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The Collapse of a Superpower

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  1. Introduction
  2. Looking at the economic situation in the USSR
    1. The inability to live up to the dream of the Socialist utopia
  3. The political and military blundering in Afghanistan
  4. Gorbachev and the 'chicken-egg dilemma'
    1. Relaxation of censorship in 1987
  5. The Church's new position of resistance
  6. Gorbachev's policy of non-intervention
  7. Conclusion

After World War I, Communism reigned in Russia, which became known as the Soviet Union (USSR). As Karl Marx said, Communism would only be successful if it occurred as a worldwide revolution; thus by its nature, Communism needed to spread. Therefore, after World War II, the Western Allies, primarily England and the United States, granted the Soviet Union all the territories that it had liberated from the Nazis, which included most of Eastern Europe and parts of Central Europe. Very clear spheres of influence were established: Western Europe was heavily influenced by the United States, and its brand of consumerism; whereas Eastern Europe fell behind the Iron Curtain of Communism. Thus, with the creation of the Warsaw Pact in May 1955, the Soviet Union and its satellite states ?formed an alliance of ?friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance' under a unified command? (Postwar, p. 246). The occupation of the satellite states would last for over forty years, and the Warsaw Pact alliance for more than thirty. However, between 1989 and 1991, Communism in the Soviet Union and its satellites collapsed. Many factors precipitated the fall, including the system's inability to provide for the consumer needs of its citizens, the very expensive arms race with the US, the rise of opposition movements, such as Solidarity, the oil crisis in the 1970s, citizen's loss of faith in a Socialist utopia, and military blunders, such as the invasion of Afghanistan. While all of these factors were significant in the collapse of Communism, the system could not have been demolished if Moscow did not allow it to happen (inadvertently or not). Thus, along with many important economic, cultural, and political factors, Mikhail Gorbachev and his programs of non-intervention, glasnost and perestoika allowed the satellite states to break away from the Soviet Union, which in turn led to destabilization in the heart of the Union itself.

[...] The Soviets were forced to pull out of the regime, in a manner similar to the United States' departure from Vietnam; and this quick departure created a vacuum of power, which eventually led to the rise of extremists in the region. This military and political failure did not bring down the system; however, it did point to severe weaknesses within the regime. As Tony Judt says ?Certainly there was no countervailing authority, no dissident movement?whether in the Soviet Union or its client states?that could have brought it low. [...]

[...] This statement was a renunciation of the Brezhnev Doctrine, which had been issued when the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. Gorbachev was explicitly saying that the Soviet Union would not intervene to ?impose its version of ?Socialism' upon fraternal states?, and therefore, that the citizens of the satellites states could their own way, Socialist or (p. 604). This decision was the impetus for the revolutions that spread across Eastern Europe: knowing that they did not have to fear retribution from Moscow, anti-Communist groups in countries like Poland became serious political entities. [...]

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