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The Dissolution of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was the relic of the 20th century. It influenced the century no other country has done. It survived the horrors of The Great War, the Revolution and the Civil War during the 1910s and 1920s. Then the country has been through horrors of Stalin and his brutality against his own people in the 1920s up until his death in 1953 albeit the rapid industrialization. Then the Nazis invaded the country on 22nd June 1941 to get rid of Slavs, Bolsheviks and the Jews which eventually failed horribly.

After the end of the Second World War, it became a superpower alongside the United States and dominated the world stage alongside Eastern Europe and Asia for 45 years. The USSR has done everything. However on December 26th 1991, the Union itself dissolves the memory of the Hammer and Sickle remains only in the history books.

The economic stagnation in the 1970s, the effect of the cold war on the general populace, the unfortunate nuclear disaster in 1986 etc were the reasons why the Union itself has been destroyed and how world has changed so much with the Soviets now gone.

Brief History
The Soviet Union has come out from the cinders of the First World War[i], The Russian Revolution[ii], The Soviet-Polish War[iii], and the Russian Civil War[iv]. Lenin’s dream of making his country into a communist utopia remained a dream he died in 1922. People have been vouching for his trusted ally Leon Trotsky however, another player Joseph Stalin rose to power and eventually took control of the Soviet Union by exiling Trotsky and his other opponents or in worst case scenario killing them.

He has made the Soviet Union a police state and although the country did industrialized, it also caused a lot of famines like the Holodomor[v] which killed about 3 million people. Then in 1939 the union sided with Nazi Germany to take over Poland when they signed the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact[vi]. The Soviets also declared war on Finland thus leading to the Winter War[vii] and although the Soviets made the Finns sued for peace, it was a costly and a humiliating one.

The Russians also fought a brief border with Japan from 1932 to 1939 and brutally crushing the Japanese by forcing them to sue for peace in 1941[viii]. After conquering the most of Europe, the Nazis decided to turn on the Soviets and invaded the country on 22nd June 1941 which came to be known as Operation Barbarossa.[ix] For the Soviets the war came to be known as The Great Patriotic War.

The Germans were initially successful taking town after town, cities after cities like Smolensk, Minsk, Kiev and Leningrad was put on a siege for 2 and a half years however when they reached the outskirts of Moscow, the Russian Winter and the lack of supplies forced them to fall back. Eventually the Soviets began to build more manpower and started pushing the Germans back with battles in Stalingrad[x] and Kursk, the latter was considered as a Hail Mary which means that the war is a lost cause now[xi].

Operation Bargration[xii] also made difficult for the Germans and by the time the first American rifle squads alongside the British and the Canadians first reached the shores of France after D-day[xiii] the war is pretty much over, it was only a matter of time.

By the end of April, the Russians have reached Berlin and have reached the German Parliament, the Reichstag[xiv]. On 30th April the German dictator, Adolf Hitler committed suicide alongside his longtime mistress Eva Brown as well as other members of the Nazi High Command like Joseph Goebbels the minister of Propaganda and his entire family, Heinrich Himmler who is the leader of the SS and one of the architects of the Holocaust, Martin Bormann who was the head of thee head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and vice versa.

Albeit Germany surrendered on 2nd May 1945, the official surrender took place on 7th May (8th May in Moscow time)[xv]. The Soviet casualties of war were 26.6 million people more than half of which is civilians[xvi]. Before the end of the war in Europe the allies met up in the Yalta Conference[xvii] for the division of Germany, the east will be controlled by the Soviet Union whereas the west will be under the control of US, UK and France. This will eventually become East and West Germany.

The Nazi War criminals from both civilian and military leadership were also tried in the Nuremberg trials including Hermann Goering who was the top Nazi Leader.[xviii] The Soviets also promised the allies that they will join the Pacific Theatre of war months after the defeat of Germany. On Potsdam[xix] conference the allies met up for to finally end the war on Japan and to deal with Europe which has been torn apart by war. Although Stalin initially promised the democratic elections in the Eastern and Central Europe it eventually became Communist Satellite States.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t the only reason for the Japanese surrender. The day when the atomic bomb was dropped in Nagasaki on 9th August, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan by invading Manchuria, Northern China and Northern Korea and also taking South Sakhalin Island which they lost in the aftermath of Russo-Japanese War making Japan’s position in war even more untenable[xx].

