Chapter 35: The End of the Cold War and the Shape of a New Era: World History 1990-2006

Themes: This chapter is mainly associated with the theme 3 which consists of state-building, expansion, and conflict, and theme 4 which is about creation, expansion, and interaction of economic systems.  

  1. Theme 3: Germany was divided into eastern and western Germany. Eastern Germany or also known as the GDR (German Democratic Republic) was in support of communism where as Western Germany was a democratic nation. As a result of this separation, many families and friends were separated into east and west with no hopes of seeing each other. During this time period, there was a significant resurgence of democracy and the spread of democracy was at its greatest of all time. Because of this spread, the people of GDR were also in favor of democracy and wanted out of the communist government they lived in. The removal of Hungary's border fence opened a hole in the Iron Curtain. This caused  thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria but mainly hungary. A series of protests by East Germans initiated the Peaceful Revolution. In the end the "Two plus Four Treaty" was signed unifying eastern and western germany. 
  2. Theme 4: One of Gorbachev's major policies was perestroika. It was considered an economic reconstruction and rebuilding of the USSR. During Mikhail's Gorbachev's term, he introduced and created several reforms that help shape the USSR. He bascially wanted reform, not abandonment, of basic Communist controls.  In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev started to introduce different reforms. He urged nuclear reduction and negotiated with the United States a limitation of medium-range missiles in Europe.  Internally, Gorbachev proclaimed glasnost, or openness, the freedom to comment and criticize.

1. Mikhail Gorbachev: Leader of the U.S.S.R. (1985-1991); inaugurated major reforms that led

to the disintegration of the Communist regime. 

Significance: He was placed into office in a time where the USSR and the US were in the midst of a cold war, Gorbachev eased the tensions between the two nations. Gorbachev conveyed a new and more Western style then his prior counterparts by dressing in fashionable clothes, holding relatively open press conferences and even allowing the Soviet media to engage in active debate. Gorbachev urged a reduction in nuclear armament and ultimately eased nuclear tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. But his ultimate contributions were his major and radical reforms. Two of his most important reforms were glasnost and perestroika. 

Above and Below: Pictures of Mikhail Gorbachev

Picture of Mikhail Gorbachev

2. Glasnost: term meaning openness; Gorbachev’s policy opening the opportunity to criticize the government.

Significance: Probably one of Gorbachev's most radical and important reform policies. Glasnost enabled the people to express themselves openly and also a radical step that no other Soviet leader had taken before. Glasnost was the stepping stone and the first step toward democratizing the country.  

Below: This picture depicts how the people responded to Glasnost.  

3. Perestroika: term meaning economic restructuring; Gorbachev’s policy for the economic rebuilding of the U.S.S.R. by allowing more private ownership and decentralized economic control.

Significance:  Often paired with Glasnost, Perestroika was the keynote of Gorbachev's reform policy. It consisted of a series of economic reforms and policy changes mainly aimed at decentralized planning. It gave private owners more leeway and decentralized control in industry and agriculture. For example farmers could now lease lands for 50 years with rights of inheritance and industrial concerns were authorized to buy from either private or state operations. Also foreign investment were encouraged. 

Above and Below: These two pictures depict the reconstruction of the USSR.  

4. Boris Yeltsin: Successor to Gorbachev; failed to reform the economy; succeeded by Vladimir Putin in 1999.

Significance:  proclaimed the end of the soviet union, he was the first president of the Russian federation and served from 1991-1999. He vowed to transform Russia's socialist command economy into a free market economy and implemented economic shock therapy, price liberalization and privation programs. Due to the method of privatization, a good deal of the national wealth fell into the hands of a small group of oligarchs or very wealthy business men with a great deal of political influence. Much of the Yeltsin era was marked by widespread corruption, inflation, economic collapse and enormous political and social problems that affected Russia and the other former states of the USSR. Within the first few years of his presidency, many of Yeltsin's political supporters turned against him and Vice President Alexander Rutskoy denounced the reforms as "economic genocide".

Below: A picture of Boris Yeltsin.

5. Globalization: The increasing interconnectedness of all parts of the world; opposed by many environmental and social justice groups.

Significance: Globalization refers to processes that promote world-wide exchanges of national and cultural resources. Advances in transportation and telecommunications infrastructure (the internet) are the major factors in globalization. This generated further interdependence of economic and cultural activities. 


Above and below: A depiction of of globalization 

6. Multinational corporations. Business organizations with connections across political borders.

Significance: large corporations which both produces and sells goods or services in various countries.It can also be referred to as an international corporation. They played an important role in globalization as it led to the spread of many resources and ideals. Today multinational corporations constitute a powerful force in the world economy. 


 Below: A depiction of multinational corporations

7. Persian Gulf War: 1991 war led by the United States and various allies against Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The war led to Iraqi withdrawal and a long confrontation with Iraq about armaments and political regime.

Significance: it was the first major international crisis to take place in the post-Cold War era. The United Nations proved to be effective in organizing the coalition against aggressor Iraq. Leading members of the coalition included Egypt, France, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the United States. The conflict also tested the ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to cooperate in world affair.

Below: This picture is an actual photo of US troops during the Persian Gulf War. 

Above: Video of Mikhail Gorbachev's resignation.


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