The Soviet Union had been administered for the past 70 years through a tight control on information. Gorbachev's policy of openness threw open the floodgates. The Soviet people had been kept on a tight leash through tight control on information and "fear" by an oppressive government. (Kedzie, 1997) the lifting of the fear factor did not result in, as Gorbachev had hoped, improvement in the social and economic conditions within the existing system. When the ordinary people found more out about the outside world and their own history, they chose to ignore "perestroika" altogether and opted instead to change the system itself. To make matters worse, all that Gorbachev's "reforms" managed to do was to disrupt the operations of the existing planned economy, provoking a further slowdown in growth leading to widespread shortages of consumer goods. (Moorewood, 1998)
Nationalism in the Soviet bloc's satellites such as East Germany, Poland, Hungary, Romania et al. As well as the Soviet Union's own republics had been simmering under the surface for a long time. When Gorbachev himself declared that the Soviet Union would not interfere in the internal affairs of the Eastern European countries and encouraged their 'puppet' Communist regimes to follow their own 'glasnost' and 'perestroika' the final nail was driven in the coffin of the Soviet Union. Initially, popular national movements erupted in the Soviet satellite states leading to the overthrow of their Communist regimes. Russian nationalism itself raised its head under the leadership of Boris Yeltsen wanting a separate Russian state. The Soviet republics in the Baltic, European USSR and the Central Asia, perhaps left with no alternative, declared their own independence. By the end of 1991, the Soviet Union no longer existed.
The End of the Cold War." (2003). Article in Encyclopedia Britannica, 2003
Lovell, Tom. The Fall of the Soviet Union: Why's and Wherefores. The Raleigh Tavern Philosophical Society. Retrieved on November 23, 2004 from http://www.raleightavern.org/lovell.htm www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=5001372407
Morewood, S. (1998). "Gorbachev and the Collapse of Communism." History Review, (31), 33+.
Kedzie, Christopher R.(1997). "Communication and Democracy: Coincident Revolutions and the Emergent Dictator's Dilemma." A Rand Publication. Retrieved on November 23, 2004 at http://www.rand.org/publications/RGSD/RGSD127/sec2.html www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=36413118
Strayer, R. (1998). Why Did the Soviet Union Collapse? Understanding Historical Change. Armonk, NY M.E. Sharpe.
Collapse of the Soviet Union: Outline of the Paper
The Collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a pivotal event of the 20th century. Some of the key reasons for the collapse are outlined below:
Some commentators contend that the Soviet Union was doomed to fail from the start as its basic ideology was flawed and ran counter to human nature. The utopian attempt at creating a state of abundance and equality was unrealistic and unsustainable. Created through coercion and ideological illusion, the state was like a "pack of cards" waiting to fall. That is why its end came so suddenly.
Weakness of the Economy
The Soviet economy, despite its initial gains and rapid industrialization, suffered a sustained downturn from the 1970s onwards. The weakness was exploited by the United States by using its international clout, e.g., by persuading the Saudis to lower the price of oil and the Europeans to withdraw their support in building a crucial gas pipeline from Siberia. In the end, the Soviets could not compete with the U.S. In an expensive arms race and was bankrupted.
Gorbachev attempted to reform the Soviet society and the economy through 'openness' and 'restructuring.' His reforms, however, backfired badly as the opening up unleashed the long-suppressed forces that became uncontrollable.
The dormant nationalism in the Soviet satellite states as well as the Soviet republics (including Russia itself) also raised its head when controls were loosened. Nationalist movements in these states were successful in breaking free from the Communist control and went their own ways.
Author of the Soviet Tragedy (1994, New York: Free Press)
The Soviet annual economic growth declined progressively, from a respectable 5% in the 1960s to 3% in the 1970s to 2% or less in the early 1980s
It is interesting to note that while Gorbachev's standing remains high abroad, he is held in contempt by communists, democrats and nationalists alike in the former USSR (he polled a paltry one per cent of the vote in the 1996 presidential elections) -- (Moorehead, 1998)