive.

10 Gorbachev's Five-Point Plan
The key pieces to Gorbachev's plan for the survival of the Soviet Union were a series of reforms: Glasnost (openness) – greater freedom of expression Perestroika (restructuring) – decentralization of the Soviet economy with gradual market reforms Renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine (armed intervention where socialism was threatened) and the pursuit of arms control agreements Reform of the KGB (secret service) Reform of the Communist Party

11 The Objective: Survival
Gorbachev knew that the Soviet Union would have to change if it was to survive. Central planning in a modern industrial economy brought many inefficiencies. The factory management system provided little incentive to make technological improvements and every incentive to hide factory capacities to ensure low quotas The socialist farm system was inefficient – there were poor worker incentives and storage and transportation problems. The Soviet State could no longer afford the high defense spending that accompanied the Cold War.

12 Insistent Calls for Change
He believed that his reforms were necessary and used his leadership and power to attempt to implement them. The policy of glasnost (openness) made it possible for people to more freely criticize the government's policies. When people realized it was safe to speak out, the calls for change became more insistent.

13 Reforms Were Too Slow The gradual market reforms and decentralization of the economy (perestroika) were too slow and failed to keep pace with the crisis and his people's demands. The Soviet Union was suffering a deterioration of economic and social conditions and a fall in the GNP.

14 Party Reforms a Failure
His attempts to reform the Communist Party were a failure. Change was too slow to keep pace with events and he was continually hampered by his need to give in to the hard-liners in order to retain power. As communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, reform of communism in the Soviet Union became unlikely.

15 Release from Soviet Domination
The renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine (armed intervention in support of socialism) released the Eastern European states from Soviet domination. The communist rulers of these states could not survive without the support of the Soviet Union. The Brezhnev Doctrine was articulated in 1968 when the Soviet army occupied Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring, an attempt by Alexander Dubcek to build “socialism with a human face.”


17 Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate Speech
President Ronald Reagan called upon Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall: "In the Communist world, we see failure, technological backwardness, declining standards... Even today, the Soviet Union cannot feed itself. The inescapable conclusion is that freedom is the victor. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

18 President Reagan giving a speech at the Berlin Wall, Brandenburg Gate, Federal Republic of Germany. June 12, 1987

19 Wave of Demonstrations
Beginning in September 1989, a wave of huge demonstrations shook Communist regimes across eastern Europe. A massive tide of East German emigrants surged through Czechoslovakia and Hungary to the West, undermining the authority of the Communist hard-liners who still clung to power in the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

20 A tram is blocked by East German demonstrators in the center of the city in October Their banner reads: 'Legalization of opposition parties, free democratic elections, free press and independent unions.'

21 The Wall Came Down Finally, on the night of November 9, 1989, ordinary Germans poured through the Berlin Wall. The GDR quickly disintegrated, and by the end of 1990, all of East Germany had been incorporated into the wealthy, powerful Federal Republic of Germany.

22 The Rise of Nationalism
With the iron grip of the centralized Soviet state relaxed and the growing failure of the state to adequately feed and clothe its people, nationalism in the republics surged and separatist movements threatened the very existence of the Soviet Union. Super Cute Protesters: Moldova: The hot, angry face of nationalism - Apr 13, 2009

23 Events in Eastern Europe
Communist governments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Bulgaria either tumbled or underwent reform. The Communist dictatorship in Romania fell after a week of bloody street battles between ordinary citizens and police, who defended the old order to the bitter end.

24 Radical Change Radical change finally reached the Soviet heartland in August 1991, when thousands of Russian citizens poured into the streets to defeat a reactionary coup d'état.

25 Independent Republics
The Communist party quickly collapsed, and the Soviet Union began the painful and uncertain process of reorganizing itself as a loose confederation of independent republics.

26 Boris Yeltsin Boris Yeltsin, who headed the Russian Republic, replaced Gorbachev as president of a much- diminished state. Gorbachev found that there was no Soviet Union to lead and retired into private life. Time magazine's July 15, 1996, issue, featured a 10-page spread about a squad of U.S. political pros who "clandestinely participated in guiding Yeltsin's campaign.“

27 Nobel Peace Prize Gorbachev won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize. He brought a peaceful end to the cold war, and dramatic change to his country's economy, though not in the way he intended.

28 The End of the Cold War The Cold War was over, brought to a close not by the missiles and tanks of the principal participants, but by the collective courage and willpower of ordinary men and women.

29 Ronald Reagan’s Role In the United States, partisans of Ronald Reagan claimed much of the credit for ending the Cold War. Reagan's frank denunciation of the Soviet Union as an “evil empire," along with his administration's military buildup, were said to have inspired eastern bloc dissidents at the same time the arms race exhausted the productive capacity of the Soviet Union and other inefficient Communist regimes.

30 Nuclear Stockpiles, Source data from: Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "Global nuclear stockpiles, ," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 62, no. 4 (July/August 2006), Online at

31 The National Debt $438 billion deficit US Pop: 304,998,272
Share of Debt/Person: $34,526.04 Daily Increase: $3.84 billion

32 Another Side to the Story
According to U.S. diplomat George Kennan, author of "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" (1947) and architect of the containment policy, the West's militarized posture helped the Communists to rationalize their authoritarian rule. The more U.S. policies followed a hard line, the greater was the tendency in Moscow to tighten the controls and to discourage liberalizing tendencies.

33 The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War
John Paul II’s CATHOLIC CHURCH East German NATIONALISM Lech Walesa's SOLIDARITY Eastern Bloc Gorbachev’s REFORMS Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Ronald Reagan’s FOREIGN POLICY Glasnost Perestroika EVIL EMPIRE Speech No Brezhnev Doctrine MILITARY BUILDUP Ordinary MEN & WOMEN Reform KGB ARMS RACE COURAGE Reform Comm Party WILL POWER

34 Remaining Communist Countries
At its peak, communism was practiced in dozens of countries: Soviet Union: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan Asian Countries: Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Yemen Soviet Controlled Eastern bloc countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia. The Balkans: Albania, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. Africa: Angola, Benin, Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Mozambique. Currently only a handful of countries identified as communist remain: Laos, North Korea, Vietnam, China, and Cuba.

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