The Collapse of the Soviet Union

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The Collapse of the Soviet Union

The period between the year 1953 and the year 1985 was a time when the Soviet Union was instated by the death of Joseph Stalin. Many of the elite groups knew that the Soviet economy was in great trouble and when Gorbachev headed the Communist Party in 1985, he began by reforming the structure of USSR. He assumed that the system only needed a few reforms to promote economic growth to allow modernization. However, the decision was a failure since after two years Gorbachev discovered that deeper structural reformations were needed. Gorbachev said that we are “tacking the budget” (The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev1991, p. 4). The source is highly credible and gives real experiences of Gorbachev at the time. The reforms by the Gorbachev did not bring about desirable effects enough to bring improvements to the stability of USSR (Cohen, 2004, p. 462). The system Gorbachev inherited from the previous regime was already weak and therefore the failure of USSR was predetermined.

The Formation and Decline of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was formed under the leadership of Vladimire who led the communists to power during the Russian Revolution in 1917 but the Red Army that was formed was in confusion. The Soviet Union pulled out of the WWI giving up most of its areas in Ukraine and Belarus after a peace with Germany. Some people considered as the opponents of Communism were against the union leading to civil war until 1922 and by the time the Second World War began the Soviet military was unprepared. In the latter years, leaders such as Nikita Khrushchev ad Leonid Brezhnev could not consolidate power (Brezhnev’s Epoch). Brezhnev led the Soviet government into implementing decentralized market-based reforms. These aimed at the improvement of the economic growth of the Soviet Union. The reforms were successful at the beginning but became disastrous during the 1970s (Lüthi, 2010). The Soviet Union experienced a period of economic stagnation because of the Soviet bureaucracy and failures in central planning. Brezhnev regime failed to start reforms that would help in uplifting the economy of the Soviet Union in the 1970s (Beissinger, 2002). This left the Soviet Union at its weak points thus unprepared for the current challenges resulting in ultimate death of the union.

The Failure of Nikita Khrushchev

Under Nikita Khrushchev, there was opposition from the conservative faction under the leadership of the Communist Party secretary, Frol Kolov between 1960 and 1963 (Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev (1994, p. 4). His promotion partially resulted from his advocacy for a program that increased food production. New land was to produce over eighteen million tons of grains that were to be marketed (Lipford, 2004, p. 453). The program, however, resulted in failures in the virgin land due to mismanagement. Many of the natural lands were located where millions of acres were not planted despite being ploughed (Medvedev, Medvedev and Medvedev, 1978, p. 145). Additionally, some of the seeds that had been planted were not harvested while also some grains that had been cut were not thrashed because they were wet thus could not be stored. The grains that were stored also went bad because they had not dried thoroughly. His failure, therefore, resulted from mismanagement as well as the misallocation of resources (Kotkin, 2008). Kotkin’s work is credible and gives reliable information on the failure of Khruchchev. The leadership of Khrushchev saw the end of the political use of terror (Borjas and Doran, 2012, p. 143). The rigid economic command that had been created by Sterling during the 1930s could not be sustained by the rapid changes that occurred in technology.

The Influence of Andropov and Chernenko

Andropov and Chernenko's short-term rule also pre-determined the collapse of the USSR as they also failed to bring reforms to help the union to reemerge. The USSR Involvement in the Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan also resulted in poor relations with other nations. The central committee wanted more openness in governance “comrades and popular bases call increasingly for more information about the proceedings of the Central Committee” (Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia …, 1977). The evidence is convincing since it elaborates the challenges that the leader faced during this time. Thus, the union could not acquire international help that would help it rise above its challenges (Brown, 2009). I have used in this study are credible and reliable since most of them are primary documentations of the events.


The inheritance of Gorbachev was more damaging than his reforms for the future. His reign in the Soviet Union saw the collapse of USSR because he could not come up with reforms to curb the problems that the union was already going through. Additionally, economic stagnation had taken over the Soviet Union making it difficult to raise the union from its existing conditions. All these factors resulted in the collapse of the USSR.


Beissinger, M.R., 2002. Nationalist mobilization and the collapse of the Soviet State. Cambridge University Press.

Brezhnev’s Epoch

Borjas, G.J. and Doran, K.B., 2012. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the productivity of American mathematicians. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 127(3), pp.1143-1203.

Brown, A., 2009. The rise and fall of communism. Random House Digital, Inc..

Cohen, S.F., 2004. Was the Soviet system reformable?. Slavic Review, 63(3), pp.459-488.

Kotkin, S., 2008. Armageddon averted: The Soviet collapse, 1970-2000. Oxford University Press.

Lipford, Jody.  2004. Armageddon Averted: The Soviet Collapse, 1970–2000. Pp 453-456.

Lüthi, L.M., 2010. The Sino-Soviet split: Cold War in the communist world. Princeton University Press.

Medvedev, R.A., Medvedev, R.A. and Medvedev, Z.A., 1978. Khrushchev, the Years in Power (No. 879). WW Norton & Company.

Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Primary Sources: Major Events: Cuban Missile Crisis.

Mueller, W., 2018. Eduard Shevardnadze, Anatoly Chernyaev, and German reunification: The role of secondary political actors in ending the Cold War. In New Perspectives on the End of the Cold War (pp. 69-91). Routledge.

Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia Wilson Center Digital Archive, 1977.

The Diary of Anatoly Chernyaev (1972-1991).,%201991.pdf

Zubok, V.M., 2009. A failed empire: the Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev. Univ of North Carolina Press.

November 13, 2023

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