Finding Dulcinea Logo New
Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Reasons Behind The Collapse Of The Soviet Union

Written By Monika Soni
Last updated: January 21, 2024

Have you ever wondered just how a superpower that stood at the helm of half the world suddenly crumbled? The collapse of the Soviet Union is not just a moment in history; it’s a story of epic twists, human flaws, and the unforeseen consequences of actions.

This tale is not only fascinating but also full of lessons that resonate even today. Join us as we pull back the curtain on one of the most defining moments of the 20th century – an unraveling that seemed almost unthinkable until it happened before our very eyes.

The collapse of the Soviet Union did not fall overnight; it was a gradual process marked by various factors including economic troubles, political upheaval, and failed attempts at reform. Systemic weaknesses had begun to show way before its final days, like cracks in a mighty dam before the flood.

These issues created mounting pressure within and without which ultimately led to its disintegration. Key events such as policy reforms gone awry, military overextension, and public distrust chipped away at Soviet power until it could no longer stand.

The Early Cracks in the Collapse of the Soviet Union Foundation

As we look at the pages of history, the story of the collapse of the Soviet Union is quite striking. It’s like watching a giant tree that stood tall for so long begin to show small cracks in its trunk, hinting that it may not stand much longer if a strong wind were to blow.

The Early Cracks in the Collapse of the Soviet Union Foundation

This was what happened to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The earlier times revealed some serious problems—the kind you can’t just ignore and he’ll go away on their own.

We saw an economy struggling to keep up, people growing unhappy with their leaders, and the heavy load of wanting to be seen as a mighty power in the world. All these factors started small but grew larger and more dangerous with time, like warning signs before a big storm hit.

Signs of Weakness

We often look back and ask ourselves, how did such a powerful group like the Soviet Union collapse? It’s like a huge building that looked strong but had deep cracks in its foundation.

First, their money system was not doing well. People couldn’t buy what they needed because there wasn’t enough stuff being made, and things cost too much.

Second, the leaders did the same old things and didn’t want to change. They didn’t listen to new ideas or problems people had. This made many people unhappy.

Third, there were long lines for food and other basics which should be easy to get. Fourth, some places under Soviet rule wanted more freedom. They didn’t like being told what to do by others far away.

Let’s think of it this way:

  • Economic Stagnation: Money problems grow big; less stuff is made; prices go up.
  • Political Unrest: Leaders ignore people’s wishes; don’t fix issues.
  • Shortages: Everyone sees empty shelves; it’s hard to find what we need.
  • Desire for Independence: Parts of the Soviet Union want control over their own future.

These signs were clear-cut that tough times were coming for the Soviet Union. The building was shaking, warning everyone inside that a collapse could happen anytime.

The Burden of a Superpower

Being one of the top powers in the world sounds great but comes with heavy loads to carry. For the Soviet Union collapse, this meant spending lots of money and resources on armies and weapons instead of other important things like food or houses.

Imagine trying to run fast while you’re holding a heavy backpack—sooner or later you’re going to get tired and slow down. That’s what happened:

  • A lot went into making weapons when they could have been used for better causes.
  • To stay ahead in space technology they spent huge sums.
  • Their army was all over, from Europe to Cuba, which cost them even more money.

We can break these points down into simpler pieces:

  • High Military Spending: Like pouring water into a bucket with holes—it keeps draining out without filling up needs at home.
  • Space Race Costs: Shooting rockets into space means less money is left on Earth where we live.
  • Global Presence Maintenance: Having soldiers everywhere around the world makes our pockets empty faster.

It’s clear as day that trying too hard to stay on top can make you fall harder if you don’t balance where your efforts go.

Also Read: Why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor?

The Failing Soviet Economy

The collapse of the Soviet Union was once a powerful name that echoed across the world. But behind its strong image, a problem bubbled under the surface – an economy that was sick and getting worse. Ours is a tale of how money problems can shake even the mightiest of nations.

The Failing Soviet Economy during the collapse of the Soviet Union

We’re talking about factories struggling, shelves in shops standing empty, and farms not producing enough food. These are just some pieces to a big puzzle that shows why the Soviet money system got into such trouble.

It’s important to understand these reasons because they tell us about how serious it is when an economy does not work well. Let’s dive deep into what went wrong with the Soviet Union’s way of handling money and why it couldn’t keep going in the end.

Economic Challenges

In our study of the Soviet Union’s fall, we see big problems with its money and work system. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, things were not going well.

