This piece in Foreign Policy, titled Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong is a great read to put the Arab revolutions in context. In the last few years of observing the Egyptian scene, I had become convinced that most of all Egypt was going through a moment of moral crisis and the moral collapse of the Mubarak regime's legitimacy. I still believe it was the key factor that made the January 25 possible. This passage in the FP piece, by Leon Aron, comes after an explanation of how the Soviet Union appeared solid in most respects, and is very instructive in that regard:
For though economic betterment was their banner, there is little doubt that Gorbachev and his supporters first set out to right moral, rather than economic, wrongs. Most of what they said publicly in the early days of perestroika now seems no more than an expression of their anguish over the spiritual decline and corrosive effects of the Stalinist past. It was the beginning of a desperate search for answers to the big questions with which every great revolution starts: What is a good, dignified life? What constitutes a just social and economic order? What is a decent and legitimate state? What should such a state's relationship with civil society be?