The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union

By William E. Watson | Go to book overview

Preface

The essays and documents contained in this volume seek to explain the decline and fall of a superpower and its ruling party. For well over half a century the Soviet Union ( 1917-1991) was one of the most powerful empires in history. At its height, it consisted of 15 national republics spanning 13 time zones. The Soviet Union also possessed an external empire of client states in Europe (through the Warsaw Pact) and a number of overseas clients that were, to one degree or another, dependent on Soviet Communism for their survival. The Communist Party, its general secretary, and its Politburo determined the Soviet Union's political, economic, and military destiny for over seven decades. The reform of the system undertaken by General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev ( 1985-1991) -- perestroika -- was intended to make the Soviet system profitable and popular. However, hard-line party opposition to the reform process led to the unsuccessful coup of August 1991 that hastened the demise of the party and the Soviet Union itself.

The search for ultimate causes of the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union is aided by substantial contemporary source material, written by proponents of reform as well as by opponents. In addition, there has already been considerable contemporary analysis of the event by other historians and political scientists. The narrative overview (Chapter 1) in this volume explains in broad terms the collapse of Communism, through the end of the Soviet government and its replacement by the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Chapters 2-4 explore three important themes discussed in the overview: the evolution of Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika reform policies; the costly Soviet imperial legacy and the 10- year Afghan War; and the rise of nationalism and the breakup of Soviet

-xiii-

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The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • ADVISORY BOARD v
  • Contents vii
  • Series Foreword ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Chronology of Events xv
  • The Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union Explained 1
  • 1 - Narrative Overview 3
  • 2 - The Evolution of Perestroika 19
  • Notes 25
  • 3 - The Brezhnev Doctrine and the Afghan War 26
  • 4 - Nationalism and the End of the Soviet Empire 35
  • Notes 46
  • 5 - Russia after the Collapse of Communism 47
  • Biographies of the Collapse of Communism 57
  • Primary Documents of the Collapse of Communism 85
  • Glossary of Selected Terms 149
  • Annotated Bibliography 157
  • Index 171
  • About the Author *
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