King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
From Empire to Nationhood

Fall of USSR

Future of NATOFuture of NATOOpinion is divided on the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union.

The USSR's own internal economic problems almost certainly played a significant role in precipitating events, especially in the face of emergencies such as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Some argue that the US sought to exploit these problems for its own advantage by seeking to bankrupt the USSR through a deliberate, and very expensive, policy of rearmament.

Others contend that reforms unintentionally ran out of control and question the inevitability of change. They point to the example of China to show how economic liberalisation does not inevitably lead to political change in a communist country.

Resurgent nationalism in Eastern Block countries, in particular the Baltic States, is also cited as playing a crucial role in stimulating change.

The end of the Cold War can be seen as bringing about the dissolution of the last multi-national empire - the Russian - that had hitherto suppressed nationalist dissent in its dependencies.

In this view, Soviet communism was but an ideological camouflage for Russian imperialism and the Cold War a continuation of a more traditional pattern of international relations between the great powers.

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