Fall of Communism

  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 15:05

Soviet failure in Afghanistan

On 25th December 1979 Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. After the first few months in 1980, Soviet troops controlled the towns with the Mujaheddin controlling the countryside. The Mujaheddin were fighting to get rid of the Soviet troops and to turn Afghanistan into a Muslim state. They were well equipped for the war as China and the USA had given them weapons so the Soviets seemed to be in the same position as the USA had been in Vietnam. The USSR were also struggling to fight in guerrilla warfare; the Mujaheddin attacked Soviet supply routes and shot down helicopters.

The USSR's only key success was in propping up the unpopular communist government in Kabul. There were 125,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan by the early 1980s, yet they still couldn’t defeat the Mujaheddin. In 1982 a massive attack in the Panjahir Valley failed against the Mujaheddin.

When Gorbachev took power in 1985 as the new Soviet leader, he realised that the USSR couldn’t win this war. In 1987 he started talks with the USA and they came to an agreement in 1988 at Geneva. The last Soviet troops left Afghanistan in February 1989. The Soviet war was disastrous for Afghanistan:

  • 3 million Afghan refugees fled to Pakistan or Iran
  • 1 million people died
  • After the departure of the Soviets, fighting continued between rival Afghan groups
  • Afghans who remained suffered from food shortages – war had destroyed farm land

Mikhail Gorbachev

The Soviet leadership was weak in the early 1980s:

  • Brezhnev died in 1982
  • The next leader was Andropov, who died in 1984
  • Chernenko, his successor, died a year later in 1985

Gorbachev became the new Soviet leader in 1985. He was the youngest leader at only 54 to hold power since Stalin. Gorbachev appeared to be open to new ideas and was keen to see progress, both within the Soviet Union and with international relations.

Weaknesses in the Soviet Bloc

The West did not realise this, but the Soviet bloc was on the edge of disaster:

  • The Soviets were spending too much money on the military: the arms race and war in Afghanistan drained the money, around 25% of Soviet GNP was being spent on the military
  • Soviet industry was inefficient: it was still being run along Stalinist lines, but without the fear and terror, the workers weren’t meeting the targets and there was a lot of corruption. Some party officials were making money themselves by selling raw materials on the black market instead of directing it towards the factories. So the quantity and quality of USSR’s industrial output fell
  • They were in debt, due to massive borrowing during détente
  • The Soviet bloc was very polluted due to outdated technology and carelessness: overuse of water for irrigation had caused the Aral Sea to dry up
    • In 1986, a nuclear accident at Chernobyl showed how derelict Soviet industry had become
  • There was also great discontent throughout the Soviet bloc: the low standard of living in comparison to West, food


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