The largely peaceful collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 reflected the profound changes that Mikhail Gorbachev had carried out in Soviet foreign policy. Successful though the process was in Eastern Europe, it had destabilizing repercussions within the Soviet Union. The effects were both direct and indirect. The first part of this two-part article looks at Gorbachev's policy toward Eastern Europe, the collapse of Communism in the region, and the direct “spillover” from Eastern Europe into the Soviet Union. The second part of the article, to be published in the next issue of the journal, discusses the indirect spillover into the Soviet Union and the fierce debate that emerged within the Soviet political elite about the “loss” of the Eastern bloc—a debate that helped spur the leaders of the attempted hardline coup d'état in August 1991.
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