There are many reasons that led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Communism was struggling throughout the 1980’s and policies and treaties that were introduced, such as Solidarity and The Sinatra Doctrine were not helping its strength and support. As more and more revolutions against the ideology were sparked, the domino affect came in to play, creating huge gaps in the iron curtain and ultimately leading to the collapse of communism not just in Eastern Europe but throughout the superpower of Russia as well.
One factor that played a role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and also the USSR was the reforms and policies of Michael Gorbachev. Gorbachev abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine, which was the Soviet Unions policy of intervening with a communist country if they were under the threat of invasion. Instead, Gorbachev created the Sinatra Doctrine.
This contributed to the collapse of communism greatly as it stated that the Soviet leadership had decided to let all countries including its Warsaw Pact allies determine their own form of government, which was against the rules of communism.
In 1986, Gorbachev continued an anti-alcohol program that he previous ruler, Andropov, had started. The price of vodka was increased, the legal drinking age was increased from 18 to 21 and the number of hours in which people could by alcohol were dropped. He hoped this would discourage workers from drinking and therefore improve the employees work rate and boosting the economy. This plan failed and Gorbachev was hated for it.
Gorbachev’s policies of ‘Glasnost’ and ‘Perestroika’ also contributed to the collapse of communism. The USSR’s economy had been severely weakened by the arms race, which had been continued and accelerated by Ronald Reagan pumping $32 billion into Americas defense spending. Gorbachev’s policies of glasnost and perestroika (openness and restructuring) were intended to boost the USSR’s economy by creating more freedoms for every day life in Russia.
However, these policies did not boost the economy at all but simply made no difference. The freedoms of speech, which had been granted by Gorbachev, backfired on him. Quickly, radio stations were picking floors in the soviets government and the ideas of communism whilst highlighting the extremely poor living condition, which Gorbachev had hoped Glasnost and Perestroika would have improved.
The collapse of the Berlin wall had been the defining point in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. Throughout the soviet block of countries, reforms against communism were taking place. These reforms in neighboring European countries were initialized in Poland. In Poland, poor pay and living standard were creating strikes.
A new trade union named Solidarity was introduced into the country, which resulted in the government being made to recognize the union in 1980. One year later in 1981, Poland’s authorities banned the trade union from existing and arrested its leader Lech Walensa. Due to Solidarities major support, which it had gained, the ban did not exterminate the existence of the union, but simply drove it under ground. Also, rebellious Poles organized their own society, separate from the Communist government, which sparked the beginning of many revolutions against communism.
After the revolution of Poland, Czechs and Slovaks took to the streets to demand political reforms in Czechoslovakia. Leading the protests in Prague was Havel, the founder of the reform group Charter 77. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia quietly and peacefully transferred the government rule to Havel. The Czechoslovakian revolution, which was later called the ‘Velvet Revolution’, was a success and another country had fallen from the reign of communism in Eastern Europe.
Another revolution In Romania was also taking place very soon after the velvet revolution. The Communist regime of hardliner Nicolae Ceausescu was overthrown by popular protest and was shot dead after getting a death sentence for killing citizens. Soon, the Communist parties of Bulgaria and Albania were also ended as communism was quickly spiraling out of control in the East.
Another reason for the collapse of communism in the USSR was the war in Afghanistan. In 1979, The USSR invaded Afghanistan in an attempt to support the decaying communist government there. This immediately affected the USA and could be blamed for their boycott of the 1980 Olympics. In 1980 Ronald Reagan was appointed as the president of the USA. He strongly disliked communism and described the Soviet Union, as the ‘evil empire’.
Reagan could see that the USSR could not keep up with the USA’s defense spending in Afghanistan, so he created new weapons such as cruise missiles and star wars in order to seriously decay the USSR’s economy and make them withdraw from Afghanistan. This was exactly what happened; by 1985 Gorbachev realized he could not continue pumping funds into the war so he decided to withdraw soviet troops from the area. Soon after this withdrawal, he started START talks with the USA, which would limit the amount of nuclear weapons being manufactured, saving money for Gorbachev to put back into the economy.
In East Germany in 1953, there were a series of strikes and protests against the communist rule. The Russians, under the reign of Stalin, used their armed forces to put down the revolt in order to protect East Germany’s communist government. This shows the importance of the Soviet’s military forces in maintaining communism’s power over the USSR and Eastern Europe. It also shows how weak communist rule in East Germany really was becoming.
The collapse of the Berlin wall was possibly the greatest reason for the collapse of communism in both the USSR and Eastern Europe. The Berlin wall was a hated symbol of oppression and it symbolized the clear-cut divide of capitalism and communism. East and West Berliners hated the wall as families and friends were divided in two. As Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe began to collapse due to the revolutions taking place, pressure mounted on the East German authorities to open the Berlin border to the west.
Thousands of Germans were escaping to the west through Hungary and the GDR was powerless to stop them. Honecker, the East German leader, collapsed under the pressure and. The border was due to be opened on the 10th, however a mistake in a press conference resulted in the border being opened on the evening of the 9th.
As the guards stood confused whether to open the order or not, huge crowds gathered for the monumental event. Once the border was eventually opened, thousands of people crossed the border of which had previously marked the communist, capitalist divide. This was the moment that I believe collapsed communism not just in Eastern Europe but in Russia as well.
There are many reasons for the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, however I believe that some are more important than others. I believe that the most important factor that led to the collapse of communism not just in the USSR but also Eastern Europe was Gorbachev. Gorbachev introduced taxes and policies, which never had an affect on the USSR’s poor economy and made people dislike him and turn away from the communist ideology. However I also feel that Gorbachev did the right thing in ending the cold war without violence and blood shed.