More coursework: 1 - A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I - J | K - L | M | N - O | P - S | T | U - Y

Communism east europe

Communism East Europe

TITLE: Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe?

SUBJECT: European Studies B

EDUCATION: First year university

GRADE: first honour

AUTHOR'S COMMENTS: I liked it. Interested to hear other people's


TUTOR'S COMMENTS: Well done!! Extremely informative. Well

researched. Good Layout. Stress Gorbachev's role more.

Communism is like Prohibition - itÆs a good idea but it wonÆt


(Will Rogers, 1927) (1)

This essay will give a brief introduction to communism. It will

then discuss the various factors which combined to bring about

the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe. It will examine each

of these factors and evaluate the effect of each. Finally it will

attempt to assertain whether RogersÆ opinion (see above

quotation) on Communism is true, that is, whether communism was

truly doomed to fail from the start, or whether its collapse

was a result of external influences.

Communism is based on the ideas and teachings of Karl Marx as

modified by Lenin. At its most basic, the ideal of communism is a

system in which everyone is seen as equal and wealth is

distributed equally among the people. There is no private

ownership. The state owns and controls all enterprises and

property. The state is run by one leading elite. The Soviet model

of communism was based on these ideals. All opposition parties

were banned although parties who were sympathetic to communism

and who shared the communist ideals were allowed. All power was

concentrated into the hands of the Communist party. Free press

and civil liberties were suppressed. Censorship and

propaganda were widely used. There was state ownership of the

economy. No private enterprise was allowed. There was a

collectivisation of agriculture. The Communist Party invaded and

controlled every aspect of political, social, cultural and

economic life. It was a totalitarian state with complete

Communist control over all facets of life. In the early years,

and up until GorbachevÆs ônew regimeö, the use of force and

terror as a means of maintaining control was widespread.

The first factor which contributed to the failure and eventual

collapse of communism was the fact that the Communist partyÆs

domination was illegitimate from the beginning. Lenin came to

power after a bloody Civil War between those who supported

Lenin and those who opposed the Soviet regime. To Lenin, defeat

was unthinkable and he was prepared to make any and every

sacrifice to win the war and save the revolution. The forcible

requisitioning of food and supplies was approved by Lenin.

This could only be achieved by enforcing strict and absolute

discipline at every level of society. Terror was to become the

chief instrument of power and Lenin was to assume the role of

dictator. This was a phenomenon which was to become a symbol of

communist regimes throughout their lifetime.

This trend was followed when Stalin came to power as leader of

the Communist party and the Russian government in 1929. (2) He

had achieved this through plotting and trickery and by shifting

alliances. This had begun in 1924 when Stalin systematically

began to remove all opposition to his claim to power. His main

rival was Trotsky and he used a number of underhand measures to

discredit him. For example Stalin lied to Trotsky about the date

of LeninÆs funeral, thus ensuring that Trotsky could not attend

and thereby blackening his name in the public eye. This Stalin

versus Trotsky conflict led to Trotsky being eventually exiled

from Russia and, ten years later in 1940, being assassinated by

one of StalinÆs agents. (3)

Under Stalin any opposition was swiftly and brutally crushed. In

no Eastern European country did the revolution have the support

of more than a minority of people, yet this minority retained

absolute control. The communist take-over and subsequent regime

was achieved by undemocratic methods, that is, rigged elections,

terror, totalitarian state, harassment and threats. In 1932 a

two-hundred page document by a fellow member of the Politburo

condemning the Stalinist regime and calling for change was

published. (4) In response to this Stalin wreaked a terrible

revenge. In 1936 Stalin began what became known as the ôpurgesö

whose function it was to try members of the communist party who

had acted treasonously. (5) The result of these was that five

thousand party members were arrested and stripped of their

membership. The sixteen defendants in the three Showtrials of

1936, 1937 and 1938 were found guilty and executed. In 1939 those

who had conducted the purges were also executed. By 1939 the

only member of LeninÆs original Politburo who remained, was

Stalin himself. (6)

In relation to foreign policy, Stalin exerted his influence to

ensure that all Eastern European countries (except Yugoslavia)

had Soviet-imposed puppet regimes. StalinÆs domination was now

total. After the war Stalin succeeded in establishing a communist

buffer zone between Russia and Western Europe. Any resistance he

met in establishing communist states was quickly suppressed by

intimidation and terror. For example Stalin engineered a

communist coup in May 1948 in Czechoslovakia in which a

government minister Masaryk was killed and the president was

forced to resign. (7) This served a warning to other countries

against resisting the communist regime.

