On December 1991, the secretary general of the Soviet Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev announced the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which he had headed since 1985. This came four months after an abortive coup attempt against him. During the 1980s the Soviet Union was forced to deal with a succession of maladies that had become increasingly acute: the war in Afghanistan; chronic economic crises; national unrest within the USSR; the breakaway of the Soviet satellites; the devastating technological gap and worst of all-the erosion of the authority of the central government.