Louis Sell is a retired Foreign Service officer who served twentyseven years with the US Department of State, specializing in Soviet and Balkan affairs. He is the author of
Why Did the USSR Collapse?
The final chapter in the book attempts to answer the question posed in the preface: Why did the USSR collapse so quickly less than a generation after it had attained the pinnacle of international power? Mass unrest or organized political resistance did not cause the collapse. Its causes include systemic economic problems and policy mistakes by Gorbachev; the heavy military burden; secrecy that limited knowledge about the country even among those who needed it, and that helped undermine support for the system when the truth about its problems emerged; and the relaxation of repression, releasing political, ethnic, and social criticism that eroded the foundations of the system. The chapter ends with a discussion of the role of individual leaders in the collapse, including Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Reagan, and Bush.