Therefore it can clearly be seen that from the establishment of

the state that communism never had popular public support. It

cannot be denied that there was a significant minority who

supported communism, but these were a minority. Can an ideal and

a leadership really be built on such a shallow and flimsy basis?

This essay would argue that the answer to this question is no.

For a leadership to lead, it must have strong support and

confidence. It must be seen to work for the good of the people

and not merely a vociferous minority. This, therefore, can be

argued to be one of the contributing factors in the downfall of


A second related factor, which had a hand in bringing about the

end of communism in Eastern Europe was the fact that communism

never really had the support of the people. There was constant

societal opposition to communist rule in Eastern Europe. Although

this was mainly in the form of a passive rumbling dissent, there

were occasional violent and active shows of opposition to

communist rule. The states of Eastern Europe in the post-war

period had been forced to adhere to the Moscow line. After 1956

however, with KhrushchevÆs new approach to Socialism and his

denunciation of Stalin, there were increasing calls for

independence among the communist bloc countries who had

never been truly supportive of the communist regime.

In East Germany in 1953 there were a series of strikes and

protests. (8) The Russians, under Stalin, used their armed forces

to put down the revolt and to protect East GermanyÆs communist

government. This shows the importance of Soviet military force

in maintaining communismÆs tenuous grip on power. It also shows

how weak communist rule in East Germany really was, It was this

event that sealed East GermanyÆs fate as the USSR realised that

in a united Germany, the Communists would lose control. Events

eventually culminated with the building of the Berlin Wall which

was the ultimate expression of Soviet and communist force and

coercion in maintaining the communist regime.

Under Khrushchev, who had succeeded Stalin after his death in

1953, Poland was the first to revolt against the communist

regime. Polish workers rioted and went on strike in 1956 and the

Polish communist party also revolted by refusing to accept the

Russian general Rokossovsky as the Polish Minister for Defence.

(9) The situation was diffused by a compromise which was made on

both sides, with Poland agreeing to remain in the communist

Eastern bloc if the nationalist communist leader Gomulka, who had

been imprisoned by Stalin, was reinstated. The fact that

Khrushchev was willing to compromise illustrates again the

precarious position of communist rule.

The Hungarian revolution of 1956 was borne out of the relative

success of the Poles in achieving concessions for the Moscow

leadership. (10) The Hungarians decided to overthrow the

Stalinist regime in their country. The situation quickly

deteriorated and on the 23rd of October the Hungarian troops, who

had been dispatched to end the riots, joined the civilians in

revolution. Soviet troops were called in and the Hungarian

communist party lost the little support which they had. Again

Khrushchev tried to diffuse the situation by offering a

compromise, that is, the reinstatement of the moderate

communist leader Nagy. When it became clear, however, that Nagy

had every intention of pulling out of the Soviet communist bloc,

Khrushchev resorted to force and violence to maintain the

communist grip on Hungary. He ordered the return of Soviet tanks

and troops to Budapest on November 4th 1956. (11) Thousands were

killed in a bloody street battle until the Soviets had re-

established their control. Nagy was arrested and was executed two

years later. A Soviet imposed communist regime under Janos Kadar

was set up. (12) The tenuous communist grip on control is again

illustrated here. Khrushchev was willing to barter, and

eventually use force, to maintain Soviet control. Without this

force and coercion, however, Hungary would have established its

own brand of communist rule. Khrushchev could not risk the domino

effect that this action would have had on the Eastern bloc. This

societal opposition can, therefore, be taken to be another

contributing factor in the downfall of communist rule in the

Eastern bloc. If those in the alliance cannot cooperate and work

together, the alliance and the ideal cannot hope to survive.

