Collapse of Communism


Weakness in the Soviet Bloc

  • Soviets were spending 25% GNP on the arms race and Afghan War
  • Soviet Industry was lazy and inefficient - No Stalin = No fear = not as much production
  • Quantity and quality of the USSRs industrial output was falling
  • Both outdated technology and carelessness increased pollotion levels
  • Standard of living was appaling
  • Food shortages and long queues for basic goods
  • Gripped by defeatism
  • Protest groups were supressed
  • Alcoholism increased
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New Soviet Policies


  • restructuring
  • changing economic policies to allow more competition
  • foreigners were given more freedom to be allowed in the Soviet economy
  • soviet businesses were given freedom of where to be based/what to produce
  • businesses had to pay for themselves through profit not government money


  • openess
  • restoring faith in government and ending corruption
  • people shouldnt be punished for disagreeing with government policies
  • open debate
  • adopted with relations with the west

+ Cut back on global commitments and abandon the brezhnev doctrine by loosening soviet control over satellite states. He aimed to cut military spending and pull out of Afghanistan

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Peace Summits

November 1986 Geneva

  • cut offensive weapons by 50%established personal rapport/ laid the foundations for the future

October 1986 Reykjavik

  • G proposed phasing out nuclear weapons and offered a series of ever increasing concessions at the price of removing the American SDI programme. No agreement was reached USSR announced pulling out of Afghan 

December 1987 Washington

  • The INF treaty was signed - scrapped all intermediate range ballistic missiles

May/June 1988 Moscow

  • More complex INF details. In December they met in new york and announced further cuts in soviet arms
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Reform in the Soviet Union

  • Gorbachev was at height of popularity and awarded a nobel peace prize in 1989. G and George Bush announced end of Cold War.
  • Many people once imprisoned  for disagreeing with communist policies were realeased and others were allowed to return from exile
  • Hard line communists were horrified with the reforms. They saw it as strirring up trouble.
  • They condemned him for excessively raising soviet peoples hope
  • once he allowed freedom of speech, he could not censor the media
  • many wanted to get rid of communism all together
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Trouble in Eastern Europe

  • March 1989 G told communist leaders of the Eastern bloc that the Soviet Red Army would no longer protect them (soviet tanks wouldnt put down demonstrators)
  • Poland - free elections june 1989. Lech Walesa become 1st non-communist leader since 1945
  • East Germany -  November 1989 Berlin Wall pulled down. Unpopular leader Honeckers troops refused to fire demonstrators
  • Czechoslovakia - November 1989 huge anti-communist demonstrations. Vaclav Havel (plawright) became leader and free elections in 1990
  • Romania - short and bloody revoloution December 1989 communist dictator Ceausecu and wife were shot
  • Bulgaria - communist leader resigned in november 1989 and free elections in 1990
  • Baltic States - 1990, LIthuania, latvia, estonia declared themselves independant from the soviet union
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Berlin Wall and Problems Facing the USSR

  • November 9th 1989, E German gov announced greater freedom of travel including crossing the border. Thousands of E Berliners flocked to the checkpoints and the borderguards let them pass and soon enough they were chipping away at it
  • afghan become russias 'vietnam'
  • russia couldnt afford arms race
  • soviet economy was backwards causing increasing environmental problems
  • many people were much poorer than the poorest people in the West
  • Crime alcholism and drugs were out of control
  • Soviet system = corrupt and out of date
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Collapse of the Soviet Union

  • Many saw G as weak within the USSR. Promised reforms hadnt improved living standards and he appeared to have just accepted the collapse of soviet influence
  • February 1990 - huge demonstration in Moscow against the communist system. The republics within the USSR demanded their freedom from the grip of the union
  • New President of Russia Boris Yeltsin encouraged the process of breaking up the union.
  • He disabandoned the communist party
  • G resigned as soviet president as there was no longer a soviet state to control
  • 1991 - W and E Berlin were reuninted and Germany became a single country
  • Yugoslavia - Serbs refused to accept croatia as a leader and solvenia and croatia declared independance in 1991 (bloody civil war)
  • The era of communism in eastern europe was over
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