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JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - Why did the Soviet Union collapse - JC History Essay Notes

Why did the Soviet Union collapse?

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

Examine the possible causes that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union: Inevitable or not? 
From a retrospective view, not all agree that the collapse of the Soviet Union was expected. In fact, there were forecasts that the Soviet Union might surpass the United States in terms of economic development.

Nevertheless, the Cold War rivalry have undoubtedly impacted the social, economic and political developments of the USSR. In this article, we will cover the consequences of domestic reforms and the rise of nationalism.

Internal Reform #1: Perestroika 
Following the ascent of Mikhail Gorbachev, the newly-elected Soviet leader introduced two notable concepts that outlined his domestic reforms: perestroika and glasnost.

Faced with an ailing Soviet economy, Perestroika (which means ‘restructuring’) involved economic restructuring through the reduction of central planning and greater private participation.

For instance, the Law on State Enterprise was passed in June 1987. In this case, state enterprises could set their own output levels based on consumer demand. With their newfound autonomy, these enterprises had to be self-reliant as state financing was absent.

Additionally, the Soviet Joint Venture Law was passed, which allowed foreign investment to flow into the Soviet Union. The government allowed majority foreign ownership.

However, the economic restructuring was ineffective. Contrary to Gorbachev’s expectations, the reforms accelerated the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1991, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 17% and inflation rate was at nearly 700%.

The failure of Perestroika was largely traced to the incompatibility of capitalism with communism. For example, the government still maintained a monopoly over the means of production, thereby denying the enterprises of the ability to compete feasibly. Besides, foreign investment was hardly present due to the high degree of resistance from local officials, who feared the loss of political control.

Internal Reform #2: Glasnost
The Glasnost policy (which referred to ‘openness’) was introduced to empower the Russian society by enabling freer flow of information and public involvement in the decision-making processes. By doing so, Gorbachev hoped to restore public trust in the Soviet government, including the desired support for his Perestroika.

For instance, the Soviet government lifted its censorship policies and allowed open political debate. Also, freedom of religion was permitted, which contributed to the restoration of mosques and churches.

Again, the reform proved disastrous for the Gorbachev administration. The policy of “openness” exposed the failures of past leaders, thus causing the erosion of public trust. Critics became more outspoken as they pointed out social and economic problems, like food shortages and housing issues.

More importantly, the availability of political debates influenced the public desire for democratization, which resulted in the mass-based political participation in the Soviet Republics.

Nationalism: A rising tide; A dangerous precipice
In addition to the nationalist movements that took place in the Eastern Europe, there were also political uprisings that broke out within the USSR itself.

From 1988 to 1990, several Soviet Republics declared independence from the Soviet Union. For example, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia declared their intent to break away from USSR even though the Soviet government rejected it.

Due to Gorbachev’s refusal to use military force against the nationalists, cracks within the political leadership were gradually exposed.

The August Coup
Gorbachev proposed the ‘New Union Treaty’ in 1991 to maintain a semblance of central authority while granting the republics their desired sovereign rights. However, nearly half of the republics rejected the proposal.

High-ranking officials within the Soviet government launched a coup against Gorbachev in August 1991. This event became a turning point as Russian President Boris Yeltsin garnered support to end the coup. Eventually, the coup ended and Gorbachev resigned.

On 26 December 1991, following the Belavezha Accords, the dissolution of the USSR began. The declaration recognised the official independence of the former Soviet Republics and the subsequent creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). In other words, the collapse of the USSR signalled the end of the Cold War.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that domestic reforms were the main reason for the dissolution of the USSR? [to be discussed in class]

Now that you have considered the contributing factors that explained the collapse of the USSR, it is imperative that you attempt source-based case study questions relating to this topic, also known as the End of Bipolarity. Additionally, you can join our JC History Tuition. We impart you with the thinking and writing skills to improve your quality of answers, such as information extraction, reliability and utility assessment.

Also, you can join other JC tuition programmes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - How did Mikhail Gorbachev end the Cold War - JC History Essay Notes

How did Mikhail Gorbachev end the Cold War?

