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The Causes Of The Soviet Union's Collapse

1200 words - 5 pages


The Causes of the Soviet Union's Collapse

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union a great deal of debate has ensued as to what caused the Soviet empire's demise both within the former Soviet Union and amongst scholars worldwide. Various theories have been published amongst scholars attempting to explain and pinpoint the flaws in the Soviet system and the forces that drove the Soviet Union to a brisk and catastrophic collapse. Economic weakness is commonly argued to be the cause of the collapse but others argue that political decisions made by Gorbachev and his supporters should bear most of the blame for the collapse. Another subset of scholars argue that the diverse ethnic ...view middle of the document...

In their book The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse Dallin and Lapidus argue that the Soviet economic system was at the heart of the empire's collapse. In Chapter four of their book they describe a Soviet system struggling to survive and provide for its people. According Dallin and Lapidus the Soviet economy was collapsing under the pressure of several economic realities; chief among them were “an accelerating decline in production, worsening inflation, a breakdown in inter-regional trade .” Chronic shortages were also a major issue and according to the authors and were driving dissatisfaction among Soviet consumers. Dallin and Lapidus argue that this breakdown in the economy drove wedges between political leaders and the various Soviet states. With the economy in dire straits political leaders across the Union attempted to protect their national economies from the worst of the shortages so they could placate domestic political constituents. These protectionist policies took the form of Soviet satellite states ignoring the centrally planned targets set by Russia and hording the goods for themselves. For example, Georgia's restrictions on some of its major exports such as citrus fruit and tea are an example the protectionist policies that were taking root. The authors also claim that Ukraine and Kazakhstan were ignoring targets set by the central government and failed to meet targets for grain deliveries. Protectionism became endemic to the Soviet economy according to Dallin and Lapidus. The economic scarcity and protectionist tendencies that arose due to the Soviet Union's economic weakness was also the source of the regional fragmentation seen prior to the Soviet Union's collapse according. Although ethnic divisions had always existed between the Soviet Union's various satellite states, the divisions were deepened by the economic crisis. In the view of Dallin and Lapidus, the explosive political, regional and ethnic tensions within the Soviet empire were contributing factors to the Soviet Union's collapse but were ultimately ancillary to the economic crisis gripping Soviet society.

Another notable explanation for the Soviet Union's demise has been put forth by Susanne Sternthal. Susanne Sternthal is a political scientist from the University of Columbia and currently resides in Russia. In her book Gorbachev's Reforms she argues that the policy of de-stalinization through demilitarization enacted by Gorbachev and his supporter in the years immediately preceding the Soviet Union's collapse were the main cause of Soviet collapse. In her book she describes a movement within the Soviet Union's communist party to reform the system to make it more open and democratic. This movement was championed by figures such as Mikhail Gorbachev and was the...

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