The twentieth century opened with Asia and Africa in the coils of European imperialism and Latin America in the economic net of the United States. With guns and trade the center ruled the world periphery. In the periphery two social explosions lit up the coming century: the lightning of the Russian Revolution flashed through the shadows of colonialism; and sparks from the Mexican Revolution soon ignited struggles in tropical countries.
From 1917 to 1921, through revolution and civil war the idealistic Leninists nailed down their political power; then fanatical Stalinists took over to make a social revolution and win a world war. By the 1950s true believer Nikita Khrushchev, promising to bury the West, was shaking up his post-revolutionary nomenklatura with economic reforms. In 1964 aging Leonid Brezhnev initiated a period of growing corruption and stagnation that would finally issue in Mikhail Gorbachev's desperate efforts at renovation. Perestroika attempted to revive the floundering state enterprises by connecting them to the scientific institutes, and glasnost let a flood of light into the darkness of the political system. In 1991 perestroika and glasnost resulted in collapse of the regime. Throughout the century the Russian Revolution had spawned children in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Cuba, and cousins in Ethiopia, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.