GCSE and IGCSE History Revision

Causes and events of the USSR’s 1991 August Coup

On the 19th August 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev, the President of the Soviet Union, was placed under house arrest in what is known as the August Coup.

Opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms, the leaders of the coup believed that the new Union of Sovereign States, which had been approved in a union-wide referendum, threatened the complete disintegration of the USSR. A number of individual states had already declared their independence, but the New Union Treaty would devolve much of the Soviet Union’s remaining power to individual states.

It was while Gorbachev was on holiday in Foros, a resort in the Crimea, that the coup was launched. On the 17th August, the coup’s leaders met with Gorbachev and demanded that he either declare a state of emergency or resign. Although the specific details of the conversation are unclear, the outcome was that Gorbachev refused.

Gorbachev was placed under house arrest, and the leaders of the coup – known as the Gang of Eight – created the State Committee of the State of Emergency to govern the USSR due to Gorbachev suffering from an “illness”. The changes in government were announced on state media on the morning of the 19th but, having chosen not to arrest Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the coup faced a blow when he began speaking against it. Two days later, the military supporting the coup failed to take control of the Russian parliament building in the face of civil resistance.

The coup collapsed on the 21st August, but the USSR was left seriously weakened. Just over four months later the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.

Dissolution of the USSR

The collapse of the Soviet Union

These two videos detail the events following Gorbachev coming to power in the USSR, and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

The first clip opens with an overview of the USSR’s political, economic and social situation in the 1980s. In response, Gorbachev introduced the policies of perestroika and glasnost.  The impact of new technology including satellite television and extensive telephone networks is examined in terms of its impact on the Soviet Union.  The rest of the video looks at the discussions that took place between the USSR and the USA’s President Reagan with regards the nuclear arms race and, more importantly, the issue of disarmament.

The second video begins with an explanation of why total independence for the Soviet States was unacceptable to the leadership. The power struggle between Yeltsin and Gorbachev is then presented, along with details of the coup that led to Gorbachev’s house arrest and subsequent release thanks to Yeltsin. The clip ends with the Slav states decalaring independence from the USSR, followed by an illuminating interview with President Bush who received Gorbachev’s final phone call as General Secretary of the Soviet Union on Christmas Day, 1991.

Gorbachev

The fall of Gorbachev

Boris Yeltsin’s creation of the Commonwealth of International States that led to the end of Mikhail Gorbachev’s rule of the USSR.  From Curriculum Bites.

Gorbachev

Gorbachev’s impact on the fall of the USSR

A brief history of the USSR, followed by an explanation of how events of the 1980s and Gorbachev’s own reforms contributed to the fall of Communism and the break-up of the USSR.  From Curriculum Bites.

Dissolution of the USSR

The formal dissolution of the USSR in 1991

On the 26th December 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met for the last time to formally dissolve itself and the Soviet Union. This followed declaration no. 142-Н in which the Supreme Soviet announced that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist as a state and subject of international law. The declaration recognised that the former Soviet republics were independent, and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place.

The origins of the dissolution of the Soviet Union can be traced back to the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on March 11, 1985. He came to office intending to revive the USSR’s economy, but his reforms – most famously the policies of glasnost and perestroika – laid the foundations for the enormous popular demands for change that were to follow.

By August 1991, the Iron Curtain had fallen as a result of the toppling of Communist governments in former satellite states. This increased the pressure on Gorbachev to grant greater autonomy for republics within the Soviet Union. A failed coup by hardline members of the government who wanted to oust Gorbachev and reverse his reforms failed to derail the independence movements within the republics.

With some having already declared their independence from the USSR, a further 10 republics did so between August and December. As it became obvious that the USSR was falling apart, on the 25th December Gorbachev resigned as President. That evening the Soviet flag on the Kremlin was replaced by the Russian tricolour. The USSR was formally dissolved the next day.

The Nazi Party in 1922

The Rise of Hitler 1919-1929 podcast

This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE Modern World History.  It is the first of two podcasts that present an explanation of the range of factors that contributed to the rise of Hitler. It goes into more detail than the briefer podcast that covers the entire 1919-1934 period. You could also download the Rise of Hitler Revision PowerPoint which complements the two podcasts.

