Using Social Science Inquiry for Explaining Major Events in Global History: The Disintegration of the Soviet Union as a Case Study

Iftikhar Ahmad


The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a major global historical event of the twentieth century that permanently changed the destiny of hundreds of millions of people around the world. It was not a revolution. It was not a transition to democracy. It was not a struggle for decolonization. No one expected a world power like the Soviet Union to disintegrate into fifteen autonomous republics. Historians, social science researchers, and other observers of the Soviet Union were all surprised by the sudden collapse of a political system that was sustained for seventy years by a political ideology and which had dominated a significant portion of the global land mass, its people, cultures, and resources. How do we explain the disintegration of a superpower? What theories of change may be valid in a case that has no precedent. This paper seeks to explore the causes of the disintegration of the Soviet Union through the formulation and testing of a correlative hypothesis: a strong correlation exists between the break-up of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the disintegration of the  Soviet state. This hypothesis is specific, testable, verifiable, and also, it is supported by historical evidence and events examined in the paper.


social science, inquiry, history, revolution, case study, hypothesis

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