Another important factor which this essay will discuss is that of

the influence of the West on the Eastern bloc. The Eastern bloc

was already aware of Western capitalist success as they were

allies during the war. Many of the Eastern countries, for example

Hungary under Nagy or Czechoslovakia under Dubcek, were in favour

of a communist system with some elements of capitalism, that is,

a mixed economy or market socialism and more elements of

democracy. There had been a breakdown in relations between the

East and West due to tensions after WWII. After the war Russia

wanted to create a sphere of influence in the East over which the

West would have no say or control. This was not acceptable to the

West who wanted to see democracy installed in the East and

who wanted to have a continued input into the doings of the East.

This conflict ventually led to the Cold War.

Until Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet bloc, there had

been no significant contact between the two blocs. Those inside

of the Soviet bloc were completely cut off from the Western

ideals. When Khrushchev came to power, however, there as renewed

hope in the West that there might be a ôthawö in relations

between the two blocs. Relations between the two blocs did

improve with Khrushchev attending a number of conferences and

meetings. For example a twelve-day visit to the US in 1959, a UN

General Assembly, also in 1959 and a later UN General Assembly

meeting in 1960 in the US. (13) Although then relations began to

break down again due to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961

and the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and the Eastern bloc became

cut off once more, western ideas had already managed to penetrate

the East. (14) The information that the capitalist West was

thriving while the Communist Eastern bloc was stagnating and

underdeveloped, made communism and Soviet control even more


In 1963 there again was an easing of tensions between the two

blocs when Russia and the US signed a test ban treaty which

allowed the WestÆs influence to again creep into the East. (15)

In 1964 Khrushchev was ousted from power and Brezhnev with

Kosygin took over from him. (16) In 1966 the US and USSR agreed

to a direct air service between Moscow and New York. In 1967

they, along with 60 other countries, signed the first

international treaty providing for the peaceful exploration of

outer space. (17) In the 1970Æs a period of D_tente began. In

1970 West Germany and Poland signed a treaty rejecting the use of

force. West Germany and Russia ratified a similar treaty in 1972.

(18) In 1972 Nixon and Brezhnev signed the SALT I treaty which

was to limit the production of US and Russian nuclear weapons.

In 1973 East and West Germany joined the UN. (19) Throughout

this period the West had more and more access to the Eastern bloc

and the people of the communist countries were influenced by

these ideas. This was a further blow to communist rule and

another factor in the downfall of communism.

The next contributing factor to the collapse of communism in

Eastern Europe was that of its economic failure. During the years

of war communism from 1918-1921, Soviet labourers worked for

pittance wages. At the same time the Bolshevik confiscated

virtually all harvests. This brought the country to the brink of

economic collapse. The net result of war communism under Lenin

was that from 1914 the countryside was neglected and destroyed

and in 1920 there was a severe drought. (20) In 1921 the New

Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced. This was in effect a

limited capitalism. Peasants were allowed to keep their surpluses

after taxes were paid. Bonuses, extra rations and better

housing were offered as incentives. Still there was widespread

opposition to the communist policy with the beginnings of a

ôpeasant warö against StalinÆsÆ proposed collectivisation policy

in 1928. (21) Although agricultural production increased, the

standard of living was lowered and hardship was widespread.

Forcible collectivisation was pursued until 1935. This again

shows the peopleÆs general opposition to communist policies.

Collectivisation failed to meet agricultural requirements during

WWII. The human cost of the policy was staggering. If the people

are suffering under a particular regime they will not support it,

how then can this regime hope to survive?

When Khrushchev came to power, he too failed to salvage the

economy. Although some of the policies which he introduced in the

1950Æs had an initial success, they soon collapsed with

disastrous effects. Figures for meat in 1958 were artificially

high but collapsed soon after. In 1962 there were sharp increases

in the prices of butter and meat. (22) Food riots were forcibly

quelled by the shooting of seventy unarmed demonstrators in 1962.

