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Gorbachev and his colleagues gave up without a struggle not only the Soviet conquests of World War Two , but also the much older tsarist conquests in the Baltic, the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

I can't grasp the point of this sentence even though I know the definition of every single word in the sentence. Is it mean they, the Gorbachevs, didn't do the conquest like they did in WW2?

  • "gave up" there means "ceded" (to cede). What were ceded? The "conquests" of WWII and the older tsarist conquests. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 22 '16 at 12:10
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    The sentence is saying that the policies adopted by the Soviet government led by Mikhail Gorbachev were responsible for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. These policies led to the independence both of those countries that had been incorporated in the USSR after WWII as well as those that had fallen under the sway of Czarist Russia. – Ronald Sole Nov 22 '16 at 19:34
  • The previous comment is OK, but the wording of the sentence is awkward. I would suggest this: "Gorbachev and his colleagues, without a struggle, gave up not only the Soviet conquests of World War Two, but also the much older tsarist conquests of the Baltics, the Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia." – Jam Kay Nov 25 '16 at 3:33
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Let's break the sentence up into meaningful chunks:

Gorbachev and his colleagues gave up without a struggle not only the Soviet conquests of World War Two, but also the much older tsarist conquests in the Baltic, the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Subject: Gorbachev and his colleagues
Verb: gave up
​   How did they give up? without a struggle
Object: not only NP1, but also NP21
​   NP1: the Soviet conquests of World War Two
​   NP2: the much older tsarist conquests in the Baltic, the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia
1NP = Noun Phrase

I think the meaning should be much clearer for you now.

Here is how you can digest the sentence when you practice reading on your own:

What's the sentence about? "It's about Gorbachev and his colleagues gave up something."
How did they give it up? "They gave it up without a struggle."
What did they give up? "They gave up not only the Soviet conquests of WW II. They also gave up those older conquests in the Baltic, the Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia."

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