Historian explains collapse of the Soviet Union | Serhii Plokhy and Lex Fridman | Summary and Q&A

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March 7, 2024
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Historian explains collapse of the Soviet Union | Serhii Plokhy and Lex Fridman

TL;DR

The collapse of the Soviet Union was influenced by factors such as geography, ideology, and economics, and it marked the end of the last major European empire.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Was the collapse of the Soviet Union due to pressure and manipulation from the United States?

While the Cold War played a role in the Soviet collapse, the United States did not actively seek the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, they were initially concerned about it, as it posed challenges and risks for them in terms of nuclear weapons control and their relationship with Gorbachev.

Q: Could the Soviet Union have avoided collapse if different policies were implemented?

It is possible that the collapse could have been delayed or happened differently, but global processes ultimately contributed to the disintegration of empires. The reforms introduced by Gorbachev could have been managed differently, or the Soviet Union could have continued with stagnation, but the collapse was inevitable.

Q: Why is the collapse of the Soviet Union considered the collapse of the last major European empire?

The collapse of the Soviet Union marked the end of traditional European empires that existed in the 18th, 19th, and most of the 20th centuries. Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire had already disintegrated, leaving the Soviet Union as the last major European empire.

Q: What role did Ukraine play in the collapse of the Soviet Union?

Ukraine played a critical role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. It had the second-largest population and economic potential among the Soviet republics, and its cultural and historical ties to Russia made it an important factor. The decision of Ukraine to go independent led Russia to believe that continuing with the Soviet Union was not in its best interest.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union can be attributed to the interplay of three interconnected processes: the collapse of communism as an ideology, the end of the Cold War, and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

  • Theories explaining the collapse include mobilization from below, the collapse of the center against economic and ideological crises, and the story of geography, ideology, and economics.

  • The collapse of the Soviet Union was a unique event, but it followed the pattern of disintegration of other empires throughout history.

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