The Soviet Union officially collapsed on this day 25 years ago

On this day 25 years ago, the Soviet Union officially collapsed.

USSR president Mikhail Gorbachev resigned on Christmas Day 1991, hammering in the final nail in the coffin of the Union.

On December 26, the Russian government took over the offices of the USSR in Russia.

A picture taken on August 23, 1991 shows Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) gesturing towards Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow while he enjoins him to read a paper during a session of the Russian Parlement.

But this didn’t come out of nowhere. The USSR’s fall followed years of rising nationalist movements, severe food shortages, and even an attempted coup.

Before his groundbreaking resignation, Gorbachev had implemented a wave of major economic and social changes.

In his home village of Privolnoye, a commemorative plaque declares that he was the first leader to whom Russians could say ‘no’.

But many of these changes threatened the very foundations of the Soviet Union.

Two years earlier, the ‘Revolutions of 1989’ saw Soviet-imposed communist regimes toppled in central and eastern Europe.

The movement began in Poland, before moving on to Hungary, East Germany (also known as the DDR), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, and Romania.

In East Germany, a series of public rallies led to the monumental fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989

 

A Russian flag is waved above people taking part in a funeral procession for the victims of the coup in front of the Russian White House in Moscow on August 24, 1991, after the coup attemp failed.

The following year, Gorbachev found himself dealing with increasingly vociferous independence movements in Soviet-ruled Baltic states.

In August 1991, senior officials attempted to detain Gorbachev at his holiday villa in Crimea. The cabal included Defence Minister Dmitry Yazov, Vice President Gennadiy Yanayev, and the heads of the Interior Ministry and the KGB.

However, their plan failed – and they were themselves arrested after just three days.

A soldier waves 21 August 1991 a Russian flag from the top of his tank as armoured units leave their positions in Moscow following the collapse of the military coup against president Gorbatchev.

But the Union was on its last legs. Boris Yeltsin, who had left the Soviet Communist party to be elected president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic the previous year, banned the Soviet Communist Party in Russia and seized its assets.

He then recognised the independence of the Baltic republics. Soon afterwards, Ukraine declared its own independence, followed by other countries.

In September 1991, the Congress of People’s Deputies voted for the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and on December 8 Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian leaders signed an agreement setting up the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

On Christmas Day, Gorbachev resigned, and the Russian Government took over the next day.

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