23.06.2020 in Informative

The Fall of the Soviet Union


The collapse of the USSR includes processes of the system disintegration occurring in the economy, the social structure, the political sphere of the Soviet Union under the influence of the deliberate policy. The fall of the Soviet Union led to the independence of 15 republics and the emergence of new independent states on the global political arena. Besides, a great number of people took advantage of the fall of the Soviet Union. The purpose of the paper is to study the causes and consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union and analyze what individuals took advantages of the fall. 

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In the XX century, the Soviet Union was considered one of the most powerful states in the world. It was created in 1922 as a federal state. The Soviet Union inherited most of the territory and the multinational structure of the Russian Empire. Over 270 million people and more than one hundred representatives of different nations and nationalities lived on its territory. In the book The Collapse of the Soviet Union,, it is stated that “as a geographic entity, the region we now call Russia was originally occupied by many different ethnic peoples such as the Sarmatians, the Goths, the Khazars, and other ancient groups”. After World War II, the Soviet Union possessed a vast territory in Europe and Asia having access to the seas and oceans, huge natural resources, and developed economy of the socialist type based on regional specialization and inter-regional economic relations.

The leadership of the multinational state was centralized. The country was led by the central authorities of the Communist Party that controlled the entire hierarchy of authorities. The central leadership approved the leaders of the union republics. Thus, the Soviet Union increasingly turned into a state governed from the center leveling the differences between the republics, subjects of federal relations. Problems of inter-republican and inter-ethnic relations were ignored for many years. After Stalin’s death, there was certain decentralization of power. In particular, there was a strict rule to appoint for the position of the first secretary a representative of the titular nation of the republic. The second secretary of the party in the republics was a protégé of the Central Committee. It led to the fact that local leaders had certain autonomy and absolute power in their regions. Many of these leaders transformed into Presidents of the States after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the years of perestroika, when ethnic conflicts gained an extremely dangerous nature, decision-making was postponed until the 1990-1991 biennium. Many contradictions and misunderstandings made the fall inevitable. 

Causes of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Currently, there is no single point of view among historians about the main reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as about whether it was possible to prevent or at least stop the process of disintegration of the USSR. There are several possible causes. First of all, it is nationalist tendencies, which appeared as a result of non-fulfillment of development challenges by the leadership the Soviet Union manifested in the form of inter-ethnic conflicts and desires of individual nations to develop their culture and economy. Another reason lies in the fact that there was an authoritarian nature of Soviet society and the gradual running on Fascist lines. In the book Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse?, it is written that “conservative scholars viewed the Soviet Union as an ideologically driven totalitarian system, wholly different from that of other western industrial nations”. Besides, there was the growing discontent of the population associated with the purposefully create shortages of food and the most necessary goods, absurd prohibitions and restrictions, and a permanent gap in the standard of living from the developed countries.  In such a way, many various reasons led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. At the same time, these reasons might not necessarily lead to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. They could only change the shape, and the structure of the USSR. There was one more important factor including an acute political struggle between Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. 

Confrontation between Gorbachev and Yeltsen

This period in the history of the Soviet Union was marked by the confrontation of the two power centers in the central regions of the USSR and led to sharp weakening of the entire Soviet system. Speaking of the subjective factor and the struggle between Gorbachev and Yeltsin, researchers usually pay attention to the “strength” of Boris Yeltsin and the “weakness” of Mikhail Gorbachev. However, such subjective factors are objectively motivated. Gorbachev was not weak. Otherwise, he would not have made such a career. His strength caused concern among opponents to the end of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Gorbachev was weak in a period of the revolution. He was out of informal movements. At the same time, Yeltsin was capable of bold radical steps, which caused mass support in the conditions of dramatic confrontation. Gorbachev used persuasion while Yeltsin proposed decisive actions by mobilizing protest groups on his side. Success of the second type of conduct was more probable in the conditions of a revolutionary crisis. Nonetheless, it was fraught with deconstructive. Personal conflicts between Gorbachev and Yeltsin relied on ideological and political differences of larger groups. A political game was not dictated by personal antipathy but by the logic of confrontation of social forces. In conditions of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the side supporting Boris Yeltsin would receive a great number of advantages. 

Advantages of the Fall of the Soviet Union for Certain Individuals 

Mikhail Gorbachev is considered the main culprit for the collapse of the Soviet Union. The main prerequisite to the fall was an idea of a new Union Treaty advanced by Gorbachev. This idea was the basis for a progressive process of degradation of the Soviet Union and the accompanying disintegration. The idea of a new Union Treaty automatically devalued the current Constitution of the Soviet Union. The referendum, which was held in 1991, could change nothing. Only 9 of 15 states participated in it. Baltic states, Georgia, Armenia, and Moldova earlier declared about their independence and refused to participate in the referendum.

However, it is impossible to blame only Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union disintegration. In contrary, some historians affirm that Mikhail Gorbachev tried to preserve the state. However, not all his actions reached the goal. The practical realization of Gorbachev’s ideas was done by the members of the Central Committee o and the Communist Parties of the Union republics, ministers, and government officials. They approved Gorbachev’s decisions and voted for them. These decisions were made openly and collectively. It is unlike those that were adopted on 8 December 1991 in the Bialowieza Forest. Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk, and Stanislav Shushkevich conferred secretly as criminals. In fact, it was a criminal conspiracy in the Bialowieza Forest. It can be said that Yeltsin, Kravchuk, and Shushkevich made a peaceful coup d’etat. These people were the ones who took an advantage from the fall of the Soviet Union. The authors Frank Thackeray and John Findling  state that “Yeltsin was a key figure in the collapse of the Soviet Union after the failed August 18, 1991 Soviet coup, in which Communist party hard-liners tried to reverse the trend of the reform that Yeltsin and Gorbachev had been promoting”. The collapse of the Soviet Union was largely the result of the actions conducted by Boris Yeltsin.

In late 1991, Yeltsin did not form the government of Russia for three months. He completely occupied the executive branch and did not allow Gorbachev to form all-union government. Yeltsin was afraid that a new center of power would appear in the united country. This could limit Yeltsin’s power. Immediately after August 1991, Yeltsin began to endow himself with dictatorial powers. Later, he successfully brought the case to the Bialowieza Forest. Boris Yeltsin got many advantages with the collapse of the Soviet Union as he became the President of Russia receiving complete power over the country. Moreover, Stanislav Shushkevich and Leonid Kravchuk also became presidents of Belarus and Ukraine respectively. In such a way, it can be stated that these people received a great number of advantages after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 


The collapse of the Soviet Union seemed unthinkable and absolutely incredible. Nevertheless, this state ceased to exist in 1991. Historians and experts still argue about causes of the fall of the Soviet Union. Causes and consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union are closely associated with the name of the last Soviet leader – Mikhail Gorbachev. However, there are also other important names associated with the fall of the state. These names include Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk, and Stanislav Shushkevich. The collapse of the Soviet Union concluded by the agreement of the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus is one of the most significant events of the XX century world history. These people are regarded individuals who received the most advantages from the fall of the Soviet Union. 

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