USSR or The Soviet Union, officially known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The cold war was the term introduced in international politics to explain the nature of the relationship between the USA and USSR since the end of world war 2. They were hostile to each other that it was termed as war.
There are different schools of thought about the end of the cold war and the disintegration of the USSR.
One school of thought says USSR intervention in Afghanistan. Overstretching its military in Afghanistan despite the bad shape of the Soviet economy was a bad call. Secondly, USSR got involved in a costly arms race during the cold war.
For more information on USSR intervention in Afghanistan read this article.
The second school of thought puts the responsibility of future consequences on Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1988, Times magazine declared Gorbachev as the man of the year ( because he started reforming his country ). In 1989, they declared him as the man of the decade. In 1990, he got a Nobel peace prize, considering him as the factor of the end of the cold war.
Why Soviet President Gorbachev is considered as a factor? Because of his foreign and domestic policies.
Foreign policies – SINATRA doctrine ending BREZHNEV doctrine
Brezhnev doctrine was to maintain control over countries of eastern Europe. Gorbachev understood that it was no more possible to sustain the soviet’s control militarily. He relied on soft power rather than hard power.
Sinatra doctrine gave freedom to live according to their choice. Once freedom was given, communism starting collapsing. First in Poland under Lake Walesa’s solidarity party/movement. Under the leadership of Vaclav Havel, the velvet revolution in Czechoslovakia.
Gradually, the third wave of democracy spread to other East European countries except for Romania where the dictator resisted the attempts, and transformations took place peacefully.
Domestic policies – Glasnost (word for openness) and Perestroika (means restructuring)
Glasnost means openness meaning democratic reforms. It has weakened the control of the central government over the soviet republics. It has given the freedom to media and speech and has brought corruption, exploitation, and insensitiveness of the government into the limelight. USSR has suffered from Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The way Chernobyl nuclear disaster was managed by the Soviet government came to be known and it further ruined USSR’s soft power.
Perestroika was economic restructuring. Soviet economy was a centralized command economy. In the absence of competition, it was neither innovative nor productive. Certain persons in the communist party have amassed wealth. This group took the advantage of opening up the economy.
Consumer goods were scarce. Privatization proved to be a shock for the people who were not prepared. There was high inflation and even scarcity of food items. USSR also suffered from famine. These reforms were further impacted by events like the decline in oil prices.
Gorbachev factor often described for the disintegration of the USSR is considered by the present government of Russia as the biggest geopolitical blunder. However, Gorbachev’s aim was not disintegration rather reformation. He believed that only through such reforms USSR can be saved.
In 1991, the Belavezha accord led to the formal end of the USSR and the establishment of CIS (commonwealth of independent states). Thus USSR that came into existence in 1922 ceased to exist.
Why communism collapse so easily? Communism was not the choice of the people in eastern Europe. It was imposed on them forcefully. Secondly, the USSR policy was to utilize these states in their interest and did not give recognition to people’s aspirations. USSR relied on dictators like the USA in the middle east.
Thirdly, the demonstration effect of progress and quality of life in western Europe. Fourthly, foreign policy Ostpolitik to normalize relations between West Germany and Europe, particularly East Germany.
The present president of Russia believes that the US is mistaken that the USA has won the cold war. There was no such war to decide. The biggest problem is the attitude of triumphalism in the west and treating Russia as a loser that stops all possibilities of qualitative changes in the US-Russia relationship.
According to some scholars, no one won the cold war. USSR dies its death because of its contradictions.