December’s historic disintegration

Where were you in December of 1991? We know that some of our patrons might not have been born yet, but for some of us, we remember that December. It was when the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) ceased to exist. By the end of the month, the Soviet Union officially granted self-governing independence to the Republics of the USSR, acknowledging the independence of the former Soviet republics, creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. On December 25, 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, declared his office extinct, and handed over its powers to Russian President Boris Yeltsin. That night, the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.

So what did this mean? Was the Cold War finally over? Essentially yes, it was the end of the Cold War, which had hovered over the United States and the USSR since the end of World War II. The breakup of the USSR also transformed the world’s political situation and led to a reformulation of military, political and economic alliances all over the world.  The 15 newly formed independent countries which emerged would now need to develop their own economies, settle (often quite bitter) territorial disputes, and other tasks. There was upheaval in many Eastern European countries and this led to increased corruption and crime rates within the Russian government. Government infrastructure mostly evaporated during the collapse, along with government payroll services, which meant that ex-KGB officers, Soviet Army soldiers and police went to the mafia in search of steady employment. While some countries, such as Lithuania and Latvia underwent dramatic transformation by adopting Western ideals, other countries have continued to struggle to flourish and states and politics remain in flux.

Needless to say, the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the USSR was pretty momentous and the world continues to feel the ripple effect of the impact. If you would like to learn more about the Cold War, there is a Cold War Museum in Virginia. Of course, we also have plenty of resources in the Library!  

And, if you would like to relive a bit of December, 1991 . . . remember the fashion of tapered pants? Air Jordans? The start of hip hop fashion becoming popular? Stone-washed jeans? Relive those days with Fifty Fashion Looks That Changed the 1990s If you don’t have any of these in your closet, maybe listening to some music will bring back 1991. U2’s Achtung Baby was released in November of 1991, as was Michael Jackson’s album Dangerous.  September of 1991 saw the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind (which actually had high enough sales in early 1992 to replace Dangerous at number one on the Billboard charts.)  Popular movies in 1991 included The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Thelma and Louise and Point Break (all of which you can check out from the Library!)

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