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The End of the Cold War
Inferior Russian Economy
The USSR emerged from WWII as a superpower
Soviet Union controlled many E. European satellite
For many people, the country’s superpower status
brought few rewards and no increase in standard of
Consumer goods were inferior and workers were
poorly paid
Because workers had lifetime job security, there was
little incentive to produce high-quality goods
Technological Successes in the
Soviet Union
Still, there were some important technological
One example was Sputnik I, the first artificial
satellite, launched in 1957
Keeping up with the United States in an arms race
also strained and drained the Soviet economy
Then, in 1979, Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan and
became involved in a long war similar to Vietnam
The Soviets had few successes battling the
mujahedin, or Muslim religious warriors, creating a
crisis in morale in the USSR
Sputnik I
History changed on October 4,
1957, when the Soviet Union
successfully launched Sputnik I.
The world's first artificial satellite
was about the size of a
basketball, weighed only 183
pounds, and took about 98
minutes to orbit the Earth on its
elliptical path. That launch
ushered in new political, military,
technological, and scientific
developments. While the Sputnik
launch was a single event, it
marked the start of the space age
and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race.
New Soviet Leadership
A new Soviet leader named Mikhail Gorbachev
emerged in 1985 who favored changes to the USSR
Gorbachev urged economic and political reforms for
the USSR
He called for glasnost (openness) in Soviet society
Gorbachev ended censorship and encouraged people
to discuss the country’s problems openly
Gorbachev also called for perestroika, or a
restructuring of the government and the economy
His policies fueled unrest across other countries in
the Soviet empire
Mikhail Gorbachev
Unrest in Eastern Europe
Eastern Europeans, thirsty for political and economic
changes, demanded an end to Soviet rule
Previous attempts to defy Soviet authority had failed
Examples: When Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia
(1968) challenged communist rulers, the Soviets sent
in military forces to crush the revolts
Democracy Movement in Eastern
By the end of the 1980s, a powerful democracy movement was
sweeping across Eastern Europe
In Poland, Lech Walesa led Solidarity, an independent,
unlawful labor union demanding economic and political changes
When Gorbachev declared he would not interfere in Eastern
European political and economic reforms, Solidarity was
A year later, Walesa was elected president of Poland
Lech Walesa – Leader of
Solidarity Movement
Fall of Eastern European
Meanwhile, East German Communist leaders resisted reform,
and thousands of East Germans fled to the west as the border
between Hungary and Austria opened
In Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel, a dissident writer, was elected
One by one, communist governments fell in Europe
Most changes happened peacefully, but Romanian dictator
Nicolae Ceausescu refused to step down and he was
executed (Dec. 25, 1989)
The Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) regained
independence after 50 years of Soviet control
Nicolae Ceausescu
Dictator of Romania
Fall of the Berlin Wall
President Ronald Reagan asked
Mikhail Gorbachev to remove the
Berlin Wall that separated West
Berlin from East Berlin:
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this
wall” - these were the famous
televised words that Reagan said
to Gorbachev, the leader of the
former Soviet Union, in reference
to the Berlin Wall that had
divided residents of West Berlin
from East Berlin since the wall
was constructed in 1961
Fall of the Berlin Wall
The fall of the Berlin Wall happened nearly as suddenly as its rise. There had been signs
that the Communist bloc was weakening, but the East German Communist leaders insisted
that East Germany just needed a moderate change rather than a drastic revolution. East
German citizens did not agree. As Communism began to falter in Poland, Hungary, and
Czechoslovakia in 1988 and 1989, new exodus points were opened to East Germans who
wanted to flee to the West. Then suddenly, on the evening of November 9, 1989, an
announcement made by East German government official Günter Schabowski stated,
"Permanent relocations can be done through all border checkpoints between the GDR (East
Germany) into the FRG (West Germany) or West Berlin."
People were in shock. Were the borders really open? East Germans tentatively approached
the border and indeed found that the border guards were letting people cross. Very quickly,
the Berlin Wall was inundated with people from both sides. Some began chipping at the
Berlin Wall with hammers and chisels. There was an impromptu huge celebration along the
Berlin Wall, with people hugging, kissing, singing, cheering, and crying.
The Berlin Wall was eventually chipped away, into smaller pieces (some the size of a coin
and others in big slabs). The pieces have become collectibles and are stored in both homes
and museums.
After the Berlin Wall came down, East and West Germany reunified into a single German
state on October 3, 1990.
Berlin Wall Speech (June 12, 1987)
Please watch President Reagan’s speech:
Fall of Eastern European
By the end of 1991, the remaining Soviet republics had all
formed independent nations
The Soviet Union ceased to exist after 69 years of communist
In 1992, Czechoslovakia was divided into two separate
countries: Slovakia and the Czech Republic
Additionally, some communist governments in Asia, such as
China, instituted economic reforms only but no political reforms
Fall of Eastern European
North Korea is hardline communist with no political or economic
Vietnam implemented some economic reforms
Cuba is still communist and has lost much economic support
from the former Soviet Union
Powerpoint Questions (16 points)
1. Why was the Soviet economy inferior? (provide examples)
2. What did the Soviet Union launch in 1957?
3. Who were the mujahedin?
4. What country did the Soviet Union invade in Afghanistan
5. Who became the new Soviet leader in 1985?
6. What does glasnost mean?
7. Explain perestroika.
Powerpoint Questions (16 points)
8. What two countries challenged Soviet rule in the 1950s and
1960s? (2 points)
9. What was Solidarity? Who was its leader? (2 points)
10. Who was the Romanian leader who refused to step down
from power and who was ultimately executed?
11. What action did President Ronald Reagan demand from
Soviet leader Gorbachev?
12. What happened to the Soviet Union by 1991?
13. Into what two countries was Czechoslovakia divided? (2
The End