Revolutions: The Revolutionary Tradition in the West, 1560-1991

By David Parker | Go to book overview
Save to active project

12

The anti-Communist revolutions in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, 1989 to 1991

Robert V. Daniels


The collapse of Communism and the nature of revolution

Two unforgettable images bracket perceptions of the revolutionary fall of Communism: the opening of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, and Boris Yeltsin standing on a tank in Moscow to defy the hardline coup plotters of August 1991. Between and around these landmark events swirled a storm of defiance and rebellion that brought about one of the most spectacular developments of the twentieth century, when the old political order in the Soviet Union and its bloc of East European satellite countries came to an end. By many standards - the break in governmental continuity, the depth of change, the reversal in dominant public attitudes - this movement was one of the great revolutions of history, as its protagonists, including Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, believed. Yet there are peculiarities about this upheaval - the lack of violence in most places, the centrality of national independence, and the targeting of the Soviet system that was itself the product of revolution in 1917 - that raise the question whether it was a true revolution.

It is important to understand what the Soviet and East European anti-Communist revolutions were actually contending against. ‘Communism’ is often construed as the revolutionary doctrine of Karl Marx, implemented in Russia by Vladimir Lenin to begin a seventy-year ‘utopian experiment’ that ultimately ‘failed’. In reality, the old regime preceding the revolutions of 1989 to 1991 was no longer an experiment, but a post-revolutionary, imperialist dictatorship dressed up in the language of Marxist ideology.

In any case, the events of 1989 to 1991 still invite analysis in the framework of the comparative history of revolution, following as they did the classic Russian revolutionary upheaval of 1917 to 1921, the pragmatic consolidation of the New Economic Policy in the 1920s, and a protracted post-revolutionary dictatorship, ushered in by Stalin’s ‘revolution from above’ of the early 1930s and marked by imperialist expansion after the Second World War. Stalin’s ‘Great Retreat’ back to conservative social and cultural norms in the mid-1930s, along with his purge of most of the

-202-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Revolutions: The Revolutionary Tradition in the West, 1560-1991
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 244

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?