On 15th August the Japanese Emperor Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender all over Japan and over Japanese Occupied Territories. By September 2nd the Japanese signed the official unconditional surrender to the Allies on USS Missouri thus ending the Second World War. The aftermath of the war wasn’t only the age of decolonization but also the downfall of European Superpowers like Britain and France and the US and the Soviet Union becoming the two superpowers bringing the age of bipolarity and the New World Order.

Winston Churchill once said that the iron curtain has descended across Europe with the Eastern Europe becoming communist and under the control of the Soviets. The relationship of the former allies became strained due to the disagreements over the German Currency and the tensions are already high in Germany between Soviet and Western troops.

The Berlin Airlift[xxi] where the Western Allied planes dropped food supplies to Berlin after Stalin ordered the troops to block the city so that he could force the Western Allies to withdraw from Berlin was the true beginning of the Cold War. In the 1949, not only NATO[xxii] was formed but also the Soviets first tested their own atom bomb[xxiii], China also became communist after defeating the Kuomintang and forcing Chang Kai-shek to rule in Taiwan[xxiv].

Although Sino-Soviet relations were warm, it eventually broke down in the 1960 due to various disagreements.[xxv] The Cold War was not only a military conflict but also an ideological one. The Division became apparent when the Berlin wall was built to prevent the East Germans to flee to the West. It was a war of espionage, proxy wars and various alliances. Europe was divided into eastern and western blocs. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the Soviet Leader and he denounced Stalin for his atrocities.

Various rebellions and anti-communist uprisings were quashed by the Soviets like in Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia (The most popular being The Hungarian Revolution[xxvi]) and vice versa There were various wars fought like Korea (1950-1953), Vietnam (1954-1975), and Afghanistan (1979-1989) and vice versa. The CIA and the KGB are playing the game of cat and mouse because they are trying to find out the secret of one another. The U2 incident[xxvii], the Berlin Standoff[xxviii] and The Cuban Missile Crisis which almost brought the whole world under the verge of World War 3 also proved that the two superpowers (Khrushchev and Kennedy) have the capability to destroy the world. So they decided to ease out their tensions with treaties like the SALT[xxix] treaty.

The age of détente brought some kind of relaxation between the two powers although there are proxy wars like the Angolan Civil War[xxx], the Yom Kippur War[xxxi], the Rhodesian Bush War[xxxii] and vice versa there was hope that the two powers will reconcile their differences until the Soviet-Afghan War where détente was thrown out the window. It was also during that time that the Soviet Union was beginning to fall apart. With the revolutions in the Eastern Europe, Afghanistan becoming like Soviet Union’s Vietnam, an unfortunate nuclear disasters and reasons like that made the union unravel itself in 1991.


Reasons For The Disintegration
  1. The Beginning of economic stagnation:
    When Lenoid Brezhnev became the Soviet Leader after the ousting of Khrushchev by the Presidium in 1964, his rule as the Soviet Premier became the second longest, the first being Stalin. However his policies were also criticized for being regressive, ineffective and corrupt. One aspect of the ineffective policies was the economy.

    The large amounts of Soviet Rubles were spent on the arms race rather than consumer goods led to the stagnation of the economy by the 1970s.[xxxiii] Although Alexi Kyosgin attempted to bring reforms, Brezhnev didn’t accept this because he was resistant to change in the Soviet economy and because of the lack of reforms the central planning on the economy began to show cracks in the 1970s which later on broke down the economy of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
     
  2. Technological Gap:
    In the 1950s the Soviet technologies and the production was higher than that of the US and Western European counterparts. [xxxiv] The Sputnik is one example; the Soviets were also ahead in the prosthetics [xxxv]. However in time by the 1970s there was a huge technological gap between the Soviets and the West. For example they lost the Space Race against the US in 1969 when they sent their astronauts to the moon.[xxxvi] Another example could be The M1 Abrahams Tank [xxxvii] was an advance tank that could crush any Soviet made armour like T-72 which they did in the Gulf War.
     
