Empires and Nemeses: The Collapse of the Soviet Union
Numerous components contributed to the collapse of the USSR, but this paper argues that Mikhail Gorbachev’s policies and decisions were the deciding factor in the death of the empire. First, he created a reformist faction within his own government to support his plans for liberalizing the USSR, but he lacked either the power or the will to rid his government of its conservative members. This formed a divided governing body in a country where the Communist Party previously maintained a homogenous façade. His relatively liberal policies lost him the confidence of the conservative faction of his government. At the same time, Gorbachev was not liberal enough to please the reform faction. Gorbachev vacillated between the two camps so that neither side believed that he should be trusted to run the government. The conservative faction eventually tried to replace Gorbachev with the August Coup, while the reform faction withdrew their support from Gorbachev and instead championed Boris Yeltsin. By December of 1991, the conservative faction had lost their political power, and the reform faction succeeded in replacing Gorbachev with Yeltsin by way of formally ending the Soviet Union.