(23) Industry was not faring any better and by 1963 production

levels had declined sharply in every branch of industry. As

Khrushchev himself said of communism in 1958:- ôIf, after forty

years of communism, a person cannot have a glass of milk and a

pair of shoes, he will not believe that communism is a good

thingö (24)

Under Brezhnev the economic state of the USSR continued to

decline. Support for communism was falling and due to improved

relations with the West, the people could see how disadvantaged

they were. Under Andropov who succeeded Brezhnev in 1982

the situation did not improve. Change began only when Gorbachev

came to power in 1985. (25) The major problems in the economy

which Gorbachev had to deal with were, the wasteful use of

resources, the lack of innovation, a poor division of labour, too

many costly products being produced, ineffective use of resources

and low productivity. There was a resistance to technological

innovation due to a lack of incentives. Wages were low and the

mechanisms involved in introducing a new idea or practice were

time-consuming and complicated. There was a general inflexibility

in the enterprise network which also stifled innovation. There

was also a lack of investment in new ideas and industry.

GorbachevÆs solution to these problems was a ôPerestroikaö of the


The challenge of Perestroika was to move to more intensive

methods of production and more effective use of inputs. His

economic polices began with the promise of a revival of

some of the practices of NEP. His aim was to cause output to

double by the year 2000 and for production and productivity to

rise substantially. It was not until 1987, however, that these

ideas were put into a concrete plan. (26) A vigorous anti-alcohol

campaign was initiated. Vineyards were destroyed and beer

production was cut-back. By 1988, however, they had to admit that

this policy was a complete failure and it was abandoned in 1990.

(27) By 1985 the USSR had a budget deficit of R37 billion. (28)

Due to miscalculations in relation to the extent of the budget

deficit, Gorbachev authorised spending in social and investment

sectors while maintaining the spending in the military sector.

This was a gross mistake which resulted in the budget deficit in

1989 having increased to R100 billion or 11% of the Gross

National Product (GNP) and was predicted to rise to R120 billion.

Therefore, under Gorbachev, the budget deficit rose from 3% in

1985 to 14% in 1989. (29) Inflation increased to over 5%. (30)

Prices failed to reflect the high cost of production and many

companies were working at a loss. This economic failure of

communism meant that support for the system fell and that it was

becoming increasingly more difficult for the communist party to

convince the people that this indeed was the way forward, and a

better solution than capitalism.

Gorbachev therefore aimed to tie salaries into achieved results

and to remove subsidies on some goods and services. He did not

act immediately, however, with his price reform package as he

hoped to first achieve a balance between supply and demand. This

merely worsened matters and wages continued to rise faster than

output and productivity. The main failure of Perestroika is that

it didnÆt remove the old price system. Instead, it allowed the

old price system, which was based on scarcity, to continue, and

this merely exacerbated shortages. Ironically, it was the mass

organisations of people, who had emerged to defend living

standards, who actually hampered the struggle against inflation

and the budget deficit. This situation was partly created by the

fact that the governing party had no popular support and

hadnÆt been popularly elected. The economic situation continued

to decline. There was a zero growth rate. Shops were calculated

to be lacking 243 out 276 basic consumer items and there was a

chronic shortage of 1000 items out of 1200 which would be on a

model shopping list. There was a static farm output and high

levels of inflation. (31) Therefore it can be seen that communism

was an economic disaster. KhrushchevÆs remark again can be used

to illustrate the effect which this had on the support for

communism. (see ref 24).

As previously mentioned, communism never had majority support or

a legitimate political basis. Force and coercion were regularly

used to ensure that the communist party remained in power.

Therefore one can maintain that the fact that communism was

a political failure was also a contributing factor to the

collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. If a party has not got

the support of a majority, then it has a weak political basis.

The fact that undemocratic means were used to ensure that the

communists came to, and then maintained, power shows that

communism was a political failure. Throughout the history of

communism in Russia, never once did the party gain a majority

support or truly succeed in suppressing public demonstrations of

antipathy towards communism. It can therefore be argued that a

political leadership with no political basis or support

could ever hope to survive.