Stores had empty shelves because there wasn’t enough stuff for people to buy. Factories made things no one wanted, while other needed items weren’t made enough.

Let’s look at these troubles:

  • Shortages Everywhere: People waited in long lines for basic goods like bread and milk which were hard to find.
  • Bad Farming Results: Farms did not grow enough food, making the shortages even worse.
  • Outdated Factories: Many factories used old machines that didn’t work well, so they couldn’t make a lot of products.
  • Money Wasted: The government spent lots of money on projects that did not help people in their everyday lives.

These problems made life hard for everyone in the country. The Soviet Union was like a runner out of breath, struggling to keep up.

Impact on Society

In the Soviet Union, as the economy started to fail, it hit everyone hard. Our everyday life got tough. We could not get the things we needed. Shops had empty shelves, and when they did have something, there were long lines that lasted hours. Sometimes we went home with nothing after waiting all day.

  • Long Queues Daily: Folk had to stand in queues even for simple items; a loaf of bread was now precious.
  • Low-Quality Life: Because of fewer goods and services around, life quality dropped fast.
  • No Trust Left: As struggles grew, trust in leaders faded, making folks doubt if leaders cared about them at all.

Seeing this tough time unfold made people lose hope. They started talking more about freedom from Moscow’s power grip.

Also Read: Guides on family and relationships

Ambitions Backfiring: The Costly War in Afghanistan

When we look back at the chapters of our history that led to our downfall, some moments stand out more sharply than others. Among these is the chapter that tells the tale of our ambitions backfiring—a costly conflict that not only drained us of resources but also steeped us in deep-seated international isolation.

Role of The Costly War in Afghanistan in collapse of the Soviet Union

It was our decision to intervene in Afghanistan, a move we hoped would showcase our military prowess and political strength. Instead, this action became a long-drawn campaign that chipped away at our standing with nations across the world and fueled the already growing problems within the Soviet Union.

Military Overextension

We witnessed firsthand how a country’s push beyond its limits can lead to a hard fall. In 1979, the leaders of the Soviet Union made a choice that would come back to bite them – they sent their soldiers into Afghanistan. This decision seemed like part of their big plan to show power and spread ideas but ended up being too costly.

  • Money: The war sucked up lots of cash, much more than expected.
  • Soldiers: Many young men from the Soviet were sent to fight in places far from home.
  • Supplies: To keep going, they had to use loads of equipment and supplies.
  • People Back Home Unhappy: Families and folks at home started feeling angry seeing so many dying or coming back hurt.

This wasn’t just about guns and tanks; it was about hearts and minds too. Morale went down when people saw no clear reason for this war or any end in sight. Soldiers lost hope, people got tired, and trust in leaders dropped low.

International Isolation

Our involvement in the war in Afghanistan caused a lot of trouble for us. This fight we had picked was far away from home and lasted much longer than we thought it would. It put a strain on our friendships with other countries, especially those in the West.

Let’s look at how this war pushed us to the sidelines on the world stage:

  • Western Condemnation: When we sent troops to Afghanistan, countries like America and those in Europe didn’t like it one bit. They said we were invaders who did not respect other nations’ freedom.
  • Olympic Boycotts: Because of what we were doing, many Western nations chose not to come to our Olympic Games back in 1980. This was their way of showing they were unhappy with us.
  • Trade Barriers: Already these Western friends weren’t too keen on trading a lot with us, but after the whole Afghanistan thing got worse, they really cut down on buying and selling stuff with us.
  • Diplomatic Cold Shoulders: Country leaders from the West that might have once sat down for talks started ignoring us more. They stopped inviting us to important meetings or making deals that could help both sides.

This isolation made life harder for everyone living under our flag. It wasn’t just about having fewer friends; it was also about struggling because things like food and other goods we needed weren’t coming into our country as much anymore.

Also Read: What Was The Schlieffen Plan? [Warfare in Retrospect]

Catalysts for Change Leading to Collapse

We often look back on history and wonder how huge events, like the fall of mighty countries, could happen. The collapse of the Soviet Union teaches us that sometimes it’s not just one big thing, but a bunch of changes building up over time that make something fall apart.

Catalysts for Change Leading to Collapse

It’s like having cracks in a big wall—the more they spread, the more likely the wall will tumble down. This is what happened in the late ’80s when two major shifts—Perestroika and Glasnost—came into play under Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule.

They were meant to repair and open up society but ended up pushing things toward a breaking point instead. Let’s dive into these catalysts for change that led to the great fall.

