Why did the soviet union split into so many different countries?

Essentially the Soviet Union split into either former countries, that prior to the USSR had been sovereign nations that joined or were conquered. There were a few of the countries that were created out of an area that were multiple ethnicities which split into individual countries after the break up of the USSR.
The nations were free countries BEFORE the Soviets conquered them ~~~ when the USSR broke up the countries returned to who they were.
thats why they called it a union
because it was a union of many different countries: unionised by force from the Russians: the other countries (such as latvia, lithuania, ukraine, romania, hungary, etc) were invaded and forced to join. they have differnet languages and culture from the russains. so as soon as they had a chance they split away.
The Soviet Union was basically Stalin's action of pushing a bunch of separate countries together and using military force to maintain the combination. This worked as long as they could squeeze resources to maintain an army. Once the soviet union became incapable of using force to maintain a fiction the union broke more-or-less into what would have been the composite pieces.

This is why Vietnam merged once the U.S. was no longer around to prevent the Chinese from merging it. Had the Chinese not had the resources to support North Vietnam, they could never have taken over the south. Of course, it could be argued that the country wouldn't have broken apart if it hadn't been partitioned in the first place back in the 1940s.

In fact, if it wasn't for the fact the neighboring countries (such asTurkey) don't want it and are willing to use force to stop it,. the northern part of Iraq would have become Kurdistan by now.
During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef STALIN (1928-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced

glasnost (openness)* and
perestroika (restructuring)**

in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. While some progress has been made on the economic front, recent years have seen a recentralization of power under Vladimir PUTIN and an erosion in nascent democratic institutions. A determined guerrilla conflict still plagues Russia in Chechnya.

Glasnost, meaning "openness", was one of Mikhail Gorbachev's policies introduced to the Soviet Union in 1985. Gorbachev's goal in undertaking glasnost was in part to pressure conservatives within the party who opposed his policies of economic restructuring or perestroika.

While in the West the notion of "glasnost" is associated with the freedom of speech, main goal of this policy was to make the management transparent and discutable, to oppose the former situation when major political and management decisions were made by a narrow circle of apparatchiks or within Politburo, and were beyond criticism.

Glasnost gave new freedom to the people, such as freedom of speech, which was a radical change because control of ideas had previously been a central part of the Soviet system. Therefore glasnost is considered an important step towards real democracy in Russia.

Under glasnost the people could learn significantly more about the horrors committed by the government when Stalin was in power. (Although Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's personality cult, information about the true proportions of his atrocities was still suppressed.)

Thousands of political prisoners and many dissidents were released in the spirit of Glasnost. However, Gorbachev's original goal of using glasnost and perestroika to reform the Soviet Union proved futile and the government of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Perestroika, meaning "economic restructuring", was one of the policies introduced to the Soviet Union by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985. Gorbachev realised the Soviet Union economy was failing and felt the communist system did not need to be replaced, but certainly needed to be reformed, and this would be done by the process of perestroika. A key part of perestroika was to reduce the amount of money being spent on defense, and to do this Gorbachev felt the Soviet Union should:
Pull out of Afghanistan.
Negotiate with the United States about arms reductions.
Cease interfering in other communist countries (The Sinatra Doctrine).
In contrast to economic reforms in China, perestroika is widely regarded to have failed in its original goal of restructuring the Soviet economy. The reasons for its failure have been examined by many economists and historians, including Merle Goldberg. Among the reasons cited for perestroika's failure was the inability to promote new private or semi-private economic entities and the unwillingness of Gorbachev to reform Soviet agriculture. Unlike the Deng Xiaoping reforms in China, perestroika not only failed to bring immediate economic benefits to most people, but the dismantling of the planned economy created economic chaos which was a large factor in the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The collapse of the Soviet Union was finalized on December 26, 1991 when the Supreme Soviet officially dissolved the USSR.

Mikhail Gorbachev instituted a number of political reforms under the name of Glasnost, these included relaxing censorship and political repression, reducing the powers of the KGB and democratisation. The reforms were intended to break down resistance against Gorbachev's economic reforms, by conservative elements within the Communist Party. Under these reforms, much to the alarm of party conservatives, competitive elections were introduced for the posts of officials.

