The End of Bipolarity Class 12 | Disintegration of USSR | Chapter 2 |


The End of Bipolarity Class 12 | Disintegration of USSR | Ch 2 |


USSR  stands for Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It came into being after Russian Revolution of 1917. This revolution gave rise to a new type of politico-economic system in Russia. After the Second World War, Soviet army liberated the east European Countries from fascist forces and hence they came under the control of USSR. This group of countries were modelled after USSR  and they together constituted ‘Socialist Bloc’ and disintegration of USSR happened the year 1991.


     The following were the main features of the economic system of USSR 

  • Socialist Economic System :- The leaders of Russian Revolution like Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin had implicit faith in Socialism. The means of production  and distribution were placed under state control.
  • Planned Economy:- For a rapid development of the economy the First Five Year Plan was started in 1928. Under a planned economy only the government decides what goods to be produced  and how and on what  scale should they be produced.
  • Standard of Living :- In Soviet Union the period after 1929 was the period of industrialization and of expansion of agriculture. State provided housing and educational facilities , healthcare, and pension to the citizens.                 


       As regard with Soviet Political system, its main features were as follow:-

  • Dictatorship of the Communist Party – In Soviet Union no political party other than the communist party could become the ruling party.
  • Rise of  Bureaucracy
  • Government Monopoly over newspapers, Radio and and Television.
  • Lack of civil liberties , such as freedom of speech, religion and freedom from arbitrary arrest.

Reforms of Gorbachev

     In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev was elected General Secretary of the Communist Party and in 1988 he became President of the country and he contributed immensely to disintegration of USSR.

     Need for reforms-

  1. The economy stagnated because of the management and control of agriculture and industry by the State officials.
  2. Intense militarism let to the acute shortage of things of basic necessities.
  3. The Communist Party controlled not only the State bureaucracy , it also interfered with the economy and methods of production.
  4. The CPU and the bureaucracy both had weakened the democratic character of representative institutions and legislature.
  5. There was absolutely no scope for freedom of speech and religion.
  6. Because of IT Revolution the Soviet citizens became aware that they did not have the same standard of life as people in the west.
  7. Collapse of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe.

Reforms of Gorbachev

  1. GLASNOST – it means openness. Soviet got rid of the policy of censoring books, newspapers, plays and films. This gave Soviet Citizens greater freedom of expression and criticism. The CPU declared to end its monopoly over the state affairs. This cleared the way for the multiparty system in USSR.
  2. PRESTROIKA – it means restructuring. It meant that all matters should be resolved by the representatives of the people. Encouragement was now placed on political, economic and industrial units.

Revolt Against Gorbachev

  • The process of reforms initiated by Gorbachev was disliked by the Communist hardliners and a coup took place in 1991. But the coup ended in failure because people had tasted fruits of freedom and did not want the old style communist governance.
  • When Gorbachev’s position weakened, Boris Yeltsin emerged as a national hero in opposing the coup and won a popular election. The power began to shift from the Soviet centre to the republics, especially in the more Europeanized part of the Soviet Union.

Disintegration of the Soviet Union


  • The struggles that were going on in Union Republics played a key role in the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
  • Many of the Union Republics became independent one after the other. In December 1991, under leadership of Yeltsin, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, three major republics of the USSR, declared the disintegrated of USSR.
  • Capitalism and democracy were adopted as the bases for the post-soviet republics.
  • Twelve of the fifteen republics agreed to form a new Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States
  • It was the responsibility of the Russian federation to honour all the international assurances and commitments of the former Soviet Union. It inherited the Soviet seat in the UN Security Council.

 Causes of the Disintegration of the USSR

      The causes responsible for the disintegration of the Soviet Union were as follows –

  • Negation of Political Democracy– the Parliament of the Soviet Union had been reduced to a mere rubber-stamp for giving approval to his decisions. The dictatorial character of the regime caused public discontentment.
  • Economic Failures – because of emphasis on heavy industries the Soviet economy failed to meet the expectations of the people, especially in terms of food production and the consumer goods.
  • Militarism – to make itself militarily strong the Soviet Union spent a large portion of its resources on the manufacture of weapons. Because of militarization a great shortage in respect to basic necessities.
  • Comparison with Western Nations – with IT Revolution the Soviet citizens came to have access to all information related to western nations. They compared the political and economic system of their own country with western nations and were shocked when they discovered high standard of living.
  • Gorbachev’s Policies- the policies of Gorbachev were opposed by corrupt officials and they wanted to run the economic and political system in the way they had been doing in the past.
  • Fall of communist Regimes in East European countries – Gorbachev ended the Warsaw pact and this culminated in lessening the hold of the Soviet Union over the East European countries which led to breakup of the Soviet Union.
  • Role of Western Nations – when the demand for democratic reforms grew louder in East European Countries, they started getting more and more support from the western nations.
  • National aspirations of the Union Republics – the nationalistic passions sounded the death knell of the Soviet Union with Baltic countries and Georgia demonstrating their anger and declared their independence.

