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. [...]
[...] In 1986, Jaruzelski released some of the leaders of Solidarity from prison, and the government introduced some mild economic reforms. However, the economy did not improve, and consumer prices were raised by 25% in 1987 and 60% in 1988 (p. 606). Strikes ensued, and the party decided to appeal to the workers' leaders for help. By December 1988, a “Solidarity ‘Citizens Committee' was formed in Warsaw to plan for full-scale negotiations with the government”, and the government recognized Solidarity as a “negotiating partner” in February 1989 (p. [...]
[...] While Gorbachev realized that Communism was faltering, he was devoted to the ideals of the party. Thus while he wanted to reform the system, he did not want to dismantle it. In order to reform the Soviet system, Gorbachev wanted to focus on the shrinking economy. However, Gorbachev faced a “chicken-egg dilemma” when trying to decide how to best reform the economy: how do could he loosen controls in a Communist system when that very system is based on control, and on the other hand, how could he encourage economic growth and reform without decentralization? [...]
[...] Since the European Community was moving toward a single currency, other members of the Community felt these effects as well (p. 643). Some other consequences of the collapse of the superpower were the environmental problems it left behind. The catastrophe at Chernobyl is just one example of the environmental disasters of the Soviet system. Others include the destruction of the Aral Sea due to a cotton industry in a semi- arid region, the pollution of Lake Baikal, and the dumping of “hundreds of thousands of tons of defunct atomic naval vessels and [...]
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