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 >
Joseph Stalin was the de-facto ruler and dictator of the Soviet Union between 1924 and 1953, leading the country through World War II and overseeing a modernization of Russia's industry. Stalin's rule is marked with forced rapid industrialization as well as immense human suffering and death.Full Answer >
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13-day stalemate between the United States and the Soviet Union due to the building of nuclear arms in Cuba by the Soviet Union. The crisis occurred in October of 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a part of the Cold War.Full Answer >