1991: And then Yeltsin said it was over
It happened fast, and Boris Yeltsin made it official 25 years ago this week:
After a long meeting between Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, a spokesman for the latter announces that the Soviet Union will officially cease to exist on or before New Year’s Eve. Yeltsin declared that, “There will be no more red flag.”
It was a rather anti-climactic culmination of events leading toward the dismantling of the Soviet Union.
It was a stunner for those of us who had grown up during the Cold War. After all, who would have believed it during the Korean War? Or the Missile Crisis of 1962? Or when the USSR invaded Afghanistan at the end of 1979? Or when "perestroika" was supposed to save the system in the late 1980s?
For many of us, it was hard to believe, but it should not have been.
The USSR was in fact a great failure. It was a superpower that could build nuclear weapons but not manufacture a basic tractor. It could subsidize Cuba but could not keep basic foodstuffs on its local shelves.
The collapse of the USSR was also a tribute to a bipartisan foreign policy. From President Harry Truman to President George H.W. Bush, our willingness to identify the enemy and stand tough was too much for the USSR to survive.
Twenty-five years later, and are we teaching the real story of communism in our schools?
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