Why did Communism collapse in E. Europe and the USSR?

With protest after protest and rebellion after rebellion, the Soviet Union was slowly loosing its grip of Eastern Europe. Communism ceased working efficiently as workers had no inducement to work, as a doctor would have the same wages as a cleaner. People were driven into alcoholism and ended up going to work with hangovers. With this lack of incentive the economy slowly began to collapse. The USSR also found themselves in another more serious problem as not only was the economy collapsing but they had no ideas on how to solve this problem. It had become stagnant. More and more money was spent on a pointless, impossible to win arms race then necessary household equipment, which could be commonly found in any house in the Western States. The USSR had also created their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, where huge amounts of resources and money was being used up and many men killed. This all changed with the coming of the new Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1985 who tired to solve each of these problems.

To save the Communist economy, Gorbachev decided to set up the ‘Perestroika’. This allowed trade between the East and West. Private ownership was also introduced. This boosted the workers incentive as they could actually make a profit now. The Soviet Union was effectively becoming a mixed economy.

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Another major step Gorbachev took was setting up the ‘Glasnost’, which was literally openness. People could discuss political issues and express their views on the Soviet Union.

Gorbachev decided to withdraw from the arms race. It was an extreme drain on the Soviet economy and was not leading anywhere. There was no way they could outspend the USA in nuclear weapons. There was no point to it as the USSR could use their money to buy domestic products the people really needed such as fridges instead of throwing capital away into a war they couldn’t win. Gorbachev made up his mind to pull out troops from Afghanistan. It consumed too many troops and resources and Gorbachev talked about international trust and co-operation as the way forward rather than confrontation.

In March 1989 Gorbachev got rid of the Brezhnev Doctrine making it clear that the USSR would no longer send the Red Army to solve conflicts and he would leave the people to deal with them.

This lead to a chain of short-term events ending in the collapse of Communism, starting of with the Hungarian tearing down of barbed wire and entering Austria to Latvia declaring independence of the USSR. In between these events changes occurred all over Eastern Europe. Poland now held free elections and for the first time since the Second World War received the first non-communist leader, Lech Walesa. In November 1989 the people tore down the wall between East and West Berlin with additional help from the guards guarding the wall. Slowly all he borders between the East and West began to open as Czechoslovakia opened up its borders.

With these changes taking place the majority people had finally gotten what they fought for since the end of the Second World War; a liberal and Eastern Europe free from the Red Army, Soviet troops and the tyrannical Communist regime.