Soviet society underwent profound changes during the seven-and-a-half decades of Soviet rule. By the late 1970s and 1980s, adverse economic and demographic trends had led to widespread public cynicism, especially among younger people. Mikhail Gorbachev was aware of the discontent within Soviet society when he came to office in 1985, and he pursued a reform program that was intended to remedy the country's ills and rejuvenate the society. In the end he failed. Although Soviet society did not “revolt” en masse against Gorbachev's reforms and the hardships that ensued, the crucial thing by 1991 was that the society as a whole no longer had much of a stake in the survival of the USSR—a stake that might have induced people to mobilize in favor of preserving a union.

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