The Soviet Union collapsed very quickly, surprising many around the world.



The Soviet Union (1917-1991) consisted of 16 constituent republics, named for their majority nationality, e.g., Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian, etc. It unexpectedly collapsed 30 years ago. Fitzpatrick outlines why:

  • The leaders of each of the republics had substantial power.

  • The central government in Moscow had less power than was realised.

  • President Gorbachev tried to reform the government through openness (glasnost), economic restructuring (perestroika), and individual initiative.

  • Economic reform was slow.

  • Most first-party secretaries of the republics changed their names to presidents, signalling a break from the central government.

  • RussiaUkraine and Belarus saw an opportunity and agreed to dissolve the Soviet Union.

  • Only Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had independence movements.

  • Interestingly, the Russian Republic had fewer powers and prerogatives than other republics.

  • The dissolution was a surprise to most Soviet citizens.

  • Soviet military and security services remained fully operational.

  • Losing superpower status and world respect has had long term ramifications.