Another important factor to note is communismÆs utter failure in

relation to society and culture. Soviet society under Communist

rule was socially and culturally underdeveloped. The state had a

say in every aspect of societal life. In response to low

birth rates, large numbers of orphans and the failure of 37/100

marriages in 1934 alone, the communist leadership compelled the

media to promote stable family life. (32) Propaganda was used to

coerce the people into believing in the positive virtues of

marriage and children. Divorce was made more difficult and

abortion was prohibited. Thus the peopleÆs right to choose and

exert control over their own personal and familial decisions was

removed. In schools, the teaching of the social sciences was

curtailed and Marxist and Leninist theories were expounded. In

the late thirties fees were reintroduced for the three upper

forms of secondary school. This effectively meant that only those

who could afford to pay these fees could send their children on

to further academic training as these were the forms which

prepared children for higher education. (33) Under Stalin

topographical, economic and political information and affairs

were a state secret. Maps were inaccurate and details about past

disasters and history were omitted or embellished.

Propaganda and brainwashing was used to ensure that the virtues

of communism were extolled and a cult following was created

around Lenin and Stalin. ôA Short Course on the History of the

CPSUö became the staple intellectual diet of all schoolchildren.

(34) This was a propagandistic book based on an idealistic view

of communism and its leaders. The mass arrests, the truth of the

purges and the labour camps were not allowed to be discussed in

the media. State monopoly of information and mass communications

deployed in this way, and backed by the use of coercion and

force and the military, degraded the nationÆs intellectual and

cultural life. People were simply not allowed to form an opinion

contrary to that of the communist state. People were also not

allowed to choose their own religion or follow their own personal

religious beliefs. The state outlawed and censored religious

ôpropagandaö and publications. The Soviet state actively and

brutally persecuted the churches. A large number of these

were desecrated or destroyed. More than half of all monasteries

were forced to close and in 1921 twenty-eight bishops were

arrested or died in violent clashes with the Soviet military.

(35) Attempts were also made to split the church from the inside.

By 1939 only 12 bishops, out of the 163 who had been active in

1930, remained. (36) These repressive measures, as a whole, meant

that the growth of Soviet culture and society was stunted and

stagnating. The secrecy and lies undermined efficiency, isolated

individuals and eroded the morale of society. This was compounded

by the fact that, due to Western influences, the public in the

communist countries were beginning to realise their predicament

and their backwardness. These measures continued until Gorbachev

came to power.

This point leads onto the most important factor which contributed

to the eventual collapse of communism in the East, that is,

Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev it is doubtful that the

disintegration of the communist regime would have occurred so

soon. Gorbachev can be seen as a reform communist. He introduced

a number of revolutionary reforms like Perestroika and Glasnost.

The combined effect of these policies, and his general attitude

to reform, communism and the USSR, had the effect of causing the

culmination of all opposition to communism and collapsing the


Glasnost proved to be a great relief valve which allowed the

people to voice their long-standing discontent about communism

and the communist regime as a whole. The positive elements of

Glasnost had the effect of bringing national tensions to the

surface of political and social life and, in a sense,

exacerbating the national problem. Liberalisation made people

less afraid of retribution when they spoke out against the

injustices of the system and the atrocities which had occurred.

The ripple effect of GorbachevÆs radical Perestroika and Glasnost

weakened the authority of thecommunist governments -

economically, socially and ideologically. Above all the failure

of communism lay in the failure of GorbachevÆs Perestroika. If

the economy had improved then so too would the peopleÆs well-

being and they may have considered maintaining the communist


The fundamental problem with Perestroika was how to change a

system which had been built to withstand change. It was

increasingly fractured. It had originally been based on

inaccurate figures about the well-being of the economy and the

national debt. Life under Perestroika became even harder for the

majority of Soviet people. There were no state-employed social

groups or skilled workers who stood to gain from Perestroika in

the short term. Economic reform involved hard work and higher

prices and therefore Perestroika was short on support. As the

economic situation worsened, sotoo did the peopleÆs support for

communism fall. This time there was a difference however. Due to

Glasnost the people and the media were now free to criticise the


Glasnost had the effect of ensuring that the previous reign of

terror which the communist leadership had held, was brought to an

end. Gorbachev employed a policy of ôGlasnostö, that is, openness

and the right to criticise and express an opinion. Up until

then Soviet society was closed. No criticism or freedom of speech

was allowed. The major feature of Glasnost is that of the lifting

of most of the restrictions which had beenimposed on the

circulation of information since communism began. The blank pages

in history were about to be filled in. Gorbachev realised that

the former policy of absolute secrecy was a major force holding

back the development of society. Censorship was relaxed. This had

the adverse effect of allowing the public criticism of a regime

which previously could not be criticised.

