Ukraine, Russia, and the Final Days of the Soviet Union

Men hold Russian (R) and Soviet Union flags in Simferopol's Lenin Square on March 16, 2014. Polls opened yesterday for a referendum on the peninsula of Crimea.

The narrative that the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was linked to the triumph of democratic values over communism has persisted in American public discourse for decades, but prize-winning historian Serhii Plokhy shows that the collapse of the Soviet Union didn’t have much to do with the United States. In The Last Empire, Plokhy draws on recently declassified documents and interviews with key participants to present an account of the Soviet Union’s final months and argues that the key to the Soviet collapse was the inability of the two largest Soviet republics, Russia and Ukraine, to agree on the continuing existence of a unified state. He talks about the parallels between the countries then, and today.