Portal:Soviet Union
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Portal:Soviet Union

Znak kachestva.svg UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS Znak kachestva.svg

Introduction

Coat of arms of the Soviet Union 1
The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state that spanned Europe and Asia during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a federal union of multiple national republics; in practice its government and economy were highly centralized until its final years. The country was a one-party state prior to 1990 governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with Moscow as its capital within its largest and most populous republic, the Russian SFSR. Other major urban centers were Leningrad (Russian SFSR), Kiev (Ukrainian SSR), Minsk (Byelorussian SSR), Tashkent (Uzbek SSR), Alma-Ata (Kazakh SSR) and Novosibirsk (Russian SFSR). It was the largest country in the world, covering over 22,402,200 square kilometres (8,649,500 sq mi), and spanning eleven time zones.

The Soviet Union had its roots in the October Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks, headed by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government that had earlier replaced the monarchy of the Russian Empire. They established the Russian Soviet Republic, beginning a civil war between the Bolshevik Red Army and many anti-Bolshevik forces across the former Empire, among whom the largest faction was the White Guard, which engaged in violent anti-communist repression against the Bolsheviks and their worker and peasant supporters known as the White Terror. The Red Army expanded and helped local Bolsheviks take power, establishing soviets, repressing their political opponents and rebellious peasants through Red Terror. By 1922, the Bolsheviks had emerged victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics. The New Economic Policy (NEP), which was introduced by Lenin, led to a partial return of a free market and private property; this resulted in a period of economic recovery.

Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power. Stalin suppressed all political opposition to his rule inside the Communist Party and inaugurated a command economy. As a result, the country underwent a period of rapid industrialization and forced collectivization, which led to significant economic growth, but also led to a man-made famine in 1932-1933 and expanded the Gulag labour camp system originally established in 1918. Stalin also fomented political paranoia and conducted the Great Purge to remove his actual and perceived opponents from the Party through mass arrests of military leaders, Communist Party members, and ordinary citizens alike, who were then sent to correctional labor camps or sentenced to death.

On 23 August 1939, after unsuccessful efforts to form an anti-fascist alliance with Western powers, the Soviets signed the non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany. After the start of World War II, the formally neutral Soviets invaded and annexed territories of several Eastern European states, including eastern Poland and the Baltic states. In June 1941 the Germans invaded, opening the largest and bloodiest theater of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the majority of Allied casualties of the conflict in the process of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad. Soviet forces eventually captured Berlin and won World War II in Europe on 9 May 1945. The territory overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Eastern Bloc. The Cold War emerged in 1947 as a result of a post-war Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe, where the Eastern Bloc confronted the Western Bloc that united in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.

Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period known as de-Stalinization and the Khrushchev Thaw occurred under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The country developed rapidly, as millions of peasants were moved into industrialized cities. The USSR took an early lead in the Space Race with the first ever satellite and the first human spaceflight and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus. In the 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed when the Soviet Union deployed troops in Afghanistan in 1979. The war drained economic resources and was matched by an escalation of American military aid to Mujahideen fighters.

In the mid-1980s, the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to further reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost and perestroika. The goal was to preserve the Communist Party while reversing economic stagnation. The Cold War ended during his tenure and in 1989, Warsaw Pact countries in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective Marxist-Leninist regimes. Strong nationalist and separatist movements broke out across the USSR. Gorbachev initiated a referendum--boycotted by the Baltic republics, Armenia, Georgia, and Moldova--which resulted in the majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état was attempted by Communist Party hardliners. It failed, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin playing a high-profile role in facing down the coup. The main result was the banning of the Communist Party. The republics led by Russia and Ukraine declared independence. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. All the republics emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Union as independent post-Soviet states. The Russian Federation (formerly the Russian SFSR) assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and is recognized as its continued legal personality in world affairs.

The USSR produced many significant social and technological achievements and innovations regarding military power. It boasted the world's second-largest economy and the largest standing military in the world. The USSR was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states. It was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the OSCE, the WFTU and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.