Gorbachev also allowed increasing independence to the Eastern

bloc states. He had come to the conclusion that compelling an

unwilling population to live under a system they detested was not

ensuring the USSRÆs security, but on the contrary, jeopardising

it. He indicated by omission, rather than by direct statement,

that he would not obstruct a change which would result in these

states achieving a measure of independence.

In Czechoslovakia on the 18th of January 1989 there was a

decision taken to legalise Solidarity. (37) On the 10th of

February the Hungarian communists agreed to a multi-party system

and there was no opposition to this on the part of the Soviets.

On 29th March Moscow told the Hungarians that they would not

interfere in East European affairs. (38) In Poland on January

18th, Solidarity had been legalised after a string of protests

and riots in Hungary. (39) This led to an agreement between the

communist government and Solidarity, the main focus of which was

the holding of the first relatively free elections since the

1940Æs in Poland. The elections were devastating to the

communists. They were swept out of the Senate and did not have

any representatives elected to the Sejm until the second round of

counting. (40)

This had a domino effect and hastened events elsewhere. Far from

GorbachevÆs original hope that allowing the Eastern states more

freedom would bring the union closer together, it was tearing the

union apart. Kadar was ousted from Hungary and the communists

were swept aside by the Hungarian Democratic Forum. On September

11th Hungary opened its borders with Austria and allowed

thousands of East Germans to cross to the west. (41) The people

of East Germany were demanding Glasnost and Perestroika. On

October 9th a mass demonstration of 70,000 people occurred in

Leipzig. (42) Thousands of Germans were escaping to the west

through Hungary and the GDR was powerless to stop them. Honecker,

the East German leader, buckled under the pressure and resigned.

The net effect of which was that his successors allowed the

opening of the Berlin Wall on 8th November 1989 after the East

German government and communist leadership resigned. (43)

On the 24th of November the Czechoslovak Communist Party resigned

after mass demonstrations in Prague of up to 800,000 people. On

the 7th of December the communist government in Czechoslovakia

collapsed entirely and a new non-communist government was formed.


GorbachevsÆs reforms were wreaking havoc on the communist system.

Its base, already weak and fragile, began to crumble away under

the massive wave of anti-communist feeling which had finally come

to the fore after years of suppression. On the 11th of December

Bulgarian communists were forced to agree to a multi-party system

and on the 25th, the Rumanian leader Ceausescu and his wife were

tried and executed. (45) All of this was borne out of GorbachevÆs

reforms. The communist regime had been built on force and

coercion, terror and undemocratic methods. This regime could

therefore not be expected to survive under such an onslaught. In

refusing the Eastern bloc communist parties aid to suppress the

revolts within, Gorbachev effectively sealed their fate. The

communist parties in those countries had always relied on Soviet

force for support in maintaining control of the countries, now

that his support had been removed the regimes crumbled. Therefore

the significance of the Gorbachev factor cannot be denied when

discussing the downfall of communism in Eastern Europe. If

Gorbachev had not introduced his reforms or had not refused aid

to the other Eastern bloc communist parties, the communist regime

may have still stood today. Gorbachev may not have been the cause

of the downfall, but he was certainly the trigger. The situation

was like a fuse, Gorbachev merely provided the matches and

refused to stop the fire.

The final factor which this essay will examine, is that of the

loss of elite party confidence. With his reforms Gorbachev had

undermined the morale and confidence of the party elite. It had

become clear that the communist cause had exhausted itself and

was a failure. Their utopian hopes had been torn apart one by one

throughout the years and Gorbachev had made them face this fact.

