The Fall Of The Soviet Union, In 36 Rarely-Seen Photos
The fall of the Soviet Union didn’t happen overnight. Communism in the USSR suffered a slow and prolonged death — an entire decade of economic collapse, political revolts, and military failures that slowly ate away at one of the most powerful empires on Earth.
By the 1980s, the Soviet economy was falling apart. Food and supplies were growing so scarce that people would have to spend hours lined up outside of their local stores, patiently waiting for their turn to scavenge what little was left on its shelves before they were completely stripped bare.
Political unrest reached its peak in 1989 when revolutions started to spread like wildfire across the Eastern Bloc. Countries throughout the region started standing up and fighting to topple their Communist rulers and weaken the Soviet grip on the world.
In response, the Soviet Army rolled in on tanks and armored carriers, trying to crush the dissidents that had risen up against the Kremlin’s power. They massacred whole crowds of people for daring to rise up – but many kept fighting, no matter what Moscow threw at them.
Most of the protests were peaceful. Across the Baltic states, people protested the Soviet rule by simply holding hands; 2 million people grabbed hold of each other in a human chain that extended across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, pleading for freedom from the USSR.
Then, as winter crept into the year of revolution, the Berlin Wall came down. On a November 9, 1989 press conference, East German ruling party spokesman Günter Schabowski misread an official memo about relaxed travel restrictions and told the people of East Berlin that they could travel freely to West Berlin, effective immediately — when the party had, in fact, wanted a slower transition. Crowds of thousands then rushed across the checkpoint that very night, and, shortly after, the wall was torn down.
In a single year, six countries seceded from the Soviet Union – and soon, their troubles would come to Moscow. In the last month of 1991, the hardline Communists made their last stand, staging a coup d’état to try to take control of the nation.
The last, dying struggle of the Soviets was over in just two days. The people wouldn’t stand for their new rulers, and stood up, demanding democracy. The last leader of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev, accepted their demands. He stepped down, President Boris Yeltsin took over, and the Iron Curtain was torn down.
It was December 26, 1991, when the long, slow fall of the Soviet Union came to an end. That evening, the Soviet flag flapping above the Kremlin was taken down for the last time. In its place, the flag of Russia was raised.