Before its dissolution, the USSR had maintained its status as a world superpower alongside the United States, for four decades after World War II. Sometimes also called "Soviet Empire", it exercised its hegemony in Eastern Europe and worldwide with military and economic strength, proxy conflicts and influence in developing countries and funding of scientific research, especially in space technology and weaponry. (Full article...)

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A Tu-142 of the Russian Navy.
A Tu-142 of the Russian Navy.

The Tupolev Tu-142 (Russian: ? -142; NATO reporting name: Bear F/J) is a Soviet/Russian maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft derived from the Tu-95 turboprop strategic bomber. A specialised communications variant designated Tu-142MR was tasked with long-range communications duties with Soviet ballistic missile submarines. The Tu-142 was designed by the Tupolev design bureau, and manufactured by the Kuibyshev Aviation and Taganrog Machinery Plants from 1968 to 1994. Formerly operated by the Soviet Navy and Ukrainian Air Force, the Tu-142 currently serves with the Russian Navy.

Developed in response to the American Polaris programme, the Tu-142 grew out of the need for a viable Soviet ASW platform. It succeeded the failed Tu-95PLO project, Tupolev's first attempt at modifying the Tu-95 for maritime use. The Tu-142 differed from the Tu-95 in having a stretched fuselage to accommodate specialised equipment for its ASW and surveillance roles, a reinforced undercarriage to support rough-field capability, improved avionics and weapons, and enhancements to general performance. The Tu-142's capability was incrementally improved while the type was in service, eventually resulting in the Tu-142MZ, the final long-range Tu-142 with highly sophisticated combat avionics and a large payload. Tupolev also converted a number of Tu-142s as avionics (Tu-142MP) and engine (Tu-142LL) testbeds. (Full article...)

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A medal with half of Lenin's face on it, and a hammer and sickle at the bottom with a laurel wreath
Credit: Kiselev d

The Order of Lenin was the highest decoration bestowed by the Soviet Union, named after Vladimir Lenin, leader of the October Revolution.

Did you know... - show different entries

  • ... that the proposals for a new Crimean flag after the collapse of the Soviet Union included a white flag with seven rainbow colors at the top and a blue-white-red tricolor design , which was officially adopted in 1999?
  • ... that because Leonid Brezhnev had more than 200 decorations, it was decided to break the Soviet custom of featuring only one decoration on cushions during his funeral?

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Yakov Smirnoff
-- Yakov Smirnoff, commenting on his life under Soviet rule

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El Lissitzky in a 1914 self-portrait

Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (Russian: ? , listen; November 23 [O.S. November 11] 1890 - December 30, 1941), known as El Lissitzky (Russian: , Yiddish: ?‎), was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. He was an important figure of the Russian avant-garde, helping develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designing numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th-century graphic design.

Lissitzky's entire career was laced with the belief that the artist could be an agent for change, later summarized with his edict, "das zielbewußte Schaffen" (goal-oriented creation). Lissitzky, of Lithuanian Jewish ?rigin, began his career illustrating Yiddish children's books in an effort to promote Jewish culture in Russia. When only 15 he started teaching, a duty he would maintain for most of his life. Over the years, he taught in a variety of positions, schools, and artistic media, spreading and exchanging ideas. He took this ethic with him when he worked with Malevich in heading the suprematist art group UNOVIS, when he developed a variant suprematist series of his own, Proun, and further still in 1921, when he took up a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Weimar Germany, working with and influencing important figures of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements during his stay. In his remaining years he brought significant innovation and change to typography, exhibition design, photomontage, and book design, producing critically respected works and winning international acclaim for his exhibition design. This continued until his deathbed, where in 1941 he produced one of his last works - a Soviet propaganda poster rallying the people to construct more tanks for the fight against Nazi Germany. In 2014, the heirs of the artist, in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum and leading worldwide scholars on the subject, established the Lissitzky Foundation in order to preserve the artist's legacy and to prepare a catalogue raisonné of the artist's oeuvre. (Full article...)

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