Gorbachev's relaxation of censorship and attempts create more political openness. However they also had the unintended effect of re-awakening long surpressed nationalist and anti-Russian feelings in the Soviet Union's constituent republics. During the 1980s calls for greater independence from Moscow's rule grew louder, this was especially marked in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia which had been annexed into the Soviet Union by Stalin in 1940. Nationalist feeling also took hold in other Soviet republics such as the Ukraine and Azerbaijan. These nationalist movements were strengthened greatly by the declining Soviet economy, whereby Moscow's rule became a convenient scapegoat for economic troubles. Gorbachev had accidently unleashed a force that would ultimately destroy the Soviet Union.

On February 15, 1989, Soviet forces completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Soviet Union continued to support the communist Democratic Republic of Afghanistan with substantial aid until the end of 1991. In 1989 the communist governments of the Soviet Union's satellite states were overthrown one by one with feeble resistance from Moscow.

By the late 1980s the process of openness and democratisation began to run out of control, and went far beyond what Gorbachev had intended. In elections to the regional assemblies of the Soviet Union's constituent republics, nationalists swept the board. As Gorbachev had weakened the system of internal political repression, the ability of the USSR's central Moscow government to impose its will on the USSR's constituent republics had been largely undermined.

On February 7, 1990, the Central Committee of the Soviet Communist Party agreed to give up its monopoly of power. The USSR's constituent republics began to assert their national sovereignty over Moscow, and started a "war of laws" with the central Moscow government, this involved the governments of the constituent republics repudiating all-union legislation where it conflicted with local laws, asserting control over their local economies and refusing to pay tax revenue to the central Moscow government. This strife caused economic dislocation, as supply lines in the economy were broken, and caused the Soviet economy to decline further.

Gorbachev made desparate and ill-fated attempts to assert control, notably in the Baltic states, but the power and authority of the central government had been dramatically and irreversably undermined. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania declared independence and pulled out of the union. However, a large part of the population of the Lithuanian SSR comprised ethnic Russians, and the Red Army had a strong presence there. The Soviet Union initiated an economic blockade of Lithuania and kept troops there "to secure the rights of ethnic Russians." In January 1991, clashes between Soviet troops and Lithuanian civilians occurred, leaving 20 dead. This further weakened the Soviet Union's legitimacy, internationally and domestically. On March 30, 1990, the Estonian supreme council declared Soviet power in Estonia since 1940 to have been illegal, and started a process to re-establish Estonia as an independent state.

Also amongst Gorbachev's reforms, was the introduction of a directly elected president of the RSFR (Russia). The election for this post was held in June 1991. The populist candidate Boris Yeltsin, who was an outspoken critic of Mikhail Gorbachev, won 57% percent of the vote, and humiliated Gorbachev's prefered candidate, Former Prime Minister Ryzhkov, who won just 16% of the vote.

On August 20, 1991, the republics were to sign a new union treaty, making them independent republics in a federation with a common president, foreign policy and military. However, on August 18, a group of Gorbachev's ministers led by Gennadi Yaneyev, backed by the KGB and military, staged a coup d'�tat. Gorbachev was held prisoner in his summer residence on the Crimean peninsula (Ukraine), and martial law was declared in Russia on August 19. Large groups of soldiers controlled Moscow, but no politicians were arrested. During this time, Estonia declared its independence on August 20.

Boris Yeltsin and the semi-democratically elected Russian parliament opposed the coup, and the coup makers gave up on August 21, the same day that the third Baltic republic, Latvia, declared its independence. Immediately after the coup failed, and before Mikhail Gorbachev returned to Moscow, the power vacuum was filled by Boris Yeltsin; he immediately signed a decree banning the Communist party throughout Russia, and the ban was soon extended throughout the Soviet Union. Thus 70 years of Communist rule effectively came to an end.

On December 21, 11 of the 12 remaining republics (all except Georgia) founded the Commonwealth of Independent States, effectively ending the USSR. On December 25, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president, and on December 26 the Supreme Soviet officially dissolved the USSR.

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