The podcast begins in 1919 with an introduction to Hitler’s early attitudes and him taking control of the National Socialist German Workers Party (who became known as the Nazis).  An overview is then given of the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers before describing how the hyperinflation of 1922-23 led Hitler to use his violent supporters to launch the Munich (or Beer Hall) Putsch. The consequences of the Putsch are considered, which include increased publicity for the Nazis and Hitler’s imprisonment during which he wrote Mein Kampf.

The podcast then goes on to explain how, during the ‘Stresemann period’ of German history, which is described in greater detail in the Weimar Germany revision podcast, Hitler changed his tactics to use legal means in an attempt to gain political power.

          

Hitler in Landsberg

Adolf Hitler’s release from Landsberg Prison after serving 9 months for treason

In November 1923 Hitler had led an attempted coup against the Weimar Government by trying to seize power in the Bavarian city of Munich. The putsch failed and Hitler was found guilty of treason in the subsequent trial. Sentenced to five years imprisonment, he was sent to the Festungshaft prison in the Bavarian town of Landsberg am Lech.

 

Hitler’s ‘fortress confinement’ provided him with a reasonably comfortable cell in comparison to conventional facilities, and meant that he was able to receive mail and have regular visitors. The discovery in 2010 of more than 500 documents relating the Hitler’s imprisonment show that more than 30 people were able to visit him on his birthday on 20 April 1924, just 19 days into his sentence.

Imprisonment provided Hitler with the opportunity to dictate his autobiography, Mein Kampf, to his deputy Rudolf Hess. It was in this book that Hitler laid out his blueprint for the future of Germany. Although it gained only modest success when it was first published, Winston Churchill later claimed that if world leaders had read it they could have better anticipated the scale of Nazi domestic and foreign policy.

In a memorandum dated 18 September 1924, the Landsberg warden Otto Leybold described Hitler as “sensible, modest, humble and polite to everyone – especially the officers of the facility”. He was released on 20 December 1924 after serving on nine months of his five-year sentence and soon set about rebuilding the Nazi Party which had been banned in Bavaria as a result of the Beer Hall Putsch. The ban was lifted less than two months after Hitler’s release.

Hindenburg and Hitler as Chancellor

The Rise of Hitler 1929-1934 podcast

This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE History students studying Nazi Germany. It is the second of two podcasts that present an explanation of the range of factors that contributed to the rise of Hitler. It goes into more detail than the briefer podcast that covers the entire 1919-1934 period. You could also download the Rise of Hitler Revision PowerPoint which complements the two podcasts.

The podcast is the second of two that explore how Hitler came to power. This episode covers the period from the Wall Street Crash to Hitler’s self-appointment of the Fuhrer of Germany in 1934. Specific attention is given to:

* The effects of the Great Depression on Germany
* The Presidential election campaign of 1932
* The appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in 1933
* The Reichstag Fire and the Enabling Act
* The Night of the Long Knives
* The death of President Hindenburg

The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these factors, and explains how you might approach a question on them in the exam.

          

Hitler appointed Chancellor of Germany

The Rise of Hitler 1919-1934

For more detail on the rise of Hitler, please see these expanded podcasts:

The rise of Hitler 1919-29

The rise of Hitler 1929-34

The podcast begins in 1919 with an introduction to Hitler’s early attitudes and him taking control of the National Socialist German Workers Party (who became known as the Nazis).  An overview is then given of the actions of the SA/Stormtroopers before describing how the hyperinflation of 1922-23 led Hitler to use his violent supporters to launch the Munich (or Beer Hall) Putsch, which resulting in Hitler’s imprisonment during which he wrote Mein Kampf.  This coincided with the ‘Stresemann Period’ of German history, which is described in greater detail in the Weimar Germany revision podcast.

The episode then goes on to explain how, following his release from prison, Hitler changed his tactics to use legal means to gain political power.  The period of the Great Depression led to increasing support for the now well-organised Nazi party which culminted with the appointment of Hitler to the position of Chancellor.  An explanation of how Hitler consolidated his power is then given – the Reichstag Fire which led to the Enabling Act; the Night of the Long Knives through which Hitler removed opponents including Ernst Rohm; and finally Hitler taking the title of Fuhrer following the death of President Hindenburg.

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Hindenburg and Hitler as Chancellor

Hitler’s Rise to Power – video documentary extract

An extract from a 1980s documentary called “Hitler’s Germany” – part of the BBC’s 20th Century History series of documentary programs.  Transferred from an VHS tape, so quality is variable – but it’s watchable and well presented.