Failure of détente and the collapse of Communism

  • Created by: Phoebe
  • Created on: 30-05-13 14:05


  • July 1972 - Soviet and American leaders sign SALT I
  • July-August 1975 - The Helsinki Agreement
  • June 1979 - Soviet and American leaders sign SALT II
  • December 1979 - USSR invades Afghanistan
  • January 1980 - SALT II not ratified by US Senate
  • July 1980 - USA boycotts the Moscow Olympics
  • September 1980 - Solidarity founded in Poland
  • January 1981 - Ronald Reagan becomes President of the USA
  • December 1981 - Martial Law declared in Poland
  • July 1983 - Lech Walesa awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
  • July 1984 - USSR boycotts the Los Angeles Olympics
  • March 1985 - Gorbachev becomes leader of the USSR
  • February 1989 - Last Soviet troops leave Afghanistan
  • November 1989 - Berlin Wall comes down - end of the Cold War
  • December 1991 - USSR breaks up into independent republics
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Why did détente collapse in the 70s and 80s?

  • By 1970 both superpowers had begun to realise the dangers of war in the nuclear age
  • The arms race was proving to be expensive for both sides
  • This led to a series of talks resulting in the SALT I agreement of 1972 and the Helsinki Agreement of 1975 (a return to the policy of peaceful co-existence first developed by Khrushchev in the 1950s)
  • China became a member of the UN
  • The American President visited the USSR and China and the Soviet leader visited the USA
  • Talks on the reduction of arms, known as SALT II, continued and the Presidents Carter and Brezhnev signed the SALT II agreement in 1979
  • Events in Afghanistan led to the collapse of this period of detente and eventually to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe
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  • The USSR had been giving aid to Afghanistan since the 50s
  • It had improved the country by building roads and pipelines for oil
  • In 1973 the monarchy of Afghanistan had been overthrown
  • A further change of government in 1978 brought the Soviet-backed communist group to power supported by the military
  • The communist government started to introduce Soviet-style communist reforms, which were directly opposed to the culture and traditions of the people of Afghanistan
  • Many did not agree with the new laws, such as the distribution of land and marriage laws
  • At the end of the 70s, this opposition turned into open rebellion and civil war broke out 
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Afghanistan 2

  • It was dealt with severely by the Afghan government and army
  • In 1979, large numbers of the army began to desert, and the opposition got stronger
  • Before the Soviet invasion, this opposition was being financed and supplied by the USA
  • This was because the USA tended to support all anti-communist movements
  • The opposition was led by a Muslim group called the mujahidin, who objected to what they saw as an attack on their religion by the communist government
  • They believed they were fighting a jihad (holy war) and received funds from the USA and Osama bin Laden, who supported and financed many Islamic groups
  • This opposition forced the government to ask the USSR for help
  • Tanks and weapons were sent by the USSR and then, at Christmas 1979, around 80,000 Soviet troops entered Afghanistan
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Why did the USSR invade Afghanistan?

  • The immediate cause was the preservation of the communist government, which had appealed to the USSR to provide troops to preserve its security and help it fight the mujahidin
  • The apparent collapse of the Afghan army was of great concern to the Soviets, who were afraid of losing their influence in the area
  • January 1979 - a Muslim revolt had overthrown the pro-American ruler of Iran and set up a Muslim government, which could spread to Afghanistan
  • There were 30 million rebel Muslims in the USSR who could be encouraged to rebel if another Muslim state were set up in Afghanistan
  • The USSR wanted to expand its influence in Asia to balance that of the USA and China, who both supported Pakistan
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Why did the USSR invade Afghanistan 2?

