In 1945 the Soviet Union controlled half of Europe and was a founding member of the United Nations. By 1991, it had an army four-million strong, five-thousand nuclear-tipped missiles, and was the second biggest producer of oil in the world. But soon afterward the union sank into an economic crisis and was torn apart by nationalist separatism. Its collapse was one of the seismic shifts of the twentieth century.
This timeline, taken from Vladislav M. Zubok’s new book, Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union, details the events leading to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It begins with the death of Leonid Brezhnev in November 1982 and ends with the resignation of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union following the attempted coup in August 1991.
About the book
The Fall of the Soviet Union
Vladislav M. Zubok
A major study of the collapse of the Soviet Union—showing how Gorbachev’s misguided reforms led to its demise.
Thirty years on, Vladislav Zubok offers a major reinterpretation of the final years of the USSR, refuting the notion that the breakup of the Soviet order was inevitable. Instead, Zubok reveals how Gorbachev’s misguided reforms, intended to modernize and democratize the Soviet Union, deprived the government of resources and empowered separatism. Collapse sheds new light on Russian democratic populism, the Baltic struggle for independence, the crisis of Soviet finances—and the fragility of authoritarian state power.
“As lucid as it is even-handed, this book will become the new standard for anyone seeking to make sense of the chaos, optimism and foolishness that led to the end of Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts at reform and the downfall of the Soviet Union.”—Dr Mark Galeotti, author of A Short History of Russia