This had a paralysing effect on them and led to their apathy

about the ending of communism. If they had believed that there

was something left to fight for they may have used physical force

to overthrow Gorbachev and suppress the revolts, but they did

not. Gorbachev had launched a step-by-step dismantling of the

party and the nomenklatura under Perestroika. He separated and

neutralised his most militant opponents among the conservative

members of the party elite. At the 28th Congress the party elite

was divided between those who would monitor the development of

Glasnost and perestroika, and the Presidency who would champion

the fight against the unreformable members of the nomenklatura.

(46) Until the 28th Congress membership of the nomenklatura had

been a ticket to wealth and power, after the conference it became

a mere shell. Membership fell off and loyalties faded. A form

of local government control was implemented by Gorbachev to

further diminish the role of the Politburo. Piece by piece

Gorbachev was chipping away at the old eliteÆs confidence and

beliefs. The fact that Gorbachev was gaining support both from

the public at home and abroad, further eroded their confidence.

When the USSR began to collapse, however, certain voices in the

party refused to allow Gorbachev dismantle more of their dreams.

Yelstin was emerging at this time as an opponent to GorbachevÆs

rule. In response Gorbachev banned a pro-Yelstin rally in

Moscow in 1991. (47) Alarmed at a series of political strikes and

a growing support for Yelstin, Gorbachev negotiated a compromise

which stipulated that in return for an end to political strikes,

Gorbachev would negotiate a new Union treaty which would give

power to the republics. The day before this treaty was to be

signed, however, its opponents moved to forestall it. Pugo

announced that he was assuming presidential control as Gorbachev

was ill and declared a state of emergency. (48) Gorbachev

refused to concur with this announcement. Yelstin called for a

general strike and said that the emergency government was

ôunconstitutionalö. (49) Some workers went on strike, more did

not. Battle lines were being drawn and the complete collapse of

communism was not far behind. The leaders of the coup were

arrested by GorbachevÆs men and Gorbachev returned to Moscow.

The failed coup ironically however, had precipitated the process

it had been trying to prevent, that is, the break up of the USSR

and the demise of the communist party. In the Russian parliament

Yelstin signed a decree suspending the communist party pending

an investigation of the coup. Gorbachev had triumphed over the

plotters but now had to capitulate to Yelstin. After a vain

attempt at protest, Gorbachev resigned as General Secretary of

the CPSU and recommended that the General Committee should

disband itself. In June 1991 Yelstin was elected president of

Russia. (50) After the failure of the coup most of the Soviet

republics declared their independence and sovereignty.

Gorbachev tried unsuccessfully to revive the Union treaty for

several months afterwards, but to no avail. The chain of events

had been set in motion and could not be stopped now.

On the 8th of December 1991 Yelstin, along with the Beloruissian

and Ukraine leaders issued a statement which declared the end of

the USSR. They offered a ôCommonwealth of Independent Statesö in

return and invited other countries to join. (51) Gorbachev

protested at first but then bowed to the inevitable. Communism in

Eastern Europe had collapsed. On the 25th of December 1991, he

tendered his resignation as president of the USSR and the

communist flag was lowered from the Kremlin dome to be replaced

by the Russian tricolour. (52)

Communism in Eastern Europe, therefore, collapsed for a number of

reasons. It had no political basis or popular support. It was

riddled with economic problems and, in comparison to capitalism,

was a complete failure. Finally the Gorbachev factor and the

loss of elitist party confidence fanned the flames and destroyed

communism. Communism broke down because of fatal weaknesses built

into the system from its inception. It is in a humanÆs nature to

aim for success and prosperity. Communism denies the competitive

trait which is inherent in all humans. Communism was rejected

because it is not as good as alternative systems of satisfying

humans material wants. Communism also is at odds with the other

most basic instinct which a human has, that is, the desire for

freedom. Communism, in practice, denied the expression of civil

liberties, opinions and thought. It was also a forced rule which

was only enforced by terror, not acceptance or majority ruling.

Such a regime could only hope to last for a certain period,

never indefinitely. GorbachevÆs reforms were merely the catalyst

for this failure. Gorbachev wished to reform the system, not

destroy it, but the situation rapidly went out of control as

years of pent-up frustration and antipathy toward the communist

regime was finally given expression.