  • Strategically, Afghanistan would bring the USSR closer to the Middle East and the Soviets could put pressure on the oil supply route from to Europe and the USA
  • The USSR was afraid that President Amin was becoming too friendly with the West 
  • There was evidence that he had sought support from the USA, China and Pakistan
  • The USSR though that since he had taken control, he was eliminating  Soviet supporter-opponents within the party
  • The Soviets later claimed that they wanted to fight against the secret involvement of the USA in Afghanistan - no one believed this at the time, but the USA had been sending help to the rebels for six months before the Soviet invasion
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The reaction of President Carter

  • Jimmy Carter immediately condemned the Soviet invasion as "an act of interference and a threat to world peace"
  • Although Brezhnev insisted that the USSR had gone into Afghanistan to protect it and that it would withdraw as soon as the position had been stabilised, Carter said the Soviets would have to pay the consequences for their actions
  • January 1980 - the General Council of the UN voted 104 to 18 in favour of a resolution condemning the invasion
  • Brezhnev dismissed this criticism and argued that the UN did not have the right to involve itself in the internal affairs of Afghanistan
  • Opposition to the invasion came not only from the USA but also from China and Islamic nations throughout the world
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American uncertainly

  • The Americans were uncertain of the aims of the USSR in the area and feared that it wanted to obtain access for its navy to the Arabian Sea
  • Carter sent a US force to the Arabian Sea to protect the oil routes, stating that the USA would resist any attempt to gain control of the Persian Gulf
  • This is sometimes referred to as the Carter Doctrine because of its similarity to the Truman Doctrine of 1947
  • Trade between the USA and USSR in certain goods such as grain and technology equipment was suspended, and Carter advised the Senate not to ratify SALT II 
  • The Americans and 60 other nations boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics
  • The USA continued to give financial support to the mujahidin and was joined in this by Britain and China
  • The USA was a little disappointed by the support it received from Europe
  • The British government did not ban its athletes from going to the Olympics, but allowed individuals to decide for themselves (though they did not participate in the Opening Ceremony and on winning medals, played the Olympic anthem instead of "God Save the Queen"
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Events of the War

  • The Soviets quickly captured the airport at Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan
  • This enabled troops to be airlifted into Afghanistan
  • President Amin was assassinated and replaced by Babrak Karmal, who set up a new communist government 
  • All this was before the end of 1979
  • The problem for the Soviets was that their invasion led to more open warfare and increased nationalist feeling in Afghanistan
  • The early fighting was in the open and the Soviet troops were able to occupy many towns, but the mujahidin remained in control of the countryside (almost 80% of Afghanistan)
  • Although the USSR had total control of the air and possessed superior weapons, the rebels managed to resist them
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The mujahidin

  • The key to the fighting in Afghanistan was the geography of the country and the nature of the mujahidin
  • Afghanistan is a mountainous, arid country and the mujahidin were fighting a jihad (holy war) to protect their country and religion against a foreign invader and what they regarded as an atheistic culture (they wanted to set up a Muslim state)
  • They used to geography of Afghanistan to fight a guerrilla war against the Soviets
  • The Soviets had received no training in how to combat this type of fighting
  • The mujahidin attacked Soviet supply routes and disappeared into the mountains
  • Opposition to the USSR was spread throughout the whole of Afghanistan, so there was no real centre where the Soviets could attack
  • As in Vietnam, it was difficult to eliminate this type of opposition as the mujahidin were supported by most of the population, who often housed them
  • This led to the Soviets bombing villages and destroying homes, farms and families, resulting in hardship and starvation
  • However, these tactics did not get rid of the opposition - Soviet troops launched nine offensives between 1980 and 1985, with little success
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Reagan and the renewal of the Cold War

  • The Soviets boycotted the 1984 LA Olympic Games, claiming that they had concerns about the safety of their athletes in such a hostile environment 
  • The boycott was supported by 14 East European communist states
  • When Reagan became President in 1981, there was a further deterioration in the relationship between the USA and the USSR (the renewal of the Cold War) 
  • Reagan's presidency was off to a good start when American hostages who had been detained in Iran were released
  • March 1981 - an attempt to assassinate him failed and his courage and humour in his recovery made him more popular
  • He had been elected due to his promise of a hard-line approach to Communism 
  • He promised the American people "peace through strength"
  • Reagan had a close ally in Margaret Thatcher, and in a speech to the British parliament in June 1982, he condemned Communism as evil and followed this up in March 1983 with a speech in the USA often known as the "Evil Empire" speech
  • He called Communism and the USSR "the focus of evil in the modern world"
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Reagan and Arms

