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When the USSR ceased to exist at the end of 1991, many observers remarked on how peaceful the break-up seemed to be, compared with the violent disintegration of the former socialist Yugoslavia then taking place in the Balkans. Over three decades on, it is painfully apparent that many questions were not settled in 1991, but simply postponed.
In this talk, Socialist History editor Francis King looks at the Soviet background and the way the USSR broke apart, and how the political leaders of the Union republics settled accounts with the centre – but not with one another. This ‘unfinished business’ of the end of the USSR continues to express itself in political instability, rampant corruption, meddling by external powers, virulent nationalism, gross inequality, economic stagnation and now Russia’s war in Ukraine which threatens to turn a regional disaster into a global one.