The collapse of the Soviet Union has spurred much scholarly debate about the reasons for the rapid disintegration of this apparently entrenched system. In this article, it is argued that the basic source of ultimate weakness was the obverse of the system’s strengths, especially its form of organization and its relation to Marxist–Leninist ideology. Democratic centralism provided cohesion for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) but also gave inordinate control over ideology to the party leader. Mikhail Gorbachev carried out an ideological revision that undercut the legitimacy of party elites and his restructuring of the system left the party with no clear functional role in the society. The successor party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), has made a surprising comeback for communism, utilizing the Leninist model of party organization, which has proved to be highly effective in the Russian political culture. Furthermore, the CPRF, under party leaders like Gennadi Zyuganov, has avoided Gorbachev’s ideological deviations while attempting to broaden the party’s base through the cultivation of Russian nationalism.

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