The Fall of Communism

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The Fall of Communism








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The Fall of Communism

            The USSR went from a superpower to a collapse over the course of three years. In 1989, protests broke out throughout the Soviet Union. Factors contributing to the collapse of Communism include economic stagnation, desire for democracy, and nationalism. The Soviet Union began to stagnate economically during the 1970s. The standard of living fell gradually, consumer goods became more costly and less available, and food shortages plagued the nation. Nationalists’ movements in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary opposed Soviet occupation since their forcible annexation after the Second World War. Pro-democracy dissidents capitalized on USSR's failure to provide for its citizens' basic needs and discontent with foreign rule in the satellite nations. Communism fell because of a desire for liberal reform, nationalism, and economic stagnation. 

            During November of 1989, protesters tore down the Berlin Wall in East Germany. The wall fell because the East German military refused to stop the protest (State Department, n.d.). The demonstrations in East Germany were driven by a combination of economic insecurity caused by stagnation and a desire to reunify Germany. The factors at work in Germany were far from unique. Simultaneously, the Solidarity Movement in Poland protested the Communist Party's political monopoly in politics and Civil Society. These protests soon spread throughout the other satellite nations and eventually into Russia itself. Communism had lost legitimacy both within Russia and the other countries of the Soviet Union.


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          These protests did not materialize overnight. Instead, they were a response to the economic and political failings of the Communist system. The peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union was due in no small measure to the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was a reformer who attempted to open the Soviet political and economic system gradually. When protests came, he refused to use military force to suppress the popular will (Collapse of the Soviet Union, 2011). Even within Russia, the popularity of Communism was failing. Food shortages and empty supermarket shelves had been a fact of life since the 1970s. The Russian public had a cynical attitude towards the Communist Party's officials, believing them to be acting in self-interest rather than the common good. This combination of cynicism, economic stagnation, nationalism, and the desire for democracy made the Soviet Union unable to withstand the instability of 1989.

          The Soviet Union began to decline politically and economically during the 1970s. Years of economic recession encouraged movements in favor of nationalism and liberal democracy. The failures of Communism caused it to lack legitimacy within a significant subsection of both the Soviet Union's everyday citizens and members of the Communist Party's elite.


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Collapse of the soviet union. (2011, February 25). HISTORY.

Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute. (n.d.). Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, 1989. Department of State.



The Fall of Communism

Discipline: History

Academic Level: College

Paper Format: APA


Pages: 2

Paper Instructions

Discuss the Fall of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in less than 500 words.

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