  3. The Soviet-Afghan War xxxviii]:
    The political instability in Afghanistan made the Soviet Government to invade Afghanistan on 24th December 1979. This led to boycott of the Olympic Games in both Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980[xxxix] and 1984[xl] respectively. Not only that, the US and Pakistan began funding the anti-communist Islamic Group the Mujahedeen to wreck havoc to the Soviet War effort just like the Soviets and the Chinese funded the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong to wreck American war effort during the Vietnam War and to make Soviet withdraw from Afghanistan and make Afghanistan into an Islamic Republic[xli].

    When the CIA and ISI started giving them stinger missile then it became apparent that the war is a lost cause because the morale of the troops have been dashed and this war is nothing more than the Soviet Union’s Vietnam War, so the Soviets withdrew in February 1989 but Afghanistan fell into a civil war and eventually led to the rise of Taliban.
     
  4. Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor Disaster [xlii]:
    When the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl exploded, the whole world was shocked. The people from Chernobyl and Pripyat were forced to evacuate. A force of more than 600,000 people were brought to clean up the town and to prevent the radiation from been exposed even further. These people came to be known as liquidators[xliii].

    The Soviet Government’s mishandling of the situation due to the corrupt bureaucracy has made things worse. According to the Russian officials the official death toll is 31, other sources say that the death toll could be more than 4000.[xliv] According to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chernobyl Disaster was one of the biggest reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
     
  5. Revolutions, Wars and the fall of Communism in the Eastern Europe [xlv]:
    The 1980s saw the true fall of communism in Eastern Europe. In the 1950s the Americans were afraid that with North Vietnam becoming communist, the ideology will spread over Asia like dominoes. However even if Vietnam unified with the fall of Saigon, communism failed to spread all over Asia rendering the theory useless.

    However when Communism in Eastern Europe was on the verge of collapse it fell like Dominoes. Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria etc began protesting against the communist governments and soon the democratic elections were conducted where non communist governments were been defeated and anti-communist governments were been set up in the late 1980s. However the revolution in Romania was a violent one and its leader Nicolae Ceausescu being executed by the Romanian Military.

    US President Ronald Reagan once said to Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1987. The Berlin Wall was built to prevent the East Germans to migrate or flee to the west. It was a symbol of the Cold War in Germany, and hundreds of people died while crossing the wall. The Stasi secret police [xlvi]was another reason for the East Germans to flee to west. So when the communism in Eastern Europe was collapsing, the East and the West Germans wanted the wall to be gone. Despite the protest of Erich Honecker the East German Leader who was a Stalinist, the East Germans eventually replaced him and also lifted the prohibition on the travel ban.

    The mistake by the East German spokesperson to the reporters regarding the travelling regulations made the East Germans to go to the Wall, the guards although being order to shoot at people couldn’t do anything. So on November 9th 1989, the world saw the iron curtain been falling apart with the fall of Berlin Wall.[xlvii] Although the fall of communism also led to the brutal and bloody breakup of Yugoslavia which brought one of the longest sieges in human history i.e. the Siege of Sarajevo.[xlviii]
     
  6. Glasnost And Perestroika:
    When Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet Premier in 1985, he knew the Soviet Political and Economic realms need to be reformed immediately. So he brought the Glasnosts and Perestroika which means economic and political reforms. For example the 1st McDonalds in the Soviet Union was set up in Moscow on 31st January 1990[xlix] and how the Soviet Government sold its ships and submarines to Pepsi just so they could buy their drinks.

    This allegedly made Pepsi the 6th largest navy in the world[l]. Gorbachev wanted to bring reforms politically where newspaper, radios, tvs could openly criticize the government without being harassed by the KGB. Under Perestroika, Gorbachev signed the Geneva Accords and he made the Soviet Troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.

    He also expressed that the USSR will no longer get involved in the domestic matters of the other communist countries. Critics of Gorbachev say that the reforms crashed the economy even faster because the prices rose up and the people could not afford it. Politically, it has led to the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the communist hardliners were against the reforms.

