Communist Europe 1985–91
The ‘six years that shook the world’ opened with the coming to power of the relatively youthful Mikhail Gorbachev and concluded with his resignation from the post of General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union following an attempted right-wing coup in August 1991. By then the USSR had virtually disintegrated, and its components were in a state of political and economic crisis. In addition, by process of ‘chain reaction’, the Soviet empire in eastern and central Europe had undergone a series of revolutions and the establishment of democratic régimes which was associated with the collapse of the old communist military alliance, and the end of the Cold War. The key to these startling events was the Gorbachev policies of perestroika and glasnost, although that should be regarded as a catalyst which triggered underlying forces in the USSR and eastern Europe.
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