  • Reagan gained extra funding from the US Congress for the increased spending on arms that he was planning
  • He appears to have decided that the best way to defeat the USSR was to get so far ahead of them that they had to give in and end the Cold War
  • Some of the measures he took were designed to threaten the USSR; other was to protect the USA
  • There was a massive increase in military spending: $325 billion in 1980 to $456 billion in 1987
  • Re-started the development of the neutron bomb in 1981 - this could kill armoured soldiers by radiation, but would not destroy the buildings and contaminate land
  • Invested funds in the building of two bombers: one a more traditional type and another called the "stealth bomber", which could avoid a country's defences
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Reagan and Arms 2

  • Speeded up the development of the Peacekeeper missiles, which were more accurate
  • Installed Cruise missiles in Europe in 1983, which would take 10 minutes to reach the USSR
  • Announced the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI, known as "Star Wars") in 1983 - this was a defence shield that used laser technology to intercept and destroy incoming missiles
  • Assisted the mujahidin in the fight in Afghanistan by providing them with money and arms
  • Several politicians saw it as Soviet Vietnam and were determined to make things difficult more the USSR there, in the hopes of exhausting the Soviet economy
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Solidarity in Poland

  • The formation of the first independent trade union in Poland, Solidarity, had its roots in the poor standard of life of people in Poland in the 1970s - a series of price increases led to strikes and marches that resulted in the deaths of ordinary workers
  • Further price rises and shortages of basic food such as bread caused more disaffection with the communist government in 1976
  • In 1978 Pope John Paul II, a Polish Cardinal, was elected Pope and visited Poland a year later
  • Communist governments normally try to get rid of Christianity but this proved to be difficult in Poland because of the strength of the Roman Catholic faith there
  • The support of the Pope and Church of Solidarity encouraged them to challenge the communist government in an attempt to raise the standard of living of the people
  • The Polish population was becoming more aware that their standard of life was a long way behind that of workers in the West
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Solidarity in Poland 2

  • Opposition showed itself in the Gdansk shipyard in 1980 - two popular workers (one of whom was Lech Walesa, an outspoken electrician) had been dismissed by the authorities
  • Then the government raised the price of meat and allowed no wage increases
  • The workers in Gdansk refused to work and locked themselves into the shipyard in protest
  • Lech Walesa became their leader and they put forward 21 demands including the right to form independent trade unions, the end of censorship, more freedom for the Church and improvements in the national health system
  • In spite of censorship, news of the strike spread throughout Poland
  • Strikes in other ports led to the shutdown of factories
  • In the Gdansk Agreement, the government agreed to accept the 21 demands
  • Solidarity, under the leadership of Lech Walesa, was recognised by the Polish government
  • Its membership totalled over 9 million in 1981
  • People joined Solidarity because they trusted it to improve their lives in general
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Solidarity in Poland 3

  • Initially, working conditions improved, not only in Poland but also in the West
  • Lech Walesa was seen as a folk hero in Poland and became an international figure
  • However, divisions began to surface within the trade union
  • Walesa had always been careful not to challenge the authority of the USSR
  • He saw Solidarity as an organisation to improve working and living conditions for its members, not a political movement - he preferred negotiation with the government
  • In 1981 there were food shortages in Poland
  • Groups within Solidarity thought Walesa was not going far enough and the USSR began to fear that Solidarity was beginning to act as a political party
  • The USSR was involved in Afghanistan and realised the popularity of Solidarity and Walesa in Europe
  • This forced the Polish government to take action to prevent the break-up of Poland and a gap appearing in the Warsaw Pact
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Solidarity in Poland 4

