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The Collapse of the Soviet Union Essay

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The Collapse of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was a global superpower, possessing the largest armed forces on the planet with military bases from Angola in Africa, to Vietnam in South-East Asia, to Cuba in the Americas. When Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, nobody expected than in less than seven years the USSR would disintergrate into fifteen separate states.

Gorbachev's attempt at democratising the totalitarian Soviet system backfired on him as the Soviet republics began to revolt against Moscow's control. This was not a case of economic and political crisis producing liberalisation and democratisation.
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In January 1987, Gorbachev called for demokratizatsiya (democratization) — the infusion of democratic elements such as multicandidate elections into the Soviet political process. In June 1988, at the CPSU's Nineteenth Party Conference, Gorbachev launched radical reforms meant to reduce party control of the government apparatus. In December 1988, the Supreme Soviet approved the formation of a Congress of People's Deputies, which constitutional amendments had established as the Soviet Union's new legislative body.

Abroad, Gorbachev sought to improve relations and trade with the West. On October 11 1986, Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss reducing intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. This led to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in 1987. In February 1988, Gorbachev announced the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, which was completed the following year.

Also during 1988, Gorbachev announced that the Soviet Union would abandon the Brezhnev Doctrine, and allow the Warsaw Pact nations to determine their own internal affairs. He jokingly called his new doctrine the Sinatra Doctrine. This led to the string of revolutions in Eastern Europe throughout 1989 in which communism collapsed. With the exception of Romania, the democratic revolutions were all peaceful
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