Key events in the breakup and collapse of the Soviet Union
Created by asmarkowitz on 23/10/2009
Last updated: 12/03/10 at 12:45
1989: Soviet Union has no followers yet. Be the first one to follow.
Nine days after the Lithuanian declaration, the Latvian Supreme Soviet votes 220-50 to abolish the constitutionally guaranteed supremacy of the Communist Party.
In Lithuania, the Communist Party Congress votes 855-160 to become independent from the Soviet Union.
Lithuania’s parliament votes to legalize parties opposed to the Communists and reduce the Soviet monopoly on power.
U.S. President George Bush and Gorbachev meet in Malta, where they declare a new era in U.S.-Soviet relations.
In the first-ever meeting between a Soviet leader and a pope, Gorbachev and John Paul II hold talks in Rome and agree to establish further diplomatic ties.
In an article in the party daily Pravda, Gorbachev writes that Marxism will be revived in the Soviet Union, albeit in a more humane way.
An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 ethnic Russians in Tallinn call for the establishment of an autonomous Russian republic in north Estonia.
The Estonian Supreme Soviet nullifies the annexation of Estonia in 1940.
A commission investigating the events of 1939-1940 declares that Latvia was illegally occupied by the Soviet Union.
Rahva Haal, the daily newspaper of the Estonian Communist Party, appears on newsstands without the Soviet coat of arms.
Gorbachev announces in a speech in Helskink that the Soviet Union has no moral or political right to interfere in the affairs of its East European allies. This new policy of letting former Soviet satellites go their own way is dubbed the Sinatra Doctrine.
At its annual conference, the Latvian Popular Front announces its goal of secession from the Soviet Union.
Led by Abdulrahim Pulatov, chairman of the nationalist Birlik party, 50,000 Uzbeks demonstrate on the streets of Tashkent, calling for Uzbek to become the republic’s first language.
The Baltic popular fronts meet in Lithuania to establish a consultative body.
The Soviet Communist Party Central Committee warns that the Baltic states will face an “abyss” if they don't address “separatists and extremists.” In response, the Baltic popular fronts complain to the United Nations of the “threat of genocide emanating from the Kremlin.”
Soviet Union: On the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, which put the Baltics under Soviet control, protesters join hands from Tallinn to Vilnius, a distance of 540 kilometers. The Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian popular fronts issue a joint statement, titled “The Baltic Way,” which appeals to the international community to support their collective desire for independence.
A parliamentary commission in Lithuania declares the Soviet Union's 1940 annexation of the republic invalid.
The Supreme Council of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic accepts a declaration on Latvia's sovereignty and agrees to pass a law allowing greater freedom for public meetings and demonstrations.
Ethnic tensions boil over in Uzbekistan as riots in Tashkent and Ferghana between Uzbeks and Meskhetian Turks leave more than 100 dead and 15,000 Meskhets homeless.
The nationalist Birlik movement in Uzbekistan holds its founding conference. Birlik's program calls for a complete break with Moscow, a pan-Turkic alliance, and the furthering of Islamic culture.
Delegates from the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian popular front movements meet in Tallinn. They ask the Soviet Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the United Nations to “devote special attention to the efforts of the Baltic nations to achieve self-determination and independence.”
Voters go to the polls to choose 1,500 regional representatives to the Congress of People’s Deputies in the first contested election in 72 years. Though no opposition parties are represented, citizens have the opportunity to vote for independent candidates standing against the Communists. The results are a heavy blow to the nomenklatura as many top party officials are voted out of power. Eighty percent of those chosen in Latvia are from the Latvian Popular Front list.
About 15,000 people gather in Vilnius, Lithuania, at a rally organized by the Sajudis, the first of the Baltic popular front movements founded the previous year. Sajudis aims to restore “an independent and neutral Lithuanian state in a demilitarized zone.”
Kyrgyz intellectuals form the republic's first political opposition group, Ashar, which focuses on the acute housing shortage in Bishkek. Communists aid the effort by donating land.
The Nevada-Semipalatinsk opposition movement, named after nuclear test sites in the United States and the USSR, is founded in Kazakhstan. The movement grew out of a demonstration organized by Kazakh intellectuals to protest two underground nuclear tests at Almaty, which left a radioactive cloud above northern Kazakhstan. Following a petition drive that collects more than a million signatures, nuclear tests cease in October.
The Estonian flag is raised over Tallinn on the anniversary of the first Estonian Independence Day in 1920, when the Soviet Union and Estonia signed a peace treaty.
The Latvian National Independence Movement is founded in the town of Ogre.
The Latvian Popular Front, founded in June 1988, decides that its candidates for the forthcoming election to the Soviet Council of People's Deputies must stand for the political and economic sovereignty of Latvia.
After nine years of fighting in a bloody civil war, the last Soviet soldier officially leaves Afghanistan.