A man waves a Russian flag during a rally November 21, 1988 (MF/AA/REUTERS Pictures)
Virtually all American commentary about the end of the Soviet Union extols what the West is believed to have gained from that historic event. On this twentieth anniversary of the breakup, The Nation presents three writers who focus instead on what may have been lost. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader and first constitutional president, argues that a chance for a more secure and just world order was missed. Stephen F. Cohen, a historian and longtime Nation contributor, reminds readers of the political, economic and social costs to Russians themselves. And Vadim Nikitin, a US-educated Russian journalist, presents a new interpretation of pro-Soviet nostalgia. —The Editors
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union twenty years ago, Western commentators have often celebrated it as though what disappeared from the world arena in December 1991 was the old Soviet Union, the USSR of Stalin and Brezhnev, rather than the reforming Soviet Union of perestroika. Moreover, discussion of its consequences has focused mostly on developments inside Russia. Equally important, however, have been the consequences for international relations, in particular lost alternatives for a truly new world order opened up by the end of the cold war.