Communism destroyed more lives than any other organisation or event in the 20th century, mainly through the murders of citizens by the regimes that were forced upon them. The casualties were often the consequence of the conflicts in which Soviet Union became involved as they attempted to spread the communist system throughout the world. Civil and human rights were denied while the socialist system of central control over food and goods production impoverished many people who weren't part of the top elite of the Communist hierarchy:
The world watched in amazement, in December of 1991, as the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 separate countries. To the West, its collapse was seen as a victory for freedom, a triumph for democracy and evidence that capitalism was superior to socialism. The United States rejoiced as it witnessed its formidable enemy dropping to its knees, thereby ending the long struggle that become known as the Cold War. In fact the break up of the Soviet Union was so momentous it led to the reform of political, economical and military alliances all over the world.
There were warning signs before the collapse, and many people picked up on this several years before its actual demise. Some of the member states within the Soviet Union sensed that the centre was weakening. The Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, started agitating for their independence. They were greatly heartened by Poland's success in gaining its independence. In January 1991, Soviet paratroopers were sent in following independence demonstrations; they stormed the television station in Vilnius, Lithuania, killing 13 independence demonstrators. A similar Russian raid on Riga in Latvia led to the killing of four demonstrators. In February, a referendum in Lithuania produced a majority in favour of independence from Russia. The following month referendums in Latvia and Estonia produced a similar result.The article goes on to relate how Soviet president, Gorbachev, tried to maintain the union by proposing a new federation giving member states greater autonomy. However, all countries of the former Soviet Union gradually broke free while adopting western standards of administration and democracy with free enterprise. Many became members of the EU and NATO.