The Fall of the Hammer and Sickle [li]
On August 1991, the Soviet hardliners attempted a coup d’état against Gorbachev by putting him on house arrest and demanded that that Gorbachev should resign as the leader. They also tried to win the hearts and minds of the people but that failed spectacularly. Boris Yelstin who was the prominent politician spoke out against the coup.

The hardliners realized that all hope was lost and decided to call off the coup. Although Gorbachev got his victory, it was too little too late. The US now views him as damaged goods and his popular support was also waning.

The coup also resulted in the republics under the Soviet Union who no longer wished to be a part of the Union. Which is why 15 republics became independent from the Soviet Union and on 26th December 1991 the Soviet Union ceases to exist.

The 15 Republics are as follows:
Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Ukraine
  3. Belarus
  4. Moldova
Central Asia
  1. Kazakhstan
  2. Kyrgyzstan
  3. Uzbekistan
  4. Tajikistan
  5. Turkmenistan
Transcaucasia
  1. Georgia
  2. Azerbaijan
  3. Armeniia
Baltics
  1. Lithuania
  2. Latvia
  3. Estonia

Legal Aspect of the Dissolution[lii]

If talked legally, then according to Alexander Salenko the liquidation of the Soviet Union was rather a question of its legality and legitimacy. According to the author the elite of the 9 republics have violated the will of the people by voluntarily breaking the legitimating chain between the people and the political power. A referendum was taken on 17th March 1991 where 9 Soviet Republics participated in the referendum whereas the other 6 boycotted it.

The author also raises the question where the termination of the Soviet Union has affected the constitution of the USSR. While summing it up author concluded that the referendum of 17th March 1991 was valid and the President Russian FSR, Boris Yelstin and the other decision makers of Russian FSR who prepared, signed and ratified the act of termination of the USSR was violating the will of the people. Because of this the current situation of Crimea which was occupied by Russia from Ukraine even exist.

Aftermath of the dissolution of the USSR
  1. The end of the Cold War, as well as the bipolarity with the US now remaining as the sole Superpower in the world. It also led to the rise of other powers like China, India, Russia, South Korea, Japan, The EU, UK, Brazil and vice versa.
  2. Shock Therapy- The transitioning from communist to capitalist economy is known as Shock Therapy; although it did not end up in favorable results in Russia with the declining economy it also affected the socio-political spheres in the society with the rise of unemployment, the loss of jobs and savings and the rise of corruption. [liii]
  3. Two Wars in Chechnya [liv], a war with Georgia [lv] and the occupation of Crimea [lvi] has made Russia a formidable threat to the US.
  4. Countries like India, Vietnam, and Angola etc abandoned their socialist policies and adopted the capitalistic economic methods thus improving their economies and also improving their relations with the US.
  5. Russia replaces the USSR as the permanent member of the UN Security Council.
  6. Former Soviets states (the Baltics) like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and former Soviet Bloc countries like Poland, Romania etc joined the NATO.[lvii]
  7. Dictatorship in former Soviet Republics like Belarus where Alexander Lukashenko ruled the country for 26 years and has been criticized for corruption, atrocities, suppression, rigged elections and vice versa.[lviii]
  8. Improvement of the Russo-American relationship with the START treaty.[lix] Although the relationship strained due to the alleged involvement of Russian Hackers in the 2016 US Election [lx] and the wars in Syria and Iraq.

Conclusion

Vladimir Putin once said:
Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.

The Soviet Union was an integral part of the 20th century history and its dissolution has changed the world stage forever. Although the Russian Federation is a powerful country it does not hold a candle against the influence the Soviet Union had. On the other hand the Soviet Union is a repressive country that has not only repressed its own people but also the people of the Eastern European countries.

Which is why people living in the Ex Soviets states do not want to live in that condition again with the exception of Belarus and the Central Asian countries where dictatorship still thrives there. Maybe in the near future the transition of government will happen and democracy will also reach to those countries.