Gorbachev’s Reform Policies

In the mid-1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, saw that things were not going well for his country. He figured that big changes were needed to fix it. So he came up with two big ideas called “Perestroika” and “Glasnost”.

Perestroika, which means ‘restructuring’, was about changing how the economy worked. It aimed to make a mix of government control and some free-market practices. Part of this plan let companies decide what to make and set their own prices.

Glasnost meant ‘openness’. Gorbachev wanted people to be able to speak freely. He hoped this would show everyone’s true thoughts and ideas.

Here is why these reforms, meant to make things better, did the opposite:

  • A Shaky Start: The economy was already in trouble when these changes began.
  • Confusion: People were used to old ways and didn’t know how to deal with new freedoms.
  • Blame Game: Problems like shortages got worse at first; people started blaming the reforms.
  • Fear Among Leaders: Some Communist Party members didn’t want change; they tried holding onto power.

As you can imagine, trying something new can be scary. And when things started going wrong some people thought it would be easier just to go back to how things were before.

The Domino Effect of Political Dissent

When we look at our history, there are key events that change the world. The fall of the Soviet Union is one such event. Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge of the Soviet Union during its last years.

He tried to make things better with new policies like Perestroika and Glasnost. Yet, these changes had effects he did not plan for. They helped start independence movements within the states controlled by the Soviets.

Here’s a little look into what happened:

  • Voices Heard Loud: People in other countries under Soviet control liked being able to speak freely.
  • Groups Factory Formed: Folks who wanted more freedom or even independence made groups seeking big chances.
  • Governments Felt Shake-up: Leaders in these places had hard times as their own folk questioned them more than ever.
  • Big Demands Made: Those groups wanted their states out from under Moscow’s thumb – they wanted full independence!

Step by step, like dominoes falling over one after another, these regions pulled further away from Mother Russia’s grip until suddenly it seemed like there couldn’t be a Soviet Union after all those parts said goodbye.

Also Read: How many people died in World War I?

Moments That Shook Belief in Soviet Invincibility

Throughout its history, the Soviet Union stood as a towering figure of military might and strict control. It seemed unbreakable to the world, and even to many of its own people. The leaders showed strength, and the country’s power was never questioned.

Moments That Shook Belief in Soviet Invincibility

But there were times that put cracks in this image of invincibility. Moments came that shook everyone’s belief in just how strong the Soviet Union was. These were not just simple problems; they were huge events that made people think differently about their powerful nation.

Looking at these key moments helps us understand how public faith in a seemingly unstoppable force began to crumble, setting the stage for what would be a historic collapse of the Soviet Union.

Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster

The Chornobyl disaster was a terrible event that nobody can forget. It happened on April 26, 1986. This was a big shock for everyone.

People thought that the Soviet Union was very strong and could handle anything. But this disaster showed that even the Soviet Union had problems it could not hide.

  • The Explosion: A test went wrong at the nuclear power plant in Chornobyl, and there was a huge explosion.
  • Release of Radiation: This explosion let out a lot of dangerous radiation into the air. It hurt many people and animals.
  • Unsafe Practices: People learned that those who ran the plant did not follow safe rules.
  • Danger Hidden: First, leaders in the Soviet Union did not tell people how bad it was. They kept it secret. This made people lose trust in their government because they were scared of being lied to about safety.

When trust went away, people started asking more questions about how their leaders were making decisions.

  • Asking Questions: After Chornobyl, people were less afraid to speak up. They wanted to know more about what their leaders were doing wrong.
  • More Problems Appear: As they looked closer, people found more problems with things like factories, roads, and other important things across the country.

This accident at Chornobyl proved that even something as strong as the Soviet Union could be weak sometimes. For many people, this was a sign that big changes needed to happen.

Independence Movements Sparking Disunion

As the gigantic Soviet Union started to crumble, one of the most striking scenes was the fierce surge for independence by nations under its grasp. Among those leading the charge were the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Independence Movements Sparking a crucial part in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union

These small but resilient countries ignited a flame of rebellion that caught like wildfire, playing a crucial part in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Their brave defiance sent a strong message: even bound by chains of great power, the yearning for freedom cannot be tamed forever. This outcry against decades-long oppression was not just about political movements; it was an outcry for human dignity and national identity that resonated far beyond their borders.

Baltic States’ Defiance

In the winding down days of the Soviet Union, one of the clear signs that all was not well was the loud voices and brave actions coming from the Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

They had been under Soviet control since World War II. However, as the 1980s progressed, they began to challenge their overlords more openly.