  • The new Polish leader, General Jaruzelski, declared martial law in Poland
  • Overnight, 5000 members of Solidarity were arrested, including Walesa
  • Strikes were dealt with by riot police, resulting in arrests and sometimes death
  • In 1982 Solidarity was declared illegal
  • It continued as an underground movement with its own secret radio station and publications supported by the West, which kept its ideas alive
  • Walesa was released in November 1982 and martial law was lifted om July 1983
  • Food rationing remained, and the West placed trade sanctions on Poland in 1983 to show its support of Solidarity and its opposition to the Polish government
  • This made the economic situation worse
  • Unrest continued and members of Solidarity were victimised when they were released from prison 
  • In 1984 a popular priest, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, was murdered by the secret police 
  • Lech Walesa's status as a world figure increased in July 1983 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize, but he was not allowed to leave the country to receive it 
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Mikhail Gorbachev

  • In the early 1980s the leaders of the USSR suffered from ill health
  • Brezhnev was ill for some time before his death in 1982
  • He was succeeded by Andropov, who ruled until his death in 1984, and Chernenko, who died in 1985
  • Both these leaders had recognised the talent of Mikhail Gorbachev and advanced his political career - many had expected him to succeed Andropov but he was overlooked
  • However, his opportunity to improve the Soviet Union came in 1985
  • Although he was the youngest member of the Politburo, Gorbachev succeeded Chernenko as General Secretary of the Communist Party and therefore leader of the USSR
  • He became the first leader of the communist USSR to have been born after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917
  • Gorbachev had a reputation of opposing corruption and was more open to reform than previous Soviet leaders, but the problems facing him were many
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Problems in the USSR

  • By 1985 the USSR was involved in a costly war with Afghanistan and the economy was stagnating
  • Trade and industry were still organised as in the days of Stalin before WW2 and, as a result, output was falling and the quality of goods were poor, particularly consumer goods
  • The communist system guaranteed everyone a home and a job and the people of the USSR were becoming slipshod in their approach to work
  • In earlier days, they had worked hard through fear of, or devotion to, the state
  • By the 1980s, the fear factor no longer existed and the workers were losing faith in the state
  • This meant that they had no incentive to work hard
  • The USSR could not keep up with the West in the new technological industries
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More problems in the USSR

  • Many people in the USSR would have liked to have seen change, but the strict control of the Communist Party prevented this
  • As a result, people began to lose faith in the government, which was often seen as corrupt and lacking in ideas
  • The workforce had become disillusioned and depressed and many resorted to drink
  • Alcoholism became a major problem and this led to absenteeism from work and growing crime, contributing to the decline of the economy
  • At the same time, the USSR was involved in a costly arms race with the USA - a cost it could not afford
  • Gorbachev realised that reform was needed urgently if the USSR was to remain a force in the world
  • At the same time, although he realised that the need for reform was urgent, he also realised that he would have to move cautiously in case he upset party members who were loyal to Stalin's idea of Communism and did not want to see any changes
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Glasnost and perestroika

  • Gorbachev first tried to tackle the problem of alcoholism in the USSR
  • The price of alcoholic drinks, especially spirits, was raised, drinking in public places was forbidden and scenes of drinking were cut from films
  • His reforms did little to reduce the problem
  • Further upset came with the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, which appeared to show the weaknesses of Soviet industry to the world
  • It resulted in radioactive fallout that contaminated widespread areas
  • Many blamed Gorbachev for it, but in fact it proved the need for reform
  • His main policies were those to reform the Soviet economy, introduced in 1986
  • These were originally known as the "policy of acceleration" but become better known as glasnost and perestroika
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  • Glasnost means "openness"; perestroika means "reform"
  • They including policies that were similar to Dubcek's "Communism with a human face", which had been suppressed in Czechoslovakia by the Soviet army in 1968
  • Gorbachev described perestroika as a means of overcoming the process of stagnation by accelerating the economic progress of the USSR
  • It was not an attempt by Gorbachev to end Communism; it was an attempt to get rid of the inefficiency of the Soviet economy
  • Perestroika involved the introduction of private profit and competition in industry
  • With these incentives, he hoped that the Soviet economy would quickly recover
  • Many private cooperatives were set up and some of the huge state industries were split up into several private companies, which were all encouraged to acquire foreign investments to strengthen them
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  • Glasnost is the name given to Gorbachev's method of trying to eliminate corruption in government, including an increase in free speech and a reduction in censorship
  • Criticism of the government was allowed and opponents of the government were permitted to return and resume their opposition in the open
  • Those returned included the scientist Sakharov, who had been exiled from Moscow in 1980
  • Non-communists were allowed to stand for election
  • Gorbachev was trying to encourage open debate and make the people feel that they had a share in making the decisions and in this way help to restore their faith in the government
  • This freedom of information led to many of the brutalities of previous leaders being made known and the Soviet people were made more aware of the reality of their past
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Gorbachev and Reagan

  • Gorbachev realised that the USSR could not keep up with the number of weapons being built by the USA and the cost was a drain on the Soviet economy
  • Therefore, he announced that he would reduce Soviet spending on arms
  • It appeared to the Americans that here was a Soviet leader with a difference: one with whom they felt it would be possible to reach an agreement
  • Encouraged by Margaret Thatcher, who claimed "I like Mr Gorbachev, we can do business together", Reagan began to realise that Gorbachev was trying to change Soviet attitudes to the Cold War and started to change his own views
  • Meeting Gorbachev in Geneva in 1985, Reagan did not attack the "Evil Empire"
  • Instead, he tried to convince Gorbachev that it was in the interests of both countries to negotiate and reach arrangements
  • This first meeting spawned more which eventually produced a reduction in nukes
  • Reagan met Gorbachev in Iceland in 1986, and in 1987 Gorbachev was given a warm reception by the American public when he visited the USA
  • The two powers signed the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, in which all medium-range nuclear missiles were banned, and Reagan agreed to stop work on the "Star Wars" project - confirmed in 1988 when Reagan visited Moscow
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Gorbachev and the war in Afghanistan

  • The war in Afghanistan which Gorbachev had inherited was another drain on the finances of the USSR
  • He realised that if his economic reforms were to succeed, he needed to reduce spending on arms and on the war in Afghanistan
  • The communist government set up by the Soviets in Afghanistan was unable to gain the trust of the people and there appeared to be no hope of victory
  • The Soviet army was affected by disease and unable to cope with the guerrilla tactics of the mujahidin
  • The war remained unpopular abroad and Gorbachev wanted to give a better image of the USSR to the USA in particular
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Soviet tactics in Afghanistan

  • Soviet tactics in Afghanistan changed in 1986
  • They became far more defensive and there were few major offensives
  • The USSR concentrated mostly on using the air, but the USA supplied the mujahidin with anti-aircraft weapons from 1987 and these led to further Soviet losses of lives and equipment
  • Gorbachev announced that he was beginning the withdrawal of troops in 1986, but the first withdrawals were replaced
  • It was not until February 1988 that he announced the full withdrawal of the USSR from Afghanistan - this was completed in 1989
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The effects of war in Afghanistan

  • Around 15,000 Soviet troops were killed, with over half a million casualties
  • The USSR lost much heavy equipment including planes, tanks and armoured vehicles
  • The enormous expense crippled the Soviet economy
  • The war proved that the Red Army was not invincible, so it could no longer be relied on to keep the Soviet Empire together
  • Questions would be asked in the USSR regarding the huge cost of maintaining an armed force that could not defeat the Afghans
  • The effect on army and economy contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe
  • Over 1 million Afghans died, including children killed by Soviet mines
  • This increased the Afghans' hatred of foreigners
  • The Soviet withdrawal did not end the war: the civil war continued until 1992 when the mujahidin captured Kabul from the communist government
  • Afghanistan became a centre for terrorist activity
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Gorbachev and Eastern Europe

  • The situation in Eastern Europe was similar to that in the USSR
  • Poor living standards and shortages of food led to criticism of the communist leaders
  • Gorbachev's changes in the USSR brought more demands from the people in the satellite states
  • They wanted glasnost and perestroika to exist in their countries, and so did Gorbachev
  • The problem was the communist rulers of the states of Eastern Europe
  • Most of them were old and steeped in the doctrines of Communism
  • They were afraid of change and uncertain that Gorbachev's reforms would work
  • They feared that reforms like glasnost and perestroika might lead to popular risings, which could threaten the government and their position of authority
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Gorbachev and Eastern Europe 2