End-Notes:
  1. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-i/world-war-i-history
  2. https://www.history.com/topics/russia/russian-revolution
  3. https://www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Polish-War-1919-1920
  4. https://www.britannica.com/event/Russian-Civil-War
  5. https://www.britannica.com/event/Holodomor
  6. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-molotov-ribbentrop-pact-august-1939
  7. https://www.britannica.com/event/Russo-Finnish-War
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet%E2%80%93Japanese_border_conflicts
  9. https://www.britannica.com/event/Operation-Barbarossa
  10. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/battle-of-stalingrad
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYJqFxW6W8Y
  12. https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/operation-bagration-the-shocking-story-how-russia-crushed-23792
  13. https://www.history.com/news/why-was-it-called-d-day
  14. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/magazine/2020/05-06/soviet-victory-battle-berlin-finished-nazi-germany/
  15. https://www.ushmm.org/learn/timeline-of-events/1942-1945/german-forces-surrender-to-the-allies
  16. https://military.wikia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties_of_the_Soviet_Union
  17. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/yalta-conference
  18. https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nuremberg-trials
  19. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Potsdam-Declaration
  20. https://thediplomat.com/2012/08/the-forgotten-soviet-japanese-war-of-1939/
  21. https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/berlin-airlift
  22. https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.html
  23. https://www.ctbto.org/specials/testing-times/29-august-1949-first-soviet-nuclear-test
  24. https://www.britannica.com/place/China/Civil-war-1945-49
  25. https://www.britannica.com/event/Sino-Soviet-dispute
  26. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/history/a-day-that-shook-the-world-soviets-crush-the-hungarian-revolt-2234908.html
  27. https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/u2-spy-incident
  28. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/oct/24/berlin-crisis-standoff-checkpoint-charlie
  29. https://www.britannica.com/event/Strategic-Arms-Limitation-Talks
  30. https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/angolan-civil-war-1975-2002-brief-history
  31. https://www.britannica.com/event/Yom-Kippur-War
  32. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhodesian_Bush_War
  33. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonid_Brezhnev#cite_note-FOOTNOTEBaconSandle20021%E2%80%932-53
  34. https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000499825.pdf
  35. https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=2366
  36. https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/space-race
  37. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1_Abrams
  38. https://www.britannica.com/event/Soviet-invasion-of-Afghanistan
  39. https://www.republicworld.com/sports-news/other-sports/why-were-the-1980-olympics-boycotted-jimmy-carter-olympics-cancelled.html
  40. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-announce-boycott-of-1984-olympics
  41. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDQLHFBp4aM
  42. https://unherd.com/2019/06/chernobyl-and-the-meltdown-of-the-ussr/#:~:text=Share%3A,Soviet%20communism%20five%20years%20later.&text=The%20Soviet%20Union%20appeared%20stable,were%20they%20particularly%20terrible%20either.
  43. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSeu9m_hBI0
  44. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190725-will-we-ever-know-chernobyls-true-death-toll
  45. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1989-1992/fall-of-communism
  46. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Stasi
  47. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50013048
  48. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1989-1992/breakup-yugoslavia#:~:text=While%20ostensibly%20a%20communist%20state,states%20during%20the%20Cold%20War.
  49. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/01/31/mcdonalds-in-russia-turns-30-a69111#:~:text=The%20U.S.%20fast%20food%20giant,months%20of%20the%20Soviet%20Union.&text=McDonald's%20opened%20the%20doors%20of,the%20world%20at%20the%20time.
  50. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-pepsi-briefly-became-the-6th-largest-military-in-the-world-2018-7?IR=T
  51. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/coup-attempt-against-gorbachev-collapses
  52. https://www.zaoerv.de/75_2015/75_2015_1_a_141_166.pdf
  53. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/shock-therapy.asp
  54. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2014/12/11/chechnya-russia-and-20-years-of-conflict
  55. https://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/13/world/europe/2008-georgia-russia-conflict/index.html
  56. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2020/03/17/crimea-six-years-after-illegal-annexation/
  57. https://www.nato.int/nato-welcome/index.html
  58. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-Lukashenko
  59. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1989-1992/collapse-soviet-union
  60. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/russia-trump-and-2016-us-election

Award Winning Article Is Written By:
  1. Ankit Yadav and
  2. Anish Bachchan

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: DE34424777952-9-1220

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