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

Find out how Mikhail Gorbachev cooperated with Ronald Reagan in ending the Cold War

About the Reformist: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev 
Before Gorbachev assumed the leadership position in the Soviet Union, he possessed credentials that contributed to his gradual and eventual ascension to power. For example, in 1979, Gorbachev became a full member of the Politburo. When Konstantin Chernenko died on 10 March 1985, Gorbachev was elected to succeed him as the next General Secretary of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU).

The paradigm shift: ‘New Thinking’  
From 25 February to 6 March 1986, the newly-elected Soviet leader delivered a pivotal speech during the 27th Party Congress of the CPSU in Moscow.

During the address, Gorbachev introduced a new foreign policy, known as Novoe Myshlenie (‘New Thinking’). He sought to achieve peaceful co-existence with other nations in the world. To do so, he proposed a series of domestic reforms.

Notably, his foreign policy included the renunciation of the controversial Brezhnev Doctrine and support for arms reduction between superpowers.

End of the Arms Race  
Following the historic 27th Party Congress speech, Gorbachev arranged to meet his counterpart, Ronald Reagan, during a series of summits, such as the Reykjavik Summit in October 1986.

Although the disarmament talks had failed due to disagreements between the two leaders over the testing of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the willingness of Gorbachev to enter negotiations was a milestone achievement.

A year later, Gorbachev met Reagan during the Washington Summit and eventually came to a common consensus on disarmament. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty was signed, signifying the end of the arms race.

Within the terms of agreement, Gorbachev pledged to reduce conventional forces in Europe, which later affected the Eastern European satellites.

End of the ideological division in Europe
On 7 December 1988, Gorbachev gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. It was a remarkable event as he declared his intentions to withdraw troops from Eastern Europe and the Third World (such as Afghanistan).

The necessity of the principle of freedom of choice is also clear to us. The failure to recognize this, to recognize it, is fraught with very dire consequences, consequences for world peace… Freedom of choice is a universal principle and there should be no exceptions

The Soviet Union has made a decision on reducing its armed forces. In the next two years, their numerical strength will be reduced by 500,000 persons, and the volume of conventional arms will also be cut considerably.

UN General Assembly Speech by Mikhail Gorbachev, 8 December 1988

Subsequently, Soviet Union’s decision withdraw from Afghanistan marked the end of the largest Cold War conflict. Additionally, Soviet aid to revolutionary movements in Africa and Latin America was cut.

As a result of these major shifts in Soviet foreign policy, the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe was imminent. For example, in East Germany, public protests broke out. Popular movements escalated to the point that East German leader, Erich Honecker, resigned on 18 October 1989. On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, thus marking the end of the division between East and West Germany.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that Gorbachev was the chief architect in causing the end of the Cold War [to be discussed in class].

After examining the individual contributions of Gorbachev and Reagan, you can attempt source based case study questions to improve your answering skills. Alternatively, sign up for our JC History Tuition and receive summary materials. We conduct writing workshops and content revision classes to expand your areas of study such that you can revise productively and effectively.

You can consider other JC tuition classes, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to find out more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Singapore - How did Ronald Reagan end the Cold War - JC History Essay Notes

How did Ronald Reagan end the Cold War?

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

Examine the role of the former US President Ronald Reagan to understand his contributions in ending the Cold War.

The end of the Cold War: Revisited 
In one of our earlier articles, we have discussed the major incidents that led to the eventual end of the ideological division that transformed the world in the 20th century. Today, we will focus our attention on one of the key players that contributed to this pivotal moment in history.

About Ronald Reagan: A Hollywood Star; A World Leader
Before Reagan took office in January 1981, he was a well-known actor in the 1940s and 1950s. His accumulated experienced had paid off when he switched to politics. American voters were charmed by Reagan’s charisma and oratorical skills, such that he was nicknamed “The Great Communicator”.

The “Second Cold War”: The Arms Race
Following his electoral victory, Reagan assumed a position that differed drastically from his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who pursued arms control, as exemplified by the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT I & II).

Instead, Reagan was supportive of military build-up. His rationale stemmed from the belief that American military superiority was vital in pressuring the Soviets to relent in the Cold War. Therefore, the Reagan administration oversaw a $180 billion five-year programme.

