Years later Mikhail Gorbachev said that "the most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe." I couldn't agree more.
A reflection by a witness 25 years later.
On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the Eastern bloc was in shambles, but the USSR was still standing with Mikhail Gorbachev at the helm. Vladimir Putin dabbled in minor corruption working for the Mayor of Saint Petersburg, which had just been renamed from Leningrad. The KGB meddled in other countries' affairs as usual, spreading "fake news" and helping leftist politicians to win elections with no objections from the Western mainstream media.
Then, all of a sudden, the USSR disappeared from the map. How did that happen? Political scientists have and will continue to write, with varying degree of accuracy, about the details of it. What I'm attempting to do here is describe how it looked and felt from the inside - as seen by me, who at the time happened to be a voiceless, powerless Soviet citizen trying to make sense of the universe.
The Soviet clocks may have been the fastest in the world, but time wasn't moving and seemed to be broken. With three-fourths of the country overlapping with Asia, where time had stopped a millennium ago, the Soviet Union defied the Western concept of progress. The official TV and radio stations always played old, slow songs with flowing melodies; if their purpose was to set a sluggish rhythm of life for the rest of us, it was working. Even the few semi-unofficial rock bands tried but mostly failed to get a different rhythm out of their instruments. It was as if we all lived in a gigantic aquarium, whose sleepy inhabitants lazily picked slowly descending flakes of bland food, distributed to them by the invisible owner's hand. It could be quite relaxing if that is your thing, but most of the time I felt like a trapped passenger of the sunken ship at the bottom, next to the fake plastic seaweed.
The textbook date of the end of the USSR is December 26, 1991, but for us, Soviet citizens, the dissolution began a few months earlier and happened in stages.
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