Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong

The author points out that the Soviet Union collapsed shortly after it had reached the height of its global power and influence. Professor Jared M. Diamond in the video titled, “Jared Diamond: Why societies collapse“, points out that empires collapsing within a few decades of peaking is not uncommon.

After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it was said that the United States was on top of the world. Now, 20 years later, many geopolitical experts are saying that the US has gone into decline. Could we see the collapse of the US?

This, in other words, was a Soviet Union at the height of its global power and influence, both in its own view and in the view of the rest of the world. “We tend to forget,” historian Adam Ulam would note later, “that in 1985, no government of a major state appeared to be as firmly in power, its policies as clearly set in their course, as that of the USSR.”

Certainly, there were plenty of structural reasons — economic, political, social — why the Soviet Union should have collapsed as it did, yet they fail to explain fully how it happened when it happened. How, that is, between 1985 and 1989, in the absence of sharply worsening economic, political, demographic, and other structural conditions, did the state and its economic system suddenly begin to be seen as shameful, illegitimate, and intolerable by enough men and women to become doomed?

… A leading Soviet journalist and later a passionate herald of glasnost, Aleksandr Bovin, wrote in 1988 that the ideals of perestroika had “ripened” amid people’s increasing “irritation” at corruption, brazen thievery, lies, and the obstacles in the way of honest work. …

Which is why today’s Russia appears once again to be inching toward another perestroika moment.

Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong