The former Soviet Union collapsed when, in the mid-1980s, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (1931– ) allowed the economy to operate more like a free-market system than a Communist state (a form of government in which all property and means of production are publicly owned). Gorbachev made enemies with his policies. Some conservative Communist officials were angered by his decision and the hardships that were created in the transition to a less structured economy. They also disliked the loss of influence over neighboring countries, where communism was being over-thrown. On August 19, 1991, hard-line Communists attempted to topple Gorbachev's government. Although Gorbachev survived the attempt, his power was weakened, and soon the fifteen republics that made up the Soviet Union declared their independence. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned for he no longer had a country to rule.
Further Information: Green Cross Family. The Honourable Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. [Online] Available http://www4.gve.ch/gci/GreenCrossFamily/gorby/gorby.html, October 20, 2000; Kallen, Stuart A. Gorbachev–Yeltsin: The Fall of Communism. Minneapolis, Minn.: ABDO Publishing, 1992.