Consequences of the Disintegration of the USSR

     The disintegration of USSR widely affected the world politics.

  1. End of cold war confrontations – the cold war lasted for four decades and its ideological disputes over whether socialist system or capitalist system is better ended. End of arms race and a possible new peace
  2. End of bipolarity and US emerging as the sole superpower– there was no power left to challenge the supremacy of USA. Financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were being used by USA and other developed nations to advance their interests.
  3. Emergence of new countries– the Republics that separated from the Soviet Union became members of the United Nations and had their own independent choices and aspirations. European states wanted to join European Union and NATO. The Central Asian countries wanted to take advantage of their geographical position and continue their close ties with Russia.

Shock Therapy

Definition – the painful process of transition from an authoritarian socialist system to a democratic capitalist system in Russia. This model was influenced by the World Bank and IMF.

The rulers were trying to bring about drastic changes in the society and economy of the country. This led to great turmoil and contributed to disintegration of USSR.

      Features of Shock Therapy

  • Total shift to capitalism, rooting out structures evolved during the Soviet Period.
  • Privatization of state assets and corporate ownership.
  • Collective farms were replaced by private farming.
  • It ruled out any third way, other than state-controlled Socialism or Capitalism.
  • Change in external orientation of these economies, development was now through more trade.
  • The free trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) were the main engines of change.
  • Openness to foreign investment, financial opening or deregulation and currency convertibility.
  • Breakup of the existing trade alliances among the countries of Soviet Bloc.

Consequences of Shock Therapy

Economic Consequences

  • Economic Crisis –the transformation of ‘Collective Agricultural Farms’ into ‘Private Farms’ was not an easy one. It led to virtual disappearing of entire industries. This was called the ‘Largest garage sale in history’, as valuable industries were undervalued and sold at throwaway prices.
  • High Rate of Inflation – Russia didn’t have enough people who could efficiently run ‘Private Enterprises’. They did not possess the right type of managerial skills. This resulted in phenomenal increase in inflation and the value of ‘Ruble’ came down to substantially low level.
  • Collapse of Social Welfare Schemes– the sudden withdrawal of government subsidies caused a major section of population into poverty. With Social Security breaking down, poverty increased manifold and health services were almost paralyzed.
  • Economic Disparities – with privatization, economic disparities too increased to a great extent. A mafia emerged that controlled many economic activities of the country.

      Political Consequences

  1. Political institutions grew very slowly and they did not receive the same attention as economic transformation.
  2. Drafting of Constitution was a very hurried process and widest possible powers were given to the Executive which made elected parliaments weak.
  3. The Presidents turned authoritarian in nature. The Presidents of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan appointed themselves to power for 10 years and then extended it to another 10 years.
  4. An independent Judiciary was yet to be established in all these countries.

Conflict in Chechnya and Other Regions

  • Chechnya and Dagestan –the civil war had started in Chechnya in 1994. The guerilla activities of the Chechnyan rebels caused severe damage to Russian forces. The conflict of Dagestan was a Secessionist Movement. However a ‘Moscow’s Method’ was applied to deal with conflict which resulted in many human rights violations.
  • Central Asia – a civil war occurred in Tajikistan due to sectarian conflict and went on for 10 years till 2001. The Nagorno-Karabukh provinces of Azerbaijan wanted to secede to join Armenia. There were conflicts in regions of Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan.

The Central Asian Republics are rich in hydrocarbon resources and hence this zone became prone to conflicts. The US wanted to establish military bases in the region but Russia perceived these states to be under Russian Influence.

  • East Europe – in 1992 both the regions of Czech and Slovakia decided to part from each other and hence Czechoslovakia was divided into ‘Czech Republic’ and ‘Slovakia’. In 1990 a civil war broke out in Yugoslavia and it broke into various provinces.

India’s Relations with Post Communist Countries

      Indo-Russian friendship is a time-tested friendship.

      Economic Relations

  • Russia gave financial and technical help to India in setting up steel plants at Bhilai, Ranchi and Bukaro.
  • When India faced a foreign exchange crisis, Russia accepted Indian currency for bilateral trade.
  • In 1974, Russia supplied diesel, kerosene and fertilizers to us in large quantities.
  • The Antibiotic Plant at Haridwar was set up by cooperation of Russia in technical field.

