The "History of Soviet
Russia and the Soviet Union" reflects a period
of change for both
Russia and the world. Though the terms "Soviet
Russia" and "Soviet Union" are synonymous in everyday vocabulary, when
referring to the foundations of the Soviet Union, "Soviet Russia"
refers to the few years after the
October Revolution of 1917, but
before the creation of the
Soviet Union in 1922.
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Main article: History of Soviet
Russia and the Soviet Union
The original ideology of the state was primarily based on the works of
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In its essence, Marx's theory stated
that economic and political systems went through an inevitable
evolution in form, by which the current capitalist system would be
replaced by a
Socialist state before achieving international
cooperation and peace in a "Workers' Paradise," creating a system
directed by, what Marx called, "Pure Communism."
Displeased by the relatively few changes made by the Tsar after the
Russian Revolution of 1905,
Russia became a hotbed of anarchism,
socialism and other radical political systems. The dominant socialist
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party
Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), subscribed
to Marxist ideology. Starting in 1903 a series of splits in the party
between two main leaders was escalating: the
"majority") led by Vladimir Lenin, and the
minority) led by Julius Martov. Up until 1912, both groups continued
to stay united under the name "RSDLP," but significant differences
between Lenin and Martov thought split the party for its final time.
Not only did these groups fight with each other, but also had common
enemies, notably, those trying to bring the Tsar back to power.
Following the February Revolution, the
Mensheviks gained control of
Russia and established a provisional government, but this lasted only
a few months until the
Bolsheviks took power in the October
Revolution, also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution.
Under the control of the party, all politics and attitudes that were
not strictly RCP (Russian Communist Party) were suppressed, under the
premise that the RCP represented the proletariat and all activities
contrary to the party's beliefs were "counterrevolutionary" or
"anti-socialist." During the years of 1917 to 1923, the Soviet Union
achieved peace with the Central Powers, their enemies in World War I,
but also fought the
Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War against the
White Army and
foreign armies from United States, United Kingdom, and France, among
others. This resulted in large territorial changes, albeit temporarily
for some of these. Eventually crushing all opponents, the RCP spread
Soviet style rule quickly and established itself through all of
Russia. Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin, General
Secretary of the RCP, became Lenin's successor and continued as leader
Soviet Union into the 1950s.
Main article: History of the
Soviet Union (1927–1953)
The history of the
Soviet Union between 1927 and 1953 covers the
period of the
Second World War
Second World War and of victory against Germany while
the USSR remained under the firm control of Joseph Stalin. Stalin
sought to destroy his political rivals while transforming Soviet
society with aggressive economic planning, in particular a sweeping
collectivization of agriculture and a rapid development of heavy
industry. Stalin's power within the party and the state was
established and eventually evolved into Stalin's cult of personality.
Soviet secret-police and the mass-mobilization Communist party were
Stalin's major tools in molding the Soviet society. Stalin's brutal
methods in achieving his goals, which included party purges, political
repression of the general population, and forced collectivization, led
to millions of deaths: in
Gulag labor camps, during the man-made
famine, and during forced resettlements of population.
World War II, known as "the Great Patriotic War" in the Soviet Union,
devastated much of the USSR with about one out of every three World
War II deaths representing a citizen of the Soviet Union. After World
War II the Soviet Union's armies occupied Central and Eastern Europe,
where socialist governments took power. By 1949 the
Cold War had
started between the
Western Bloc and the Eastern (Soviet) Bloc, with
Warsaw Pact pitched against
NATO in Europe. After 1945 Stalin did
not directly engage in any wars. Stalin continued his absolute rule
until his death in 1953.
Main article: History of the
Soviet Union (1953–64)
In the USSR, the eleven-year period from the death of Joseph Stalin
(1953) to the political ouster of
Nikita Khrushchev (1964), the
national politics were dominated by the Cold War; the ideological
U.S.–USSR struggle for the planetary domination of their respective
socio–economic systems, and the defense of hegemonic spheres of
influence. Nonetheless, since the mid-1950s, despite the Communist
Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU) having disowned Stalinism, the
political culture of Stalinism—an omnipotent General Secretary,
anti-Trotskyism, a five-year planned economy (post-New Economic
Policy), and repudiation of the
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact secret
protocols—remained the character of
Soviet society until the
Mikhail Gorbachev as leader of the CPSU in 1985.
Main article: History of the
Soviet Union (1964–82)
The history of the
Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982, referred to as the
Brezhnev Era, covers the period of Leonid Brezhnev's rule of the Union
of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This period began with high
economic growth and soaring prosperity, but ended with a much weaker
Soviet Union facing social, political, and economic stagnation. The
average annual income stagnated, because needed economic reforms were
never fully carried out.
Nikita Khrushchev was ousted as First Secretary of the Central
Committee of the Communist Party of the
Soviet Union (CPSU), as well
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, on 14 October 1964 due to his
failed reforms and disregard for Party and Government institutions.
