Mikhail Gorbachev’s resign in 1991has become the symbol of both the ultimate end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s existence. This event had a significant impact not only on the country’s relationships with the USA but the entire global structure. Although this date is considered to symbolize the official fall of communism, in fact, the following regime had ceased to exist long before 1991. Thus, the collapse of the Soviet Union had been preceded by a series of social unrests in Eastern Europe.
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From the very beginning, the key principles of Gorbachev’s strategy implied reformation and disarmament. One should necessarily note that when Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, the country had already been in crisis. The focus that Brezhnev had made on foreign policy led to the serious economic and political problems. As a consequence, the new governor was expected to perform a shift in the strategy and to lay particular emphasis on the reformation of the inner structure of the country. One should admit that Gorbachev did his best to match the public mood – his policy implied the military spending reduction and active interlocutions with the USA aimed at resolving the nuclear issue.
Therefore, the condition of the domestic economy of the relevant period, as well as the urgent necessity to put an end to the Cold War, became the center of Gorbachev’s attention. Hence, he had no chance to see the nationalist movements that were developing rapidly in the majority of the Soviet Union’s satellites. Some historians suggest that such a quick spread of the protest moods might have been partially determined by the character of Gorbachev’s public rhetoric (“The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War” 6). In other words, the announced freedom of choice resulted quite unexpectedly in a series of revolutions.
Thus, the “Solidarity” union in Poland, which used to be suppressed with the help of the central authorities, was now assured of its legal rights and took part in the local elections. The president of the country managed to stay at his post though he was obliged to share the power with the “Solidarity” leader who took up a post of the Prime Minister. As a result, the Communist Party was officially defeated, and Poland became the first country among the satellites that were not controlled by the following regime. Gorbachev made a decision not to use force to support the party. The majority of specialists claim that it was the right action as an intervention would have contradicted with the principles of liberty and freedom that he had overtly announced (Wohlforth 62).
Another wave of unrest broke out in Romania and turned to be more violent than the peaceful democratic turn in Poland. The regime of Romania’s president, Nicolae Ceausescu, was known to be one of the most repressive in the satellite states. The protests began in the winter of 1989 and were, at first, attempted to be put down by the Romanian Army. The collision of the protestants and the national forces took away about a hundred lives. At a certain point, the army refused to support the president and defected to the rebels. As a consequence, the president and his wife were arrested and executed. The historians note that this was one of the most sanguinary regime changes in Eastern Europe (“Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe” par.9).
The “Velvet Revolution” that simultaneously took place in Czechoslovakia was, on the contrary, the most peaceful protest deprived of any violence. In fact, it was the example of the case when the government gave an adequate response to the public appeal – mass demonstrations that appeared in the streets of Czechoslovakia in 1989 resulted in the formation of the Civic Forum and the election of the new president, Vaclav Havel, the dissident playwright. The collapse of the Communist regime turned out to be less painful than one might have supposed (“The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War” 6).
Therefore, the Soviet Union government remained passive whether it was a peaceful demonstration or a powerful wave of unrest in its satellites. Gorbachev adhered to the principle of nonintervention that led to a global reorganization of the Eastern region and symbolized the end of the Communist regime worldwide. Whereas some historians suggest that the nonintervention policy was determined by the weak force resources and the demoralized army, the majority of specialists agree on the point that it was Gorbachev’s willingness to become a true reformatory that prevented him from using the Communists’ methods (Wohlforth 54).
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One should point out that whereas the failure to resolve the economic problem resulted in the sharp decrease of Gorbachev’s popularity within the country, beyond its borders, his policy was widely approved, and the leader was even awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1990. Such common recognition is mainly connected with his contribution to the reduction of the nuclear-forces employment that many specialists still consider being one of the turning points in the history of the twenty-first century (Shultz et al. 3).
Fall of Communism in Eastern Europe 2013. Web.
Shultz, George, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nun 2005, A World Free of Nuclear Weapon. PDF file. Web.
The Collapse of the Soviet Union and the End of the Cold War n.d. PDF file. Web.
Wohlforth, William. Cold War Endgame: Oral History, Analysis, Debates, University Park, Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 2010. Print.