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The Collapse of the USSR


The Collapse of the USSR Although some reforms were realized in the USSR between 1964 1982, only a generational shift in the Politburo gave a new momentum for ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Collapse of the USSR

The Collapse of the USSR
  • Although some reforms were realized in the USSR
    between 19641982, only a generational shift in
    the Politburo gave a new momentum for reform in
    the Soviet Union.
  • While it was Jimmy Carter who had officially
    ended the policy of Détente following the Soviet
    intervention in Afghanistan, East-West tensions
    during the first term of U.S. President Ronald
    Reagan (19811985) reached very high levels not
    seen since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

  • By the same period of time, Mikhail Gorbachev
    ushered in the process that would lead to the
    political collapse of the Soviet Union through
    his programs of glasnost (political openness),
    perestroika (economic restructuring), and
    uskorenie (speeding-up of economic development)
    while the Soviet economy was suffering from both
    hidden inflation and supply shortages.

  • Mikhail Gorbachev took office in March 1985,
    shortly after Konstantin Chernenko's death.
    Gorbachev instituted a number of political
    reforms called glasnost (including relaxing
    censorship and political repression, reducing the
    powers of the KGB and democratisation).
  • Actually, the reforms were intended to break down
    resistance to Gorbachev's economic reforms by
    conservative elements within the Communist Party.

  • However, Mikhail Gorbachev's relaxation of
    censorship and attempts to create more political
    openness had the unintended effect of
    re-awakening long suppressed nationalist and
    anti-Russian feelings in the Soviet Union's
    constituent republics.
  • During the 1980s calls for greater independence
    from Moscow's rule grew louder. This was
    especially the case in the Baltic Republics of
    Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, which had been
    annexed into the Soviet Union by Joseph Stalin in
    1940. Nationalist feeling also took hold in other
    Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Azerbaijan.

  • These nationalist movements were strengthened
    greatly by the declining Soviet economy, whereby
    Moscow's rule became a convenient scapegoat for
    economic problems.
  • Gorbachev had accidentally unleashed a force that
    would ultimately destroy the Soviet Union.
    Additionally, economic and military pressures of
    fighting the Cold War, particularly in matching
    Ronald Reagan's Star Wars program, bankrupted the
    weakened Soviet treasury.
  • On February 15, 1989, Soviet forces completed
    their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  • The Soviet Union continued to support the
    communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan with
    substantial aid until the end of 1991. In 1989
    the communist governments of the Soviet Union's
    satellite states were overthrown one by one (in
    Poland, Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and
    Bulgaria) with weak resistance from Moscow.
  • Relaxation of censorship resulted in the
    Communist Party losing its control on the media.
    In a short time, much to the embarrassment of the
    Soviet authorities, the media began to expose
    severe social and economic problems which the
    Soviet government had long denied existed and
    covered up.

  • The media also began to expose crimes committed
    by Stalin and the Soviet regime, such as the
    Gulags (Soviet forced labour camps) and the
    Great Purges. In all, the very positive view of
    Soviet life which had long been presented to the
    public by the official media was being rapidly
    dismantled, and the negative aspects of life in
    the Soviet Union were brought into the spotlight.
    This began to undermine the faith of the public
    in the Soviet system.
  • Political openness began to produce unintended
    consequences. In elections to the regional
    assemblies of the Soviet Union's constituent
    republics, nationalists swept the board.

  • As Gorbachev had weakened the system of internal
    political repression, the ability of the USSR's
    central government in Moscow to impose its will
    on the USSR's constituent republics had been
    largely undermined.
  • On February 7, 1990 the Central Committee of the
    Soviet Communist Party agreed to give up its
    monopoly of power.

