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Collapse of the Soviet Union

The collapse of the Soviet Union was finalized on December 26, 1991 when the Supreme Soviet officially dissolved the USSR.

History of events that led to the collapse

After Mikhail Gorbachev permitted more freedom in Eastern Europe in 1989, communist power[?] in the Soviet Union began to wither away. Gorbachev tried to transform the communist-controlled, empire-like state into a multi-party, federal union, but was opposed by nationalistic views in all the 15 republics.

On February 15, 1989 Soviet forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Soviet Union continued to support the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan with substantial aid until the end of 1991.

On February 7, 1990 the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agreed to give up its monopoly of power.

On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared independence and pulled out of the union. However, a large part of the population of the Lithuanian SSR[?] comprised ethnic Russians, and the Red Army had a strong presence there. The Soviet Union initiated an economic blockade of Lithuania and kept troops there "to secure the rights of ethnic Russians." In January 1991, clashes between Soviet troops and Lithuanian civilians occurred, leaving 20 dead. This further weakened the Soviet Union's legitimacy, internationally and domestically.

On March 30, 1990, the Estonian supreme council declared Soviet power in Estonia since 1940 to have been illegal, and started a process to re-establish Estonia as an independent state.

On August 20, 1991, the republics were to sign a new union treaty, making them independent republics in a federation with a common president, foreign policy and military. However, on August 18, a group of Gorbachev's ministers led by Gennadi Yaneyev, backed by the KGB and military, staged a coup d'état. Gorbachev was held prisoner in his summer residence on the Crimean peninsula (Ukraine), and martial law was declared in Russia on August 19. Large groups of soldiers controlled Moscow, but no politicians were arrested. During this time, Estonia declared its independence on August 20.

Boris Yeltsin and the semi-democratically elected Russian parliament opposed the coup, and the coup makers gave up on August 21, the same day that the third Baltic republic, Latvia, declared its independence.

On December 8 the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine signed an agreement signaling the end of the U.S.S.R. and agreeing to form the new Commonwealth of Independent States at the Belovezhskaya Pushcha Nature Reserve in Belarus.

On December 21, 11 of the 12 remaining republics (all except Georgia) founded the Commonwealth of Independent States, effectively ending the USSR. On December 25, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president, and on December 26 the Supreme Soviet officially dissolved the USSR.

See also: History of Russia, Soviet Union, History of post-communist Russia.

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