It was a fitting end for a system that had set out to create a communist world and wound up removing the hammer and sickle from atop the Kremlin.
Along with the celebrations, certain questions inevitably come to mind. Why did a system that appeared to be so militarily and economically strong implode so quickly? Was it inevitable? Or was it the result of the policy of containment that the United States and its allies had faithfully followed for decades at a cost of thousands of lives and many billions of dollars?
Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser, argued that Marxism-Leninism was “an alien doctrine” imposed by an imperial power.
Richard Pipes, the eminent Harvard historian, pointed to incidental causes like the invasion of Afghanistan and more profound problems like economic stagnation.
The social philosopher Michael Novak said communism, by attempting to destroy the “human capital” on which a free economy and a free polity are based, sowed the seeds of its own destruction.
Indeed, by the 1980s, Soviet communism was no longer a nuclear fortress but a Potemkin village easily penetrated by electronic messages of democracy and capitalism from the West.