How would you account for the collapse of Communist Rule in the former Soviet Union?

Essay by sileas451University, Bachelor'sD+, April 2004

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There are many factors which shaped the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and consequently the Communist regime that ruled it. Although, under the leadership of Stalin, the USSR emerged as a monolithic superpower, it can be argued that it never attained stability throughout the course of its existance. The rudimentary socialist principles by which it was founded manifested an opposition to the competition that capitalism encompassed. Yet under Stalin the Cold War emerged ensuring that the fundamental aims of the USSR was to make sure that the United States did not lead as the world's greatest superpower. Thus, although the economy had been damaged in World War II, the emphasis was on the development of heavy industry, neglecting areas such as agriculture and consumer goods. So from the very beginning the economical balance of the Soviet Union was unsteady. Since Stalin's successors, namely Khruschev and Brezhnev eschewed radical policies concerning the economy, the end result was its stagnation.

It was namely the struggling economy that accounted for the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet it was the drastic changes introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev that was the final, most significant factor in the downfall of the USSR. Domestic policy under Gorbachev was conducted principally under three programs: Perestroika, Glasnost and demokratizatsiya, meaning 'rebuilding', 'public-voicing' and 'democratization' respectively. These reforms created bifurcations within the government, and did not have the desired effect that Gorbachev had hoped for.

Although the end of World War II resulted in the Soviet Union materializing as the prime postwar threat to the West, it also damaged the economy greatly, with almost a quarter of the country's capital resources destroyed. As the Cold War unfolded, the Soviet Union felt themselves under enormous pressure to compete with the United States for title as the world superpower. As a...