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Collapse of the U.S.S.R.

Collapse of the U.S.S.R.. 1929–1953 Joseph Stalin leads Soviet Communist Party and is dictator of the Soviet Union (USSR)—a union of Communist republics

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Collapse of the U.S.S.R.


Joseph Stalin leads Soviet Communist Party and is dictator of the Soviet Union (USSR)—a union of Communist republics. Communist governments are formed in eastern European nations. Height of communist power in Europe.


Uprisings against Communist Party rule and Soviet domination in East Germany (1953), Poland (1956), Hungary (1956), and Czechoslovakia (1968) are suppressed by Soviet military intervention.

Hungarians atop a Soviet tank outside parliament during the Hungarian Uprising, Budapest 1956


Failure of Communist economic policy in USSR and Soviet-dominated satellite states of eastern Europe. Increasing resentment at failure of state-controlled economies to provide consumer goods. Demands for democratic reform grow.

1985 Mikhail Gorbachev becomes head of the Soviet Communist Party. Economic policy of perestroika (reconstruction) introduces market forces into Soviet economy. Policy of glasnost (openness) allows open criticism of government.

Gorbachev is # 49 on the Biography of the Millennium List. Ronald Reagan is # 85.

Video: End of the Soviet Union


First contested elections in USSR are held in Moscow, the center of government; the electorate is given a choice of Communist Party candidates for the first time. Many senior Communist politicians are defeated.


Widespread antigovernment demonstrations throughouteastern Europe: “Velvet Revolution” follows in Czechoslovakia andplaywright Václav Havel (a noncommunist) becomes president;Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife are executedby antigovernment rebels for committing genocide.


Free multiparty elections in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Albania, East Germany, Romania, and Bulgaria. Communist parties lose office in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and East Germany; reformed Communist parties elected in Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania.


Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, and Latvia (republics of the USSR) declare independence from USSR.

Free multiparty elections in Yugoslavia: Communists defeated in four of six republics within Yugoslavia but win with reformed policies in other two republics (Serbia and Montenegro).

Aug 1991 Soviet coup.

Officials of Communist Party attempt to seize power in USSR but are stopped by president of Russian Republic, Boris Yeltsin.

Dec 1991

Gorbachev resigns leadership of USSR, which splits into 15 independent republics. Soviet Communist Party rule ends.

Boris Yeltsin highlights