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Intro

This section covers the Gorbachev era from 1985 to 1991. We will be asking why the Soviet system collapsed in these years - was it dismantled from above or overthrown from below? We will be examining the role of Gorbachev and his reforms - perestroika and glasnost - in the democratic movement in the USSR and Eastern Europe, and asking how far he had wanted them to go in bringing down the Leninist system? At what point did he cease to be a Leninist? You will find some answers to these questions in this section, which contains extracts of my books, photographs and videos, and a further reading list. Register here to get information on accessing more materials including my responses to exam questions on these themes.

Collapse of Communism, Dzerzhinsky statue, Lubianka Square, Moscow 1991

Toppling the statue of Dzerzhinsky from Lubianka Square, Moscow


Causes of the Soviet Collapse

Nobody expected the Soviet regime to end so suddenly. Most revolutions die with a whimper rather than a bang. Read more...

Gorbachev and the Origins of His Reforms

There comes a moment in every old regime when people start to say: 'We cannot go on living like this any more.' Read more...

Perestroika and Glasnost

Gorbachev began with a model of reform close to Andropov's with its emphasis on improving workplace discipline and accelerating economic growth. Read more...

The Party Splits

Challenged by the democratic forces of society, the one-party state began to crumble from the inside as radical reformers within the system made their sympathies for the opposition known. Read more...

The Soviet Empire Collapses

Without the military support of Moscow, the Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe collapsed easily under pressure from below. Read more...

Nationalism in the Soviet Union

The East European revolutions added fuel to nationalist movements in the Soviet Union. Read more...

The August Coup and the Collapse of the Soviet regime

On 18 August a delegation of conspirators flew to Foros to demand the declaration of a state of emergency, and when Gorbachev refused their ultimatum, placed him under house arrest. Read more...

Gorbachev's Achievement

Although society had been activated and politicized by Gorbachev's reforms, it was not through its efforts that the Soviet regime was brought down. Read more...

Q & A

Here are some exam-like questions. Read more...

Podcast

A recording of a lecture/class about these themes using primary documents. Read more...

Further Reading

A list of further reading. Read more...

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