In November 1983, the Pershing II ballistic missiles were deployed in Western Europe. Additionally, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) led command post exercise, code-named “Able Archer“, that simulated a coordinated nuclear attack.

Most importantly, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) was announced publicly as a high-tech project that involved the use of “lasers” to target Soviet ballistic missiles in space. Despite the absurd-sounding concept, the Soviets took the announcement seriously.

Later, the incoming Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev met Reagan over a series of summits that culminated in the end of the arms race. Notably, the “Washington Summit” ended with the successful signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by Reagan and Gorbachev.

Each Party shall eliminate all its intermediate-range missiles and launchers of such missiles, and all support structures and support equipment of the categories listed in the Memorandum of Understanding associated with such missiles and launchers, so that no later than three years after entry into force of this Treaty and thereafter no such missiles, launchers, support structures or support equipment shall be possessed by either Party.

Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, 8 December 1987.

The Reagan Doctrine: Renewed Containment
Similar to the first US President, Harry Truman, who outlined his policy of ‘containment’, Reagan introduced a doctrine to intensify American efforts in countering the Soviet influence in the Third World.

The “Reagan Doctrine” shaped the US administration’s foreign policy, in which covert aid was given to counter-revolutionaries that fought against the Soviets Africa, Asia and Latin America.

We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that’s not innocent; nor can we be passive when freedom is under siege. Without resources, diplomacy cannot succeed… And I hope that you in the Congress will understand that, dollar for dollar, security assistance contributes as much to global security as our own defense budget.
We must stand by all our democratic allies. And we must not break faith with those who are risking their lives—on every continent, from Afghanistan to Nicaragua—to defy Soviet-supported aggression and secure rights which have been ours from birth.

From Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address, 6 February 1985

Subsequently, the US expanded its scope of support in the above-mentioned regions. For example, the Soviet-Afghan War saw a turning point in September 1986. During “Operation Cycle”, the US provided “Stinger” missiles that were effective against Soviet aircraft. Eventually, the war ended in February 1989.

A lasting legacy
Before Reagan ended his second term as the US President, he made an address to the nation, reflecting on his past contributions and how the Cold War had changed the world.

Nothing is less free than pure communism — and yet we have, the past few years, forged a satisfying new closeness with the Soviet Union. I’ve been asked if this isn’t a gamble, and my answer is no because we’re basing our actions not on words but deeds. The detente of the 1970’s was based not on actions but promises. They’d promise to treat their own people and the people of the world better. But the gulag was still the gulag, and the state was still expansionist, and they still waged proxy wars in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Well, this time, so far, it’s different. President Gorbachev has brought about some internal democratic reforms and begun the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“Farewell Address to the Nation”, by Ronald Reagan, 11 January 1989

Evidently, the mutual cooperation with the Soviet leader Gorbachev had paid off as it led to the end of the Cold War.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that Reagan was largely responsible for the end of the Cold War? [to be discussed in class].

Now that you have covered the main contributions of Ronald Reagan in understanding the end of Bipolarity, it is important that you attempt related source based case study questions to review your knowledge comprehension. Join our JC History Tuition and receive organised materials to raise the productivity of your revision. We also provide skills development workshops to teach JC students how to do source comparision and analysis.

Also, you can join JC tuition, such as GP TuitionEconomics TuitionJC Chemistry TuitionJC Math Tuition and China Studies in English Tuition. For Secondary Tuition, we offer Secondary English TuitionSecondary Math tuitionSecondary Chemistry Tuition and Secondary Economics Tuition. Call 9689 0510 to learn more.

JC History Tuition Bishan Bedok Tampines Singapore - What caused the end of the Cold War - JC History SBQ Skills

What caused the end of the Cold War?

Why did the Cold War come to an end? 
In this three-part series, we have learnt how the Cold War began and how it expanded beyond Europe [as seen in the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War]. Lastly, we will be looking at how the Cold War ended.