  • The USSR's constituent republics began to assert
    their national sovereignty over Moscow, and
    started a "war of laws" with the central Moscow
    government, in which the governments of the
    constituent republics repudiated all-union
    legislation where it conflicted with local laws,
    asserting control over their local economies and
    refusing to pay tax revenue to the central Moscow
    government. This strife caused economic
    dislocation, as supply lines in the economy were
    broken, and caused the Soviet economy to decline

  • Gorbachev made desperate and ill-fated attempts
    to assert control, notably in the Baltic
    Republics, but the power and authority of the
    central government had been dramatically and
    irreversibly undermined.
  • On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared the
    restitution of independence and announced that it
    was pulling out of the Soviet Union. The Soviet
    Union initiated an economic blockade of Lithuania
    and kept troops there "to secure the rights of
    ethnic Russians."

  • In January of 1991, clashes between Soviet troops
    and Lithuanian civilians occurred, leaving 20
  • This further weakened the Soviet Union's
    legitimacy, internationally and domestically.
  • On March 30, 1990, the Estonian supreme council
    declared Soviet power in Estonia since 1940 to
    have been illegal, and started a process to
    reestablish Estonia as an independent state.

  • On March 17, 1991, in an all-Union referendum 78
    of all voters voted for the retention of the
    Soviet Union in a reformed form.
  • However, Ukraine and the Baltic states boycotted
    the referendum. Also amongst Gorbachev's reforms
    was the introduction of a directly elected
    president of Russia. The election for this post
    was held in June 1991. The populist candidate
    Boris Yeltsin, who was an outspoken critic of
    Mikhail Gorbachev, won 57 percent of the vote,
    defeating Gorbachev's preferred candidate.

  • On August 20, 1991, the republics were to sign a
    new union treaty, making them independent
    republics in a federation with a common
    president, foreign policy and military.
  • However, on August 19, 1991, Gorbachev's vice
    president Gennadi Yanayev, prime minister,
    defense minister, KGB chief, and other senior
    officials acted to prevent signing of the union
    treaty by forming the "State Committee on the
    State Emergency." The "Committee" put Gorbachev
    (vacationing in the Crimea) under house arrest
    and attempted to restore the union state.

  • Coup organizers expected popular support for
    their actions, but the public sympathy in Moscow
    was largely against them. The organizers tried
    but ultimately failed to arrest Boris Yeltsin,
    who rallied mass opposition to the coup.
  • After three days, on August 21, the coup
    collapsed, the organizers were detained, and
    Gorbachev returned as president of the Soviet
  • However, Gorbachev's powers were now fatally
    compromised. Neither union nor Russian power
    structures obeyed his commands. Through the fall
    of 1991, the Russian government took over the
    union government, ministry by ministry.

  • In November 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin
    issued a decree banning the Communist Party of
    the Soviet Union throughout the Russian republic.
  • After the coup, the Soviet republics accelerated
    their process towards independence, declaring
    their sovereignty one by one.
  • On September 6, 1991, the Soviet government
    recognized the independence of the three Baltic
    states. In December 1, 1991, Ukraine declared its
    independence from the USSR after a popular
    referendum in which 90 of voters opted for

  • On December 8, 1991, the leaders of the Russian,
    Ukrainian, and Belarusian republics met to issue
    a declaration that the Soviet Union was dissolved
    and replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent
  • On December 25, 1991, Gorbatchev resigned as
    president of the USSR and turned the powers of
    his office over to Boris Yeltsin. The next day,
    the Supreme Soviet voted to dissolve itself and
    repealed the declaration written in 1922 that had
    officially established the USSR.

  • The four principal elements of the old Soviet
    system were the hierarchy of soviets, ethnic
    federalism, state socialism, and Communist
    Party dominance.
  • However, Gorbachev's program of perestroika
    produced radical unanticipated effects that
    brought that system down.
  • But by using structural reforms to widen
    opportunities for leaders and popular movements
    in the union republics to gain influence,
    Gorbachev also made it possible for nationalist,
    orthodox communist, and populist forces to oppose
    his attempts to liberalize and revitalize Soviet

  • Although some of the new movements aspired to
    replace the Soviet system altogether with a
    liberal democratic one, others demanded
    independence for the national republics. Still
    others insisted on the restoration of the old
    Soviet ways.
  • Attention
  • Ultimately, Gorbachev could not forge a
    compromise among the reactionary forces and could
    not prevent the collapse of the USSR!