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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
The Fall of the Hammer and Sickle [li]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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].
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.
- Revolutions, Wars and the fall of Communism in the Eastern Europe [xlv]:
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
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.
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]
- 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
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
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
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
The 15 Republics are as follows:
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
- 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
- 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]
- 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.
- 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
- Russia replaces the USSR as the permanent member of
the UN Security Council.
- Former Soviets states (the Baltics) like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia
and former Soviet Bloc countries like Poland, Romania etc joined the NATO.[lvii]
- 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]
- 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.
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.
Award Winning Article Is Written By:
- Ankit Yadav and
- Anish Bachchan
Authentication No: DE34424777952-9-1220