Topic of Study [For H2 and H1 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Cold War (1945-1991)
Section A: Source-based Case Study
Theme I Chapter 3: End of Bipolarity

1. Economic collapse of the Soviet Union 
One of the leading arguments put forth by historians is that the Soviet Union was affected by a sluggish economy that hindered its efforts to keep up with the arms race aspect of the Cold War. From 1964 to 1982, Gorbachev’s predecessors had expended vast amounts of state funds and resources to achieve nuclear parity with USA. Given that military arms accumulation had negligible benefits to the economic prosperity of the country, its people had to bear the consequences, such as the fall in production of consumer goods and decline in living standards.

2. Ineffective economic, social and political reforms 
Under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991), the Soviet Union had undergone a drastic reform that affected its political, economic and social developments.

One such policy is Glasnost, which implies ‘openness’. This policy demonstrated Gorbachev’s willingness to accept new (and Western) ideas into the Soviet Union. Also, the people were allowed to state their views towards the government’s policies openly. However, this seemingly-democratic approach gave rise to unintended open criticisms that damaged the government’s credibility. For instance, the disastrous Chernobyl incident (Apr 1986) was exposed.

The second policy is Perestroika, which refers to ‘restructuring’. This approach involved the political and economic reforms that sought to blend both capitalist and central planning concepts into the domestic markets. For example, state enterprises were allowed to decide the level of production to meet consumer demand. At the same time, the government had full control over the means of production for these enterprises, thus restricting the latter’s ability to manage the cost of production. Eventually, the policy backfired. By early 1990s, Gross National Product (GNP) decreased by 2%. Many households suffered from food shortages as the country experienced high inflation rates and a devaluation of the Soviet Ruble against the US Dollar. Therefore, poor policy implementation contributed to the growing anti-government resentments that led up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

3. The Sinatra Doctrine [Oct 1989] 
The aptly-named ‘Sinatra Doctrine‘ was a stark contrast to the Brezhnev Doctrine, as the former hinted at the notion that the Soviet government allowed more political autonomy to be granted to the satellite states (which formed the Warsaw Pact states). Initially, these satellites were ruled with an iron fist, as exemplified by the authoritarian responses to act on potential dissent and challenge to Moscow (e.g. end of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956).

On 7 December 1988, Gorbachev addressed the United Nations General Assembly. He supported the “principle of freedom of choice” by acknowledging it as a “universal principle to which there should be exceptions”. As a result, the satellite states interpreted Gorbachev’s statement as a clear indication that the Soviet Union would not intervene should they choose to form independent governments.

1989 was a significant year as the world witnessed a series of revolutions in Eastern Europe. The disintegration of the satellite states began in Poland, followed by other neighbouring countries, like Hungary, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia. This process culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, which symbolised the reunification of Germany in 1990.

4. Dissolution of the Soviet Union (Dec 1991)
After observing the disintegration of the satellite states in Eastern Europe, many Soviet hardliners began to doubt Gorbachev’s intentions to address the challenges of the Soviet Union. Following the ineffective political and economic reforms of Glasnost and Perestroika, Gorbachev turned to a last-ditch effort to salvage the situation by proposing the Union Treaty that sought to create a voluntary federation in an increasingly democratised Soviet Union. However, Gorbachev was met with strong rejection by the hardliners. The country experienced a period of political instability.

During the attempted coup in August 1991, Gorbachev was placed under house arrest. Clearly, he had lost political influence. As such, Gorbachev resigned as the General Secretary and requested to dissolve all communist-related groups in the Soviet Union. Hence, Soviet Communism was no more. On 26 December 1991, the dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Therefore, the decline of the Soviet Union meant that the Cold War was no longer relevant.

What’s Next?
Now that you have covered the entire spectrum of the Cold War study, it is important to take note of the following considerations to reinforce your learning of this theme:
– How did USA contribute to the end of the Cold War?  
– Did Gorbachev play the most important role in causing the end of the Cold War? [class discussion]

Improve your study of A Level History topics by attending our JC History Tuition programmes that are available for both JC1 and JC2 students. We conduct regular tuition classes for students who are taking either H1 or H2 History. These lessons include content re-teaching and skills-based development for SBQ and essay writing skills. Additionally, engage in class discussions to broaden your understanding of these historical issues, such that you can comprehend the significance of factors and form the arguments more logically and thoroughly.

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