      Political Relations

  • India had referred the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council and Russia supported India.
  • When the matter of military action in Goa was taken up in Security Council, Russia sided with India.
  • In 1965 during Indo-Pak war Russia took a stand which favoured us.
  • In 1971, an Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation was concluded between India and Russia.

     Military Relations

  • The Indian military gets most of its hardware from Russia.
  • Russia gave Cryogenic rocket to India to assist India’s space industry
  • The Soviet entered into various agreements allowing India to jointly produce military equipment.

   Cultural and Educational Relations

  • Hindi films and Indian culture were popular in the Soviet Union.
  • In 1981, India and Russia signed an agreement for exchanges in cultural and educational fields
  • Many Indian scholars and artists had an opportunity to visit Russia.

Unipolar World

A unipolar world emerged after the disintegration of USSR in December 1991 where USA was the sole superpower remaining in the world. The USA became a hegemon in all the aspects of military, political and cultural life.

Middle East Crisis

Gulf war


  • On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait and took possession of that country. Since 1961 Iraq had been trying take Kuwait under its control.
  • The root cause of the conflict lay in the fact that Kuwait had vast oil resources.
  • After a series of diplomatic attempts failed at convincing Iraq to quit its aggression, the United Nations (UN) mandated liberation of Kuwait by force.

     Operation Desert Storm

  • With US President taking a leading role, the UN Security Council passed a Resolution calling for immediate withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
  • The US, some western nations and some Arab Nations started deploying their troops and aircrafts in Saudi Arabia so that they were ready for immediate action.
  • The Coalition forces numbered a total 6,60,600 troops from 34 countries fought against Iraq and defeated Iraqi forces. This military action in Iraq under an American General H. Norman Schwarzkopf came to known as the ‘Operation Desert Storm’.
  • Thus, Kuwait was liberated and with it ended the First Gulf War.

     Consequences of the Gulf war

  • This war established the US hegemony and superiority in the world.
  • The Gulf War shattered the illusion of Arab Unity.
  • Heavy bombardment resulted in large scale destruction of men and material.
  • It established that in the field of technology the USA had left the other nations far behind even Russia, which majorly lost after disintegration of USSR. Military experts termed it as as ‘Computer War’ because a lot of publicity about the ‘Smart Bombs’ used by the United States.



  • Al-Qaeda, a terrorist Muslim Organization was involved in attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Tanzania.
  •  Under ‘Operation Infinite Reach’ President Bill Clinton ordered missile attacks on Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and Sudan.

       Emergence of Taliban

  • Talibans were the students of religion , they were led by Osama Bin Laden. By the end of 1996 they had gained control over 90% of Afghanistan’s territorial boundaries .
  • They committed all sorts of atrocities to establish an extremist Islamic regime in that country.
  • It appeared as if Talibans would turn Afghanistan into a medieval barbaric society.
  • After the 9/11 attack on USA by Al-Qaeda , the Taliban government of Afghanistan was accused of not only protecting Osama Bin Laden but also of actively supporting Al-Qaeda.

     Operation Enduring Freedom

  • After making massive military preparation , the US along with other nations launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ to root out the Taliban government and the Al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan.
  • The Taliban regime fell in December 2001. The Pakhtoon leader Hamid Karzai formed an interim government in Afghanistan. Later he was elected President of the country
  • His government had full support of America to run the country’s administration. The war in Afghanistan ended with Osama Bin Laden’s killing by US Special forces.
  • In 2014 , the US President decided complete departure of American troops but later agreed to maintain a few troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
  • US President Donald Trump announced in 2020 the complete departure of troops from the country.

Democratic Politics and Democratization

  • Commonwealth of Independent States – this regional intergovernmental organization was formed post disintegration of USSR in 1991. It originally had 10 members but currently it has 9. The CIS encourages cooperation in economic, political and military affairs and has certain powers relating to the coordination of trade, finance, lawmaking and security. However , the CIS has been criticized by international organizations and human rights groups for its repressive human rights abuses, limited civil rights and indefinite imprisonment or execution of political figures and dissidents.
  • Arab Spring – in 21st century, there has been new development for democracies and democratization in West Asia countries. Arab Spring happens to be one such event, it began in 2009. The struggle against competition , unemployment and poverty turned into a political movement because people felt that the existing problems were the result of autocratic dictatorship. And this demand for democracy that started in Tunisia spread throughout the Muslim-dominated Arab countries in West Asia. Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt since 1979, his rule collapsed as a result of the massive democratic protests. Arab Spring also influenced countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria, where similar protests by the people led to awakening throughout the region.


  • The End of Bipolarity

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