  • Gorbachev realised that the Soviet economy could no longer support the governments of Eastern Europe
  • Moreover,a relaxation of control over Eastern Europe would help his aim to improve relations with the USA
  • It would also make the USSR more attractive to foreign investment, which Gorbachev realised was needed to bring about economic recovery
  • In 1988 he abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine and in 1989 the leaders of the communist states in Eastern Europe were informed that they could no longer rely on the Red Army to support them
  • This meant that there could be no repeat of what had happened in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968
  • The rulers of Eastern Europe would have to relax their rule and listen to the demands of their people
  • This led to great changes
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  • Although Solidarity had been illegal since 1981, it continued to oppose Jaruzelski's communist government throughout the 1980s
  • Lech Walesa remained an international figure and organised strikes for better working conditions
  • Influenced by Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR and under pressure from strikes, the Polish government entered talks with Walesa in September 1988
  • This resulted in partially free elections
  • Walesa's party won all the seats that were open to them
  • Even though the communists were guaranteed victory in many seats as no other party was allowed to stand for election in them, they failed to win a majority
  • Jaruzelski tried to persuade Walesa to form a coalition with the communists, but Walesa refused
  • At the end of 1989 the first non-communist government in the former Soviet satellite states was set up in Poland, although the country was still communist in name
  • In December 1990 Jaruzelski resigned and Lech Walesa became President 
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  • The changes in Hungary were achieved more smoothly than in other countries
  • From 1956 to 1988, Hungary had been ruled by Kadar, until he was forced to resign through ill health which led to his death in 1989
  • Kadar had gained some measure of independence for Hungary from the USSR
    He carried out reforms to the economy, and they began trading with the West
  • However, Kadar remained a loyal supporter of the Warsaw Pact: the Hungarian army took part in putting down the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia in 1968
  • Kadar's successors allowed a peaceful change from Communism to democracy 
  • The reformers in the Communist Party were admitted to the government after Kadar's resignation and measure similar to Glasnost were introduced in Hungary
  • The rising of 1956 began to be referred to as a "popular uprising" and in June 1989 Nagy's body, which had been buried in an unmarked grave in 1956, was given a public reburial, attended by between 50,000 and 100,000 
  • The first break in the Iron Curtain occurred in August when Hungary opened its border with democratic Austria - in October, the Communist Party allowed other parties to stand for election and in 1990 the Hungarian Republic was declared and free parliamentary elections held - the last Soviet troops left Hungary in 1991 
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  • After the Prague Spring of 1968, Czechoslovakia was ruled by Husak
  • His rule was less harsh than that of many other Eastern European rulers and Czechoslovakia underwent some reform, but the hated secret police still existed and threatened the freedom of the people
  • Many of the opponents of Communism emigrated to the West and opposition within the country was limited to small groups
  • In March 1987 the communist government of Czechoslovakia announced that it was committed to reforms similar to those of Gorbachev in the USSR
  • Although stating publicly that he supported the changes, Husak was not fully committed to glasnost and perestroika 
  • Progress with these reforms were slow, which led to a series of demonstrations in the main cities of Prague and Bratislava in 1988 and 1989
  • In November 1989 the police used violence to break up a demonstration in favour of democracy
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Czechoslovakia 2

  • The demand for reform and the violence of the police led to the formation of a group claiming for change, led by Havel
  • Havel was a writer who had criticised the government since the Prague Spring of 1968
  • Under the communists, he had served multiple sentences in prison for his opposition, the longest being a sentence of about 4 years
  • In 1989, Havel was supported by Dubcek, the leader responsible for the Prague Spring reforms in 1968
  • The unpopularity of the government and the demands of the USSR for reform resulted in a speedy collapse of the communists in Czechoslovakia in what was known as the Velvet Revolution
  • Faced with growing opposition, Husak resigned and Havel was elected President on 29th December 1989
  • Dubcek became Chairman ("Speaker") of the Parliament
  • Free elections were held in 1990, resulting in a mass victory for the parties supporting democracy
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East Germany

