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Soviet Union, fall of

David Mandel


The fall of the Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers, caught the world by surprise. Even the experts had not foreseen the event, let alone its rapidity and largely non-violent character. As late as 1983, peering into the future, a leading American specialist of the USSR concluded: “I anticipate no fundamental changes during this decade.” This failure of “sovietology” to predict the fall flowed from an even more grievous shortcoming: an inability to grasp the essential nature of the Soviet system. Yet, as early as the mid–1930s, Levon Trotsky , a leader of the Russian Revolution who went on to head the opposition to Stalin's totalitarian regime, argued that the system that had emerged during the 1920s was a historical dead-end and would inevitably lead to another revolution, which would either restore capitalism or else put Russia back onto a socialist path of development. This analysis, though largely ignored by academic sovietologists, provides a useful starting point to seek an explanation for the Soviet Union's demise. Trotsky argued that the nature of the Soviet system could not be reduced to any simple formula, since it was a deeply contradictory system, containing elements of socialism, like a planned economy and the provision of economic security for its citizens, while others belonged to capitalism, like the exploitation of labor and social inequality. However, the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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