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Looking back at the breakup of the Soviet Union 30 years ago

Aug. 22, 1991: Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin (second right) makes a V-sign to thousands of Muscovites, as his top associate Gennady Burbulis (right) stands near during a rally to celebrate the failed military coup in Moscow, Russia. When a group of top Communist officials ousted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev 30 years ago and flooded Moscow with tanks, the world held its breath. But the August 1991 coup collapsed in just three days, precipitating the breakup of the Soviet Union that plotters said they were trying to prevent. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)
Aug. 22, 1991: Russian Republic President Boris Yeltsin (second right) makes a V-sign to thousands of Muscovites, as his top associate Gennady Burbulis (right) stands near during a rally to celebrate the failed military coup in Moscow, Russia. When a group of top Communist officials ousted Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev 30 years ago and flooded Moscow with tanks, the world held its breath. But the August 1991 coup collapsed in just three days, precipitating the breakup of the Soviet Union that plotters said they were trying to prevent. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Thirty years ago on Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved. Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the leader of the USSR, stepped down. And Boris Yeltsin became president of a newly independent Russia.

Host Scott Tong speaks with Angela Stent, director of Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University, about the events that led up to the collapse.

And Masha Gessen, staff writer at The New Yorker, talks about what life was like for people in Russia as it transitioned from part of a massive communist empire to an independent country.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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