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In December of 1991 the vast Soviet Empire the last empire on earth crumbled before the worlds astonished eyes The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR disintegrated into fifteen separate countries The West took this as testimony for the superiority of democracy over totalitarianism of capitalism over socialism In 1970 a man by the name of Andrei Amalrik asked whether the Soviet Union would survive until 1984 In the West his question was met with surprise dEncausse x After all the USSR was a nation that had survived the Nazi assault of WWII which had achieved military power and economic might It was capable of murdering a fifth of its population It spanned 13 million square miles and included some 260 million inhabitants And yet it suddenly ceased to exist The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its own corruption incompetence and failure to understand the changes taking place in the world around it There is no doubting that the USSR was a superpower the equal of the United States It was recognized as such by the international community at Helsinki in 1975 It was also an imperial power twice over It encompassed numerous ethnic groups within its borders The USSR saw itself as a new kind of state in which a new people existed the Soviet people But this view of a nationality was not widespread within its borders Starting in 1953 people rose up against the empire and demanded the right to decide their own destinies In response the government crushed them with its tanks and silenced their protests But they never became resigned despite their terror and confinement However the West was certain that nothing would shift the balance of power in the USSR Everyone believed that communism was in control and all people regardless of nationality had to adapt to it In only an instant the powerful USSR discovered that its power was a myth dEncausse xi It
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