From the 1950s through the early '90s, the scariest war for most Americans was one which never occurred - the Cold War. The political controversy left the world to wait and wonder, as no one knew if the world would suddenly be in a planet-ending war. Then, suddenly, the Soviet Union collapsed, split and went from a communist nation to several democratic countries. But what ended the war, why did it end, and how did it happen so quickly?
You grew up in this volatile period of time, you lived the fear, concern and worry, but how much did you really know? While the war never came, much of the Soviet Union's economy was destroyed because of a weapons race with the United States over which weapon? And do you remember the official year of the Soviet Union's collapse? We were allies during two world wars and nearly the primary opposing forces in a third. Do you know how long the Soviet Union had been in existence? And were we allies during a communist regime?
Gorbachev may have allowed for the decline of a communist state, but can you recall who took over once the Soviet Union collapsed? These are some of the questions you'll face about one of the most pivotal moments in world history. Do you think you're up to the challenge? Take this quiz and find out!
In 1991, the Soviet Union's flag was lowered for the last time. In its place? Russia.
As the Cold War finally began its inevitable thaw, the Soviet Union began to break apart. The massive country collapsed in 1991 after major political upheaval.
When it was first formed, the country was a socialist entity. But as the World Wars altered politics, the Soviet Union slowly and steadily embraced a Communist philosophy.
During the Cold War, the U.S. and USSR engaged in a spending battle to build thousands of nuclear weapons. Overspending on these projects hastened the downfall of the Soviet economy.
The Soviet Union rose slowly after the WWI era (in 1922) and lasted until 1961, a span of 69 years.
The Soviet Union was a short-lived empire. Formally, the county lasted from 1922 to 1991, and it that time, it had eight leaders.
In December 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev finally gave up on saving his country. He resigned from office and passed along his powers to a brand-new leader.
Gorbachev passed along his powers to Boris Yeltsin, who then became President of Russia. Yeltsin started his career as a supporter of Gorbachev but eventually became one of his biggest political enemies.
Bush took office in January 1989 and he did reevaluate the foreign policies of his predecessor, Ronald Reagan. But by the time Bush became president, many of the forces that caused the Soviet Union's demise were already in motion.
Gorbachev witnessed calls for democracy throughout Eastern Europe, and he realized that the USSR would not be immune. He slowly began allowing his country small tastes of democracy.
During the Cold War, the idea of multi-party elections in the Soviet Union was laughable. But Gorbachev eventually embraced the election concept, a fact that gave his citizens an idea of what democracy was all about.
The Soviet empire once stretched across much of Asia and Eastern Europe. With the USSR's fall, one big country broke into 15 smaller entities.
The Soviet Union morphed from a Communist nation into a totalitarian state, one in which the federal government controlled most aspects of daily life. Ordinary citizens had very little say in the direction of their careers and even their personal lives.
The Soviet Union was a gigantic country that rose into a superpower during the Cold War. A plethora of political, cultural and economic factors played roles in the dissolution of the USSR.
In the late '80s, the Soviet Union was doomed. Gorbachev encouraged perestroika, which referred to massive restructuring within the culture and economy of the country.
For decades, the USSR clamped down on dissidents, hiding government activities behind a veil of extreme control. "Glasnost" was an attempt to make the government (at least a little) more transparent to outsiders.
Anti-Communist revolutions took hold in Europe in 1989, and that same year, the Berlin Wall fell. A domino effect steamrolled throughout the region and didn't end until the Soviet Empire finally crumbled.
In 1989, long-suffering Polish political activists finally gained traction in their home country. The Solidarity movement propelled anti-Communist revolutions in Poland and throughout Eastern Europe … and had major consequences for the Soviet Union.
When Gorbachev initiated perestroika, one unintended consequence was greater freedom of personal expression. The bit of personal freedom quickly snowballed into a situation that threatened the control of the totalitarian state.
Gorbachev's promises of economic reforms created excitement in the populace, but when results of those reforms were too slow, the public became restless … and even more ready for revolution.
The Baltic state of Estonia was the first place where politicians insisted on autonomy. Gorbachev allowed Estonians a little bit of political freedom but was wary that the situation might spiral out of control if he granted too many concessions.
After the Allies won WWII, the Soviet Union added territory (like Estonia) in the Baltic region through military force. It's no wonder that Estonia and other Baltic states were the first to insist on freedom.
Gorbachev insisted that glasnost wasn’t some sort of Communist ruse -- the Soviet media really was free to discuss any issue publicly. Soviet newspaper editors were so suspicious of the change that it took them more than a year begin testing the waters of subject matter.
During the Cold War, the Soviets blocked foreign radio signals to prevent its citizens from hearing news about the outside world. When it ceased radio jamming in 1988, Soviet citizens suddenly had a new flood of information about their political predicament.
Gorbachev hoped to modernize Communism for the post-Cold War era. But after the Berlin Wall fell, everyday citizens made it clear that they wanted to dump Communism altogether.
In 1989, CNN gained permission to send a signal to a hotel in Moscow. Local citizens soon picked up the signal, and the flood of Western news drastically changed their perception of the Soviet state.
That August, the Soviet vice president and his cronies attempted a political coup and placed Gorbachev under house arrest. Boris Yeltsin opposed the coup and rallied the opposition, and after three days, the coup ended without success.
Following the failed coup, the USSR quickly spiraled into irrelevance. Ten states declared their independence, and Gorbachev's power dwindled by the hour.
On Christmas Day 1991, Gorbachev appeared on live TV and announced the end of his time in office. He passed his powers to Boris Yeltsin, including nuclear weapon launch codes.
Vladimir Putin has often bemoaned the collapse of the USSR, yearning for the days of iron-fisted control. He blames Lenin for the fall, as Lenin once supported the concept of secession for individual Soviet Republics.