This article combines institutional and social movement analysis to investigate how elite structures and mass mobilisation operated under Perestroika. We utilise the social movement theories of political opportunity, political currency and political stages in order to do so. By examining the roles of three separate periods in Soviet life, we demonstrate that these factors each had a determining role, depending on the period so chosen. The worlds of institutional structure and mass mobilisation were unconnected, at first, but then they became related in complex ways. This process saw the transformation of institutions, mass mobilisation and demobilisation within a short five year period. The result was not a transition towards democracy but the break up of a federal state.