On 25 December 1991 Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev resigned as President of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union. Six days later, at midnight, the Soviet Union itself was formally dissolved, and in its place 15 separate, independent states were formed. As late as August 1991, such an outcome had not been widely predicted, and it was certainly far from anybody’s mind seven years previously. The fall of Soviet communism had implications reaching far beyond the fate of the world’s largest country and its inhabitants. It spelt an end to the Cold War, which had dominated international politics for almost half a century, which had been fought out in ‘Hot’ form on the soil of Africa and southern and eastern Asia, and which threatened the world with the possibility of nuclear destruction. It dealt a severe and lasting blow to an ideology which had promised so much to ordinary people, particularly those suffering from poverty and injustice throughout the world, but which had delivered so little. So momentous was the shift that for a while all the talk was about a ‘New World Order’ or ‘The End of History’, until new and less readily identifiable enemies appeared.
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