  • The leader, Honecker, refused to put Gorbachev's reforms into effect
  • Thousands of East Germans took advantage of Hungary opening its border with the West and fled to the West through Hungary
  • Others showed their opposition with demonstrations and protest marches
  • Gorbachev visited the country and urged the communist government to carry out reforms, but Honecker refused
  • On 18th October 1989 Honecker was forced to step down as leader and was replaced by Krenz - an attempt by the government to get rid of the opposition that failed
  • Rallies in favour of democracy were held and East Germans continued to move to West Germany through Hungary and Czechoslovakia
  • The communist government resigned on 7th November and on 9th November the border with West Germany was opened - in Berlin, crowds marched to the Berlin Wall and began pulling it down - the Brandenburg Gate was opened on 22nd December and free elections were held in East Germany on 18th March 1990
  • 3rd October 1990: East and West Germany were once again united
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The end of the Cold War

  • The beginning of the end of the Cold War was at the Summit Meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1986 when President Gorbachev proposed enormous reductions in the number of nuclear weapons held by the USA and the USSR
  • Although this approach failed, the move to disarmament was confirmed in the Washington Treaty signed at the end of 1987
  • Gorbachev's reforms in the USSR and the movement to increased democracy in Eastern Europe did much to further improve relations 
  • The collapse of the Berlin Wall meant the end of the Iron Curtain
  • Shortly after this, the leaders of the two superpowers met at a Summit Meeting held in Malta at the beginning of December 1989
  • It was the first Summit Meeting for the George H.W. Bush, who had been Reagan's Vice President and then replaced him as President in 1989
  • Although no agreements were actually signed at the Summit, after the meeting Gorbachev and Bush made statements that are often regarded as the end of the Cold War
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The collapse of the USSR

  • Gorbachev had been praised in the West for the part he played in ending the Cold War and reforming the USSR, however, he was less popular in the USSR
  • Although his new policies were greeted enthusiastically, his popularity was soon reduced
  • His economic policies failed because because the old structures of the USSR acted against them
  • Food shortages remained, resulting in rationing of some goods
  • Gorbachev probably thought that Communism would be reformed by his policies; he did not expect it to collapse
  • Many communists considered that Gorbachev had betrayed the movement and saw the end of Soviet reforms, such as Boris Yeltsin, who had been promoted within the party by Gorbachev, thought that Gorbachev was moving too slowly
  • They wanted more political democracy and more power passed to the separate republics that made up the USSR
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The collapse of the USSR 2

  • Gorbachev's own views on reform added to his problems
  • His policy of glasnost meant that the criticism became public
  • The removal of censorship led to the media commenting on the weaknesses of the Soviet economy
  • For over half a century, the Soviet people had only been given positive news by the media; now the removal of communist control of the media meant that they were receiving negative reports
  • They began to lose all faith and trust in their political system
  • The movement to greater independence in Eastern Europe also affected the individual states of the USSR, which began to demand more freedom and independence from the USSR 
  • Gorbachev was faced with demonstrations all over the USSR from people who wanted further reform and independence
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Yeltsin becomes President of the Russian Federatio

  • Yeltsin had been dismissed from the Politburo by Gorbachev, but in 1990 he was elected Chairman of the Russian Parliament
  • In June 1991 Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Republic, defeating Gorbachev's preferred candidate
  • In August 1991 extreme communists opposed to Gorbachev rebelled against him and tried to seize power
  • Gorbachev was placed under house arrest, but Yeltsin rallied the people and stood up to the rebels
  • Yeltsin's action caused the coup to collapse
  • Gorbachev returned to power, but his position was weakened
  • With demands for independence coming from its member states, including Ukraine which voted for independence from the USSR in December 1991, the USSR was collapsing
  • 25th December 1991 - Gorbachev resigned and the USSR was formally dissolved the next day - Boris Yeltsin became the President of the Russian Federation, which replaced the USSR in the UN
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