  • The Singing Revolution: In Estonia, people made a stand using songs. That’s why it’s remembered as “The Singing Revolution.” From 1987 to 1991, thousands of Estonians gathered in public places to sing traditional songs forbidden by Soviet rulers. The song-filled gatherings turned political with people claiming independence as a key theme.
  • The Baltic Way: In August 1989, there was a powerful protest known as “The Baltic Way.” This wasn’t any ordinary protest – imagine two million people holding hands in a human chain stretching for nearly 675 kilometers across all three states! It was a peaceful demonstration marking the 50th anniversary of an agreement between Nazi Germany and Stalin’s USSR that had resulted in their being part of the Soviet Empire.
  • Declaration of Sovereignty: Trends towards defiance continued when Lithuania boldly declared independence in March 1990, setting off a shockwave through Soviet leadership circles. Latvia and Estonia soon followed suit with similar declarations later on.

Each step these nations took was like someone loudly tapping on cracks in an already fragile vase – each tap bringing closer the moment when it would shatter completely and signal an end to decades of forceful hold by one nation over another.

Also Read: How did Adolf Hitler Die? [Behind the Bunker Door]

Final Nail in Coffin – 1991 Coup d’état Attempt

In the tale of mighty empires and great nations, there often comes a moment that marks the end. For the Soviet Union, a superpower that stood tall through much of the twentieth century, its last days were not with a bang but with a storm of confusion and struggle.

Final Nail in Coffin - 1991 Coup d’état Attempt

When hardliners, who clung to old ways, tried one final move to hold onto power, it became clear that change was inevitable.

This was known as the 1991 coup d’état attempt – a desperate act by those opposed to reforms. It was this event that would become known as the final nail in the coffin of the colossal Soviet Union.

Power Struggle Unleashed

It was clear that change was in the air across the Soviet Union as reforms made folks think differently. Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts to improve things through Perestroika and Glasnost were bold moves meant to set things right. But not everyone liked these ideas.

The coup unfolded like this:

  • The Leaders: A group called the State Committee on the State of Emergency took over while Gorbachev was away.
  • Their Goal: They wanted to stop reforms and bring back old rules.
  • The President’s House Arrest: They put Gorbachev under house arrest hoping he would give up power.
  • Defiance from Boris Yeltsin: The Russian Federation’s President, Boris Yeltsin, stood against these hardliners.
  • People’s Power: Folks in Moscow came out in big numbers to say “no” to going back in time.

This struggle caused a lot of noise around the world about whether things would turn violent or if dialogue could sort it out.

Why did it all fall apart?

  • Lack of Support: Many soldiers and folks living there didn’t want to fight for an old system they didn’t believe in anymore.
  • Public Opinion: Common people were tired and wanted more freedom, so they didn’t side with those trying to hold onto power.
  • Divided Leadership: Some inside the walls of power were not sure which side to pick — reform or no reform?

These actions told everyone one thing loud and clear: The Soviet Union just couldn’t be what it once was. In less than three days after it started, this desperate grasp at control failed as quickly as it began.

Also Read: How Many People Did Hitler Kill? [Grasping the Holocaust]


What role did international pressures play in hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Countries from the outside pushed hard on the Soviet Union. They made things very tough with policies that stopped trade and defense spending that forced the Soviets to keep up, which they couldn’t afford.

How did ordinary citizens contribute to or react to their government’s downfall?

Folks living everyday lives were really tired of shortages and lines for basic stuff. Their protests and voices against the system added a lot of pressure that shook the government’s stronghold and helped bring it down.


In our journey to understand the collapse of the Soviet Union, we’ve navigated through various aspects that played critical roles. From the early signs of economic and political unrest to the overambitious military campaigns, it becomes clear why such a powerful entity fell.

The reforms intended to save the Soviet Union ironically sped up its disintegration, with each policy unearthing more systemic issues. The Chornobyl disaster further undermined public trust, and independence movements within satellite states eventually shattered any remaining unity.

Charles Eames

Monika Soni is a passionate writer and history enthusiast who joined the FindingDulcinea team in July 2023. With a deep love for both ancient and political history, she brings a unique perspective to her articles, weaving together narratives that captivate and educate her readers. Monika holds a B.Sc. degree from the esteemed Govt. College of Girls, Panchkula. When she's not diving deep into historical research, Monika enjoys exploring local museums and historical sites. Her commitment to bringing history to life makes her a valuable asset to the FindingDulcinea community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram