• The Parley Project

The 30th anniversary of the fall of the USSR

Updated: Jan 2

By Harshul Singh

On December 26, 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic was dissolved, which marked the end of seventy-four years-long this power bloc. It's been three decades since its fall which is seen as the result of internal socio-political, economic, and ethnic disintegration within the USSR following General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's effort to revamp the Soviet political and economic system. It is not very complex to understand what went wrong in modernising this anaemic state-controlled economy. Gorbachev launched a stimulating proposal for change, i.e. glasnost (democratic-openness in the administrative process) and perestroika (economic restructuring to make the top-down system more flexible). It is pin-pointing that he inscrutable left the economy as the last priority to be taken care of and started with the union’s democratisation reformation, which surely had a serious reflexive effect - as causation stirring up waves of criticism that undermined his authority and trust within the civilian, and substantially things became shambolic.

On other hand, it was also evident that the Soviet Union could not reform as the system was rigid. And eventually, the markets also foresaw that the Soviet Union could no longer service its debt, which we see as repercussions in shock therapy. But recently Vladislav Zubok, a world-leading expert on the USSR and the Cold War offers a critical reinterpretation of these historical events, declining the notion that the disintegration of the Soviet order was “inevitable”. He puts forth a critical argument that Gorbachev's actions misguided the reforms, deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism in all.

Many reasons apart from economic context are often cited of these bungled reforms. It is conceivable that the Soviet Union outwardly appeared to be a military power with an extensive security apparatus that possessed very little legitimacy. Further, the underlying dismal standards of the organisation system led to its fall and disintegration with the Caucasus region rebelling against Moscow first, joined shortly after by the Baltic countries. On 25 December 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union leader for almost seven years stepped down and He announced his resignation in a 10-minute speech live broadcast. It was soon enough that the Soviet red flag was lowered over the Kremlin and the Russian Federation's tricolour was raised.

If we analyse this scenario in-depth, ​​Gorbachev could have succeeded in securing Soviet republics (though, in the absence of coercion, and eliminating the Baltic states) in what he called a “renewed federation” only if Boris Yeltsin would not have demanded “Russian independence” from the Union itself. It seemed paradoxical for a Russian leader to encourage the disintegration of a Soviet Union that was, in many ways, a Greater Russia. But Yeltsin's main goal was to gain political power and to succeed Gorbachev in the Kremlin, which in substantive became reality. It was a dead cert that Yeltsin's actions would either lead to the disintegration of the Soviet Union or the federal authorities coming down severely on anti-communist activities. As for Gorbachev, who refused to use the coercive power at his disposal, may have been replaced by people who did not have similar reservations.

Nearly thirty years on and many of the former Soviet republics to date remain wary of Russia. The recent aftermath tensions building up at the border between Ukraine and Russia in recent months, and the Russian troops invading Ukraine back in the year 2014 and further annexing the Crimean Peninsula, as well as briefly invading Georgia in the year 2008. Such anticipation is substantial to develop as Russia in one way or the other continues to exert influence, whether being economic, political, or military on almost all of these young independent states.

In the immediate aftermath, the post-soviet space has remained an arena in the continuous transition of polities and restructuring the Western military alliance that has been plunged into new depths in some capacity for the past three decades. The next stage in this process would be to comprehend the current circumstances and Vladimir Putin as Russia's long-standing face. He was able to tap into Russian nationalism and the forging of nationalistic identities, a much more effective force for building unity, according to the lessons he learnt from his predecessors. As a consequence, Putin's Russia is fundamentally more stable as a nation-state. However, it suffers from many of the same issues as the USSR had, including a lack of legitimacy (due to the lack of free and fair elections), unparalleled levels of corruption, stagnant living standards, and, as Putin becomes older, factors like elite infighting becomes a prominent factor. While Russia under him is unlikely to split into quasi-independent states anytime soon, though some might say that it has already entered a long period of instability. But the only uncertainty is what lies ahead on the other side is how severe the next shift will be.


ISACHENKOV, VLADIMIR. “Gorbachev's resignation 30 years ago marked the end of USSR.” ABC News, 25 December 2021


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