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THE FINAL CURTAIN : 74 Years Of Soviet Rule

December 31, 1991

Oct. 25, 1917 (Nov. 7 by the new calendar)--Bolsheviks led by V.I. Lenin take power in a relatively bloodless coup, declaring "all power to the soviets," or councils of workers. March, 1918--Allied troops (U.S., British, French) intervene in Russian Civil War on the side of the White (anti-Bolshevik) forces. They leave the following year. December, 1922--Bolshevik control firmly established: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics proclaimed. Jan. 21, 1924--Lenin dies; Josef Stalin ultimately wins power struggle for the succession, ruling as Soviet dictator until his death in 1953. December, 1924--The 15th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party resolves to collectivize Soviet agriculture, setting the stage for the forced collectivization program and subsequent 1932-34 famine in which unknown millions died. 1936-1938--Period of the "Great Terror," in which unknown millions died in bloody Stalinist purges. Aug. 23, 1939--Germany and the Soviet Union conclude a nonaggression pact containing secret protocols under which the Kremlin laid claim to eastern Poland, the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and parts of Romania. Sept. 1, 1939--Germany invades Poland, touching off World War II. June 22, 1941--Germany attacks the Soviet Union. Feb. 1-2, 1943--German 6th Army surrenders to Soviet troops at Stalingrad, marking the turning point of the war on the Eastern Front. May 7, 1945--Germany signs unconditional surrender to Allies. Aug. 6, 1945--Atomic blast over Hiroshima opens the nuclear era and sets stage for the Cold War. March 12, 1947--"Truman Doctrine" proposed as first significant U.S. attempt to "contain" communism. April 4, 1949--North Atlantic Treaty Organization formed. Sept. 23, 1949--U.S. President Harry S. Truman discloses that the Soviet Union has set off an atomic explosion. June 25, 1950--North Korean troops invade South Korea. March 5, 1953--Stalin dies. Nikita S. Khrushchev, first secretary of the Communist Party, soon emerges as the new top man in the Kremlin. May 14, 1955--Soviet-led Warsaw Pact formed. Feb. 24, 1956--Khrushchev denounces Stalin in secret speech to the 20th party congress. October, 1956--Hungarian uprising, ultimately crushed by Soviet tanks. Oct. 4, 1957--Russians launch Sputnik I, first Earth-orbiting satellite. May 1, 1960--American U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers shot down over Soviet Union. April 12, 1961--Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space. Aug. 13, 1961--East Germans begin to erect Berlin Wall. Aug.-Nov., 1962--Cuban missile crisis puts world on the brink of nuclear war. Aug. 30, 1963--Washington-Moscow "hot line" opens to reduce risk of accidental war. Oct. 14-15, l964--Khrushchev ousted. A collective leadership comes to be dominated by new party leader Leonid I. Brezhnev. Aug. 20, 1968--Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion crushes liberal regime in Czechoslovakia. July 15, 1975--Joint U.S. Apollo and Soviet Soyuz missions blast off for linkup in space. Dec. 26-27, 1979--Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Nov. 10, 1982--Brezhnev dies; replaced by Yuri V. Andropov. Sept. 1, 1983--South Korean Boeing 747 jetliner shot down by Soviet fighter after straying into Russian airspace; 269 die, including 61 Americans. Feb. 9, 1984--Andropov dies; replaced by Konstantin U. Chernenko. March 11, 1985--Chernenko dies; replaced by Mikhail S. Gorbachev. January, 1986--27th Soviet Communist Party Congress approves what turns out to be first stage of radical Gorbachev program for economic and political reform. November, 1989--Berlin Wall opened after 28 years. Revolutions in Czechoslovakia and Romania by year-end result in the effective collapse of Communist control in all of the former Soviet Bloc. Dec. 2-3, 1989--Gorbachev and President Bush hail the end of the Cold War at shipboard summit off Malta. Feb. 7, 1990--Soviet Communist Party formally relinquishes sole power. October, 1990--Germany formally reunited. Aug. 19, 1991--Eight Soviet hard-liners declare that they have seized power; coup collapses two days later. Aug. 24, 1991--Gorbachev resigns as party leader. Dec. 8, 1991--Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin and his counterparts from Ukraine and Belarus declare formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, saying the Soviet Union has ceased to exist. Dec. 17, 1991--Gorbachev accepts commonwealth as successor to Soviet Union; formal change expected to occur at midnight, Dec. 31.

Dec. 25, 1991--Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, resigns.

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