The collapse of the Soviet Union is inextricably tied to the reformist policies of the then-General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev came to power in a single-party, multi-ethnic state that ruled a network of satellite countries by force and coercion. By weakening Soviet mechanisms for maintaining power, Gorbachev's reforms undermined the ability of the state to hold onto its possessions and stave off internal challenges.Know More
The proximate cause of the Soviet collapse was the attempt, on Aug. 19, 1991, to overthrow Gorbachev and install a new regime of Communist hardliners. The coup was likely timed to prevent the ratification of a treaty that would have converted the Soviet Union into a European Union-style confederation with less centralized authority. The coup attempt was thwarted when loyal units of the Soviet army, responding to the orders of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, refused to fire on protesters at the Kremlin.
In the months following the abortive coup, one republic after another declared independence from the central government in Moscow, where Gorbachev's authority was weaker than ever. The end came on Dec. 21, when 11 of the 12 republics, excluding Georgia, signed the Alma-Alta Protocol, which recognized the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The delegates at the meeting also accepted Gorbachev's resignation, which had not been offered yet. On Dec. 26, the Soviet Council of Republics voted itself out of existence, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist.Learn more about Cold War
Joseph Stalin's first step into significant power came in 1922, when he became the General Secretary of the Communist Party, a position he held until his death. He was never elected into office and got his power through a series of intelligent maneuvers.Full Answer >
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were a married couple from New York and active members of the Communist Party. They were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage in 1951 and executed by electric chair in 1953.Full Answer >
The Rosenberg trial involved the conviction and execution of a married couple for passing information about nuclear technology to the Soviet Union. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were associated with the American Communist Party, and their alleged actions may have aided the Soviet Union in constructing and testing atom bombs. The trial was controversial due to questionable testimony from the Rosenbergs' alleged accomplices, who were granted reduced sentences for their cooperation.Full Answer >
The Cold War ended when Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union. After taking control of the country in 1985, he set about reforming governmental policies. The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is often viewed as the symbolic end of the Cold War.Full Answer >