Can we therefore validate the quotation by Rogers which was made

at the start of this essay? This essay would argue yes. A regime

which is inherently against human nature can never hope to

succeed. It is human to want what we cannot have and to be denied

it, as with prohibition, makes us all the more determined and

curious to achieve that which is forbidden. The same can be said

to be true for communism. Therefore this essay would conclude

that although there were a number of external contributory

influence to the collapse of communism, communism as an ideal

cannot hope to survive for long in anything more than a

theoretical sense, as it is inherently contrary to the basic

drives of human nature.


(1) Various Inputs, Chronicle of the 20th Century Quotations

(Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1996) page 36

(2) Various Inputs, World Book Encyclopaedias (World Book Inc.,

1984) page 727

(3) Kehoe, A.M, Makers of 20th Century Europe (Mentor

Publications Ltd., 1988) page 25

(4) Ibid., page 32

(5) Ibid.

(6) Ibid., page 33

(7) Ibid., page 40

(8) OÆ Brien, Eileen, Modern Europe 1870-1966 (Mentor

Publications Ltd., 1995) page 231

(9) Kehoe, A.M, op cit., page 50

(10) Ibid.

(11) Ibid.

(12) Ibid.

(13) Ibid., page 52

(14) Ibid.

(15) Various Inputs, op cit. (1984) page 618b

(16) Ibid., page 618a

(17) Ibid., page 618b

(18) Ibid.

(19) Ibid.

(20) Kehoe, A.M, op cit. page 13

(21) Ibid.

(22) Ibid., page 55

(23) Ibid.

(24) Various Inputs, op cit. (1996) page 142

(25) Sakwa, Richard,Gorbachev and his Reforms 1985-1990 (Philip

Allan, 1990) page 271

(26) Ibid.

(27) Ibid., page 272

(28) Ibid.

(29) Ibid.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Ibid., page 281

(32) Hosking, Geoffrey, A History of the Soviet Union (Fontana

Press, 1992) page 213

(33) Ibid., page 215

(34) Ibid., page 218

(35) Ibid., page 228

(36) Ibid., page 235

(37) Ibid., page 245

(38) Ibid.

(39) Ibid.

(40) Ibid.

(41) Ibid., page 466

(42) Ibid.

(43) Ibid.

(44) Ibid.

(45) Ibid., page 468

(46) Novikov, Euvgeny & Bascio, Patrick, Gorbachev and the

Collapse of the Soviet Communist Party (Peter Lang Publishing

Inc., 1994) page 68

(47) Hosking, Geoffrey, op cit. page 494

(48) Ibid., page 495

(49) Ibid.

(50) Ibid., page 497

(51) Ibid., page 498

(52) Ibid.


Brown, Archie, The Gorbachev Factor (Oxford University Press,


Hosking, Geoffrey, A History of the Soviet Union (Fontana

Press, 1992)

Kehoe, A.M, Makers of 20th Century Europe (Mentor Publications

Ltd., 1988)

Miller, R.F & Miller, J.H & Rigby, T.H, Gorbachev at the Helm

(Croom Helm, 1987)

Novikov, Euvgeny & Bascio, Patrick, Gorbachev and the Collapse of

the Soviet Communist Party (Peter Lang Publishing Inc., 1994)

OÆ Brien, Eileen, Modern Europe 1870-1966 (Mentor Publications

Ltd., 1995)

Sakwa, Richard, Gorbachev and his Reforms 1985-1990 (Philip

Allan, 1990)

Swain, Geoffrey & Swain, Nigel, Eastern Europe Since 1945 (St.

MartinÆs Press Inc., 1993)

Various Inputs, Chronicle of the 20th Century Quotations

(Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1996) Various Inputs, World Book

Encyclopaedias (World Book Inc., 1984)

Word Count: 5774

About this resource

This coursework was submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

Search our content:

  • Download this page
  • Print this page
  • Search again

  • Word count:

    This page has approximately words.



    If you use part of this page in your own work, you need to provide a citation, as follows:

    Essay UK, Communism East Europe. Available from: <> [25-05-20].

    More information:

    If you are the original author of this content and no longer wish to have it published on our website then please click on the link below to request removal: