Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982)
Under Brezhnev, freedom of expression was again restricted. On August 21, 1968 Warsaw Pact troops marched into Czechoslovakia to violently crush the Prague Spring. Brezhnev justified this mission in November 1968 with the Brezhnev doctrine. In this, the Soviet Union claimed leadership within the socialist states and thus justified intervention in Prague. States like China, Yugoslavia and Romania rejected the supremacy of the Soviet Union, others like the GDR accepted it.
The Cold War continued, even though Brezhnev met for talks with US President Nixon in 1973 and signed the CSCE Final Act in 1975. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to assist the communist government there in the civil war.
In 1980, under pressure from Moscow, martial law was imposed in Poland. The reform movement of the Solidarność union was crushed. The 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow boycotted many countries, including the USA and Germany.
Transitional period under Andropov and Chernenko (1982-1985)
After Brezhnev’s death in November 1982, Yuri Andropov was his successor. He died after only 15 months in reign. He was followed by Konstantin Tschernenko, who also died after only 13 months. Now Mikhail Gorbachev came to power.
Gorbachev: Glasnost and Perestroika (1985-1991)
Mikhail Gorbachev became the new general secretary in 1985. Numerous reforms were carried out under him, which eventually ushered in the end of the Soviet Union. Closely associated with it are the keywords glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reconstruction). The social, political and economic system was rebuilt.
There was also détente and disarmament in foreign policy. In 1988 the Brezhnev Doctrine was abandoned. This made possible a number of peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe. The Cold War came to an end and German reunification was made possible. Lithuania became independent in 1990, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Belarus in 1991.
Russian Federation – Russia
On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned as President of the Soviet Union, to which he had been elected in March 1990. The official dissolution of the Soviet Union took place on December 26, 1991. The successor state was the “Russian Federation”, or Russia for short.
Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999)
The first President of Russia became Boris Yeltsin. In 1993 a new constitution came into force, strengthening the powers of the president. The economy was in deep crisis, people were insecure, corruption was widespread and there was a conflict with Chechnya, which was fighting for its independence. Two wars with Chechnya followed: 1994 to 1996 and 1999 to 2009. Power struggles also broke out in Yakutia and North Ossetia. In the end, the Russian armed forces remained victorious everywhere. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin resigned and handed over the government to Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin (2000-2008 and since 2012) and Dmitry Medvedev (2008-2012)
Putin first became President of Russia in 2000. The constitution provides that a president can only be re-elected once, which happened in 2004. In 2008 Dmitry Medvedev became president, and Putin took over the office of prime minister. In 2012, Putin reapplied for the office of President of Russia and was re-elected, with Medvedev becoming Prime Minister. The president’s term of office was extended from four to six years. According to COUNTRYAAH, with area of 16,377,742 km², Russia is the largest country in Europe by area.
Under Putin, the country’s economic and social situation improved. In 2002, Russia was included in the group of the strongest industrialized nations, moving from G7 to G8. Putin strives to maintain Russia’s influence in the successor states of the Soviet Union and suppresses efforts in these countries to move closer to the West.
Caucasus War (2008)
In 2008 the Caucasus War broke out. South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in 1990. Russia supported South Ossetia when it was attacked by Georgia, and after the victory recognized it as a separate country, as did Abkhazia. The independence of the two countries is not recognized internationally.
Ukraine crisis (from 2014)
In 2013 there were massive protests against President Yanukovych and his government in Ukraine and advocacy for rapprochement with the West. Yanukovych fled to Russia in February 2014.
The Crimean crisis broke out on the Crimean peninsula: the predominantly Russian-born population demanded membership of Russia, in a (controversial) referendum, membership of Russia was approved, and on March 18, Crimea was admitted to the Russian Federation. Ukraine (and the western world) continue to regard Crimea as a Ukrainian national territory.
Pro-Russian separatists (who want to see Ukraine again as part of Russia) brought under their control the east of Ukraine, where conditions were in some cases similar to civil war. A referendum in May favoring the independence of Eastern Ukraine (known as the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, collectively as New Russia) is not recognized by the US, EU and Ukraine. A (fragile) ceasefire has existed since September 2014. The US and the EU imposed economic sanctions in protest against Russia. Military maneuvers by NATO and Russia and troop movements in eastern Ukraine exacerbated the situation.
Fourth term of Vladimir Putin
In 2018, Vladimir Putin won the presidential election again. His fourth term began. In 2020, Putin aimed to amend the constitution. This stipulates that Putin’s terms of office will be counted anew so that he could govern beyond his previous term of office until 2024. According to the old constitution, that would not have been possible. To achieve this, the entire government of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned on January 15, 2020. Mikhail Mishustin became the new Prime Minister a day later.