25 Years On, Collapse of Soviet Union Still Brings Cheers—and Tears
The U.S.S.R. was officially dissolved on December 26, 1991. A veteran National Geographic writer reflects on events that must never be forgotten.
“We are living under the carcass of a dead cow, and it stinks,” said Algimantas Cekuolis, a Lithuanian politician. “There are two electrodes attached to this carcass, and every once in a while it twitches. And that cow’s name is Bolshevism.” Cekuolis smiled as if he had just emptied stale beer into the sink.
It was 1990, only a few months before the carcass twitched its last—when one of history’s largest and most powerful empires died with a whimper. I was on assignment in the Baltic States for National Geographic when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost (free speech) first popped the bottle and released a thousand genies. Speech, indignation, and opinions billowed out like steam. (See Nat Geo