Why did the Soviet Union break up in the last part of the 20th century?

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The Soviet Union broke up for a number of political, social, and economic reasons. The communist party weakened and became less totalitarian under the leadership of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev introduced to the people a new level of liberalism, openness, and freedom of speech. This allowed citizens of the various republics to launch open critiques against the communist regime. The younger generation slowly gained access to world media via foreign television, radio, and the Internet. Economically, the Soviet Union fell into a major depression as the promises of communism continued to go unmet. These factors combined to create a tense, tenuous, and at times violent relationships between the various ethnic republics. These factors combined and escalated in the late 20th century and eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

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