Brezhnev replaced Khrushchev as First Secretary and Alexei Kosygin
replaced him as Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Anastas Mikoyan,
and later Nikolai Podgorny, became Chairmen of the Presidium of the
Supreme Soviet. Together with Andrei Kirilenko as organisational
Mikhail Suslov as chief ideologue, they made up a
reinvigorated collective leadership, which contrasted in form with the
autocracy that characterized Khrushchev's rule.
The collective leadership first set out to stabilize the Soviet Union
and calm Soviet society, a task which they were able to accomplish. In
addition, they attempted to speed up economic growth, which had slowed
considerably during Khrushchev's last years in power. In 1965 Kosygin
initiated several reforms to decentralize the Soviet economy. After
initial success in creating economic growth, hard-liners within the
Party halted the reforms, fearing that they would weaken the Party's
prestige and power. No other radical economic reforms were carried out
during the Brezhnev era, and economic growth began to stagnate in the
early-to-mid-1970s. By Brezhnev's death in 1982, Soviet economic
growth had, according to several historians, nearly come to a
The stabilization policy brought about after Khrushchev's removal
established a ruling gerontocracy, and political corruption became a
normal phenomenon. Brezhnev, however, never initiated any large-scale
anti-corruption campaigns. Due to the large military buildup of the
Soviet Union was able to consolidate itself as a superpower
during Brezhnev's rule. The era ended with Brezhnev's death on 10
While all modernized economies were rapidly moving to computerization
after 1965, the USSR fell further and further behind. Moscow's
decision to copy the
IBM/360 of 1965 proved a decisive mistake for it
locked scientists into a system they were unable to improve so that it
gradually became antiquated. They had enormous difficulties in
manufacturing the necessary chips reliably and in quantity, in
programming workable and efficient programs, in coordinating entirely
separate operations, and in providing support to computer users.
One of the greatest strengths of
Soviet economy was its vast supplies
of oil and gas; world oil prices quadrupled during the 1973-74 oil
crisis, and rose again in 1979-1981, making the energy sector the
chief driver of the Soviet economy, and was used to cover multiple
weaknesses. At one point, Soviet Premier
Alexei Kosygin told the head
of oil and gas production, "things are bad with bread. Give me 3
million tons [of oil] over the plan." Former prime minister Yegor
Gaidar, an economist looking back three decades, in 2007 wrote:
The hard currency from oil exports stopped the growing food supply
crisis, increased the import of equipment and consumer goods, ensured
a financial base for the arms race and the achievement of nuclear
parity with the United States, and permitted the realization of such
risky foreign-policy actions as the war in Afghanistan.
Main article: History of the
Soviet Union (1982–91)
The history of the
Soviet Union from 1982 through 1991, spans the
period from Leonid Brezhnev's death and funeral until the dissolution
of the Soviet Union. Due to the years of Soviet military buildup at
the expense of domestic development, economic growth
stagnated. Failed attempts at reform, a standstill
economy, and the success of the
United States against the Soviet
Union's forces in the war in Afghanistan led to a general feeling of
discontent, especially in the Baltic republics and Eastern Europe.
Greater political and social freedoms, instituted by the last Soviet
leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, created an atmosphere of open criticism of
the Soviet government. The dramatic drop of the price of oil in 1985
and 1986 profoundly influenced actions of the Soviet leadership.
Nikolai Tikhonov, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, was
succeeded by Nikolai Ryzhkov, and Vasili Kuznetsov, the acting
Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, was succeeded by
Andrei Gromyko, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Several Soviet Socialist Republics began resisting central control,
and increasing democratization led to a weakening of the central
government. The USSR's trade gap progressively emptied the coffers of
the union, leading to eventual bankruptcy. The
Soviet Union finally
collapsed in 1991 when
Boris Yeltsin seized power in the aftermath of
a failed coup that had attempted to topple reform-minded Gorbachev.
Historiography in the Soviet Union
Foreign relations of the Soviet Union
^ James W. Cortada, "Public Policies and the Development of National
Computer Industries in Britain, France, and the Soviet Union,
1940—80." Journal of Contemporary History (2009) 44#3 pp: 493-512,
especially page 509-10.
^ Frank Cain, "Computers and the Cold War:
United States restrictions
on the export of computers to the
Soviet Union and Communist China."
Journal of Contemporary History (2005) 40#1 pp: 131-147. in JSTOR
^ Yergin, The Quest (2011) p 23
Yegor Gaidar (2007). Collapse of an Empire: Lessons for Modern
Russia. Brookings Institution Press. p. 102.
^ Gaidar, Yegor. "The Soviet Collapse: Grain and Oil". On the Issues:
AEI online. American Enterprise Institute. Archived from the original
on 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2009-07-09. (Edited version of a speech
given November **, **** at the American Enterprise Institute.)
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