• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The causes of the collapse of the USSR.

Extracts from this document...


Although its demise occurred in the very latter part of the 20th century, USSR could have just as easily imploded much earlier. Its collapse did not occur due to immediate events changes, but rather, its collapse was rooted within the fundamental constitiution of its socialist system and the impossibility of ultimate success. The implotion of communist Russia "was triggered not by military pressure but by Communist ideology." (2) It occurred due to the inheriate incapibility of socialism to sufficiently maintain a productive and prosperous economy in the face of a rapidly changing form of capitalism. After WWII, the world saw a change in modern capitalism that proved both successful and popular. In the face of this surgent prosperity, USSR's economy found itself unproductive and wholly lagging western growth. Behind this backdrop occurred the realization of the need to reform and revitalize socialism within USSR. The attempt called for the allowance of liberal institutions and participation within the free market, but only to the extent of not compromising socialist principles. This paradoxical contradiction, however, had dire consequences and proved to be the final undoing of the Soviet Union, as the democritazion and liberalization of Soviet society perpetuated the popularity and acceptance of full participation in capitalism and ultimately, the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the years up World War II, Stalin was able to industrialize Russia and make it an economically viable nation. ...read more.


Brezhnev and Chernenko, both part of the older generation of rule, passed on, as did the rest of their inner circle. They were succeeded by Gorbachev, who was seen as "the long awaited 'reformer'. They were right"(57). When Gorbachev came into power in 1985, he "showed himself to be resolutely committed to renewing socialist ideals"(57). The problem he faced was how to solve the apparent discrepancy between socialist ideals and their realities. To revitalize socialism, Gorbachev tried to open up Soviet society (glasnost), rebuild its infrastructure (perestroika) and democritize the political and economic systems. This loosening of Russian society, however, would prove to be its final blow. Through Glasnost, Gorbachev appealed to all members of society "through a campaign for openness in public life"(60). During 1986 and 1987, Gorbachev encouraged open discussion on many issues that were once considered taboo. The result, however, was a sense of disillutionment among many Russians. People, upon realizing the realities of past attrocities and years of being lied to became more critical of socialism. Unlike past relaxations, Glasnost caused many to "desanctify Lenin" and led to general unrest among the people. Eventually there seemed to be "no one ready to defend socialism and the Union, except those castigated as 'Stalinists' opposed to reform"(73). Along with glasnost, perestroika attempted to save socialism but only ultimately undermined it. Realizing that the principle behind planned industrial growth, that of high quantity output, was causeing poor results, Gorbachev attempted to "unblock" the economy by allowing grerater flexability and autonomy. ...read more.


The answer lies in the fact that Gorbachev and many Soviets within his generation came to the realization that although socialism needed reform, it would not be able to do so without destabilizing the entire system. This destabilizing would then only be able to be solved through a return to Stalinist meathods. Given this catch-22, Gorbachev came to the conclusion that "for him, amid the turmoil of perestroika, to have to return to Stalinist meathods to preserve the system would not only destroyed his international reputation but make a lie of his whole inner life"(177). He then therefore rejected the plausibility and superiority of socialism and instead opted for western style social democracy. Although the Soviet Union finally collapsed during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it began down the road to dismemberment much earlier. Although it struggled to win the "war" of world supremacy for several decades, its downfall was not caused its enemies. Rather, the Soviet Union imploded from the very fact that in a modern capitalistic society, its socialist economy simply could not keep up. As its economy began to lag and become outdated, the need for reform and change became self evident. The changes necessary for successful reform, however, required refutation of basic socialist principles. Because of that inevitability, the Soviet Union, armed and able to destroy the world, quietly and peacefully conceded defeat and gave up its dream of a socially just and equal society and began down the difficult road towards a free democratic capitalistic state. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level International History, 1945-1991 essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Was the collapse of the USSR historically inevitable?

    4 star(s)

    In November the Berlin walls felt and the Germany was reunified in 1990 and communist threw out of East Germany. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected President of Russia, and in august, a coup which wanted to restore the authoritarian regime failed.

  2. Why did tsarism collapse?

    Their anger was aimed not only at these speculators but also at the government for failing to do anything about the situation. The people wanted rewards for their efforts and sacrifices and so far they were receiving nothing. All the workers could see was the gap between the haves and have-nots deepening.

  1. What were the causes of the disintegration of the Soviet Union as a socialist ...

    The Soviet System as doomed to failure from the start One argument suggests that the collapse of the Soviet system in 1991 can be directly traced back to the revolution of 1917.

  2. What was perestroika; why did Gorbachev introduce it; and why did perestroika fail?

    Gorbachev instituted a policy of Glasnost or 'openness' as a reaction to this, and allowed the open discussion of existing economic and social problems of the country. This came in unison with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which many see as a catalyst for the Glasnost reforms as the population were dissatisfied with the executive's secrecy.

  1. The Collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe

    instrumental figures, and was viewed "not merely as an expression of America's weakness but also as a cause of it."2 In addition, U.S. failures such as Vietnam and Watergate had damaged Western morale, and President Jimmy Carter was under pressure to make a strong reinstatement of American prestige.

  2. "To What Extent Were Gorbachev's Policies the Catalyst to the Fall of the USSR?"

    "in the second half of the 70's...the country began to lose impulse."7 A great economical slowdown in 15 years brought the USSR close to a deadlock, as the only producer, the state, set the society under its determination. Alongside, the loss of morale in society, creative thought and bureaucracy brought

  1. Why was it Stalin that won the leadership struggle by 1928 in the USSR?

    The civil war lead to Lenin's power being more centralised and party members felt that it would be more appropriate to have a 'body' run the state, as it was a more Socialist way. Trotsky was the main person people feared would become dictator because as he was the commander


    How effective was Stalin's control over the Party? * By 1930 all Stalin's rivals in the struggle for power have been removed from positions of power. Yet the 1934 Party Congress shows his control was not total. * From 1936 however in terms of policy making Stalin could do as he wished.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work