However, beginning in the 1980s so-called revisionist historians challenged this Stalin-oriented approach, arguing that one man could not, and did not, decide everything. With the eastern part of Europe and the northern part of Asia, the USSR has become the world’s largest country with a surface area of … Nikita Khrushchev eventually won the following power struggle by the mid-1950s. activist who got things done. This led to upheaval throughout the Soviet Union and in its Eastern European satellite states. The First Socialist Society: A History of the Soviet Union from Within. Corruption, weak property rights protection, and political instability were just a few of the reasons for this. 4th ed. In response, on July 31, 1937, Stalin and his co-leaders sanctioned the notorious NKVD Order No. As the Soviet Union help “unite” Germany as one, the Chinese invaded Taiwan to finally liberate the people from the KMT fascist tyranny. Science and Society 69 (4): 594–606. Its duty was to ensure that the government complied with Soviet laws, and it also supervised the lower courts. ." Here it is suggested that the roots of Soviet terror lay not only in the personal ambitions and whims of Lenin and Stalin, but also equally in the ideologically driven utopian mission of creating the perfect communist society purged of the politically and socially unfit in circumstances of international isolation and perceived foreign threats. It eliminated the Congress of Soviets, guaranteed Soviet citizens the rights to work and to an education, and also ensured their medical care, housing needs, and old-age pensions. Aron, Leon. Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments. Initially, Lenin was to be replaced by a "troika" composed of Grigory Zinoviev of Ukraine, Lev Kamenev of Moscow, and Joseph Stalin of Georgia. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as the USSR or the Soviet Union) consisted of Russia and 14 surrounding countries. These two documents were made true by the 1st Congress of Soviets of the USSR and signed by heads of delegations. This led to the protracted geopolitical, ideological, and economic struggle between capitalism and communism known as the cold war. so that they will not dare even to think of any resistance for several decades" (Pipes, 1996, p. 153–54). At the same time, workers' councils, known as Soviets, sprang up across the country. Peace was maintained, however, largely through the Committee for State Security, known by its infamous Russian-language acronym KGB. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. The Soviet Union's longest river was the Irtysh. Scholars have debated these and related issues for many decades. Its five climatic (different weather, temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure) zones were tundra, taiga, steppes, desert, and mountains. Lithuania announced its independence from the Union and the Soviet government demanded it surrender its independence or it would send the Red Army to keep order. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list. Following the disintegration of the Union, the permanent place on the United Nations Security Council, which had belonged to the USSR since the formation of the United Nations, passed to the largest of the Soviet successor states, Russia. It is generally accepted, however, that the process of mass repression was set in motion by the December 1934 assassination of Sergei Kirov, the popular Leningrad Communist Party chief and, so it was rumored at the time, rival to Stalin. It was announced after Vladimir Lenin overthrew Alexander Kerensky as Russian leader. Leonid Brezhnev led the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982. The Soviet Union bordered Afghanistan, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Hungary, Iran, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland, Romania, and Turkey at the end of WWII. Famine, epidemics, overcrowding, summary shootings, and inhuman exploitation for the war effort were commonplace. The top-level committee which made the laws was the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. It was a union of 14 Soviet socialist republics and one Soviet federative socialist republic (Russia). © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. The history of the Soviet Union begins with the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Soviet Union's economy was lagging and the government was spending a lot of money on competing with the west. 1992. At the same time, events such as the suppression of democratic uprisings in Hungary and Poland in 1956 hurt the Soviet Union’s international stature. Most of them still exist; though they are now republics, within the independent state. Conquest, Robert (1971). In 1989 a new legislature was created that resurrected the Congress of Soviets of the 1930s. In any institution where there was minimum of three party members—the workplace, schools, or military units, for example—a party “cell” was established, which was later called the Primary Party Organization, or PPO. Suny, Ronald G. (1998). In the late 1980s nationalism was rising throughout the Soviet republics, which reawakened ethnic tensions throughout the Union thereby discrediting the idea of a unified Soviet people. The new entity was named the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), and over the next twenty years it would add—most often by force—several other constituent republics in Central Asia and the Baltic nations of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Whether this controversial interpretation is correct or not, the scale of human suffering endured in the early 1930s beggars belief. Hough, Jerry F. 1977. Service, Robert. A new constitution went into effect in 1977. Gorbachev started social and economic reforms that gave people freedom of speech; which allowed them to criticise the government and its policies. World Encyclopedia. and "traitors"—the landed gentry, capitalists, Orthodox priests, tsarist officials, bourgeois intellectuals, even kulaks (better-off peasants). The Soviet Union's parliament (Supreme Soviet) made the Belavezha Agreement law, marking formally the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Here the nature and scale of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Soviet state from the October Revolution to the death of Stalin will be examined, along with differing perspectives on Leninist and Stalinist terror. A group of communist leaders, unhappy with Gorbachev's idea, tried to take over Moscow and stop the Soviet Union from collapsing. These were often called Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics. The history of the provisional government, the Revolution of 1917, Soviet Russia'… It was not about to end. Glasnost was aimed at reducing the endemic bureaucratic corruption, partly by allowing more freedom of the press. . He signed numerous New York: Oxford University Press. A multiplicity of factors—internal and external, ideological and practical, personal and systemic—must be carefully weighed. As a leading scholar has written: "Jews were systematically removed from all positions of authority in the arts and the media, in journalism and publishing, and in medicine and many other professions" (Werth, 1999, p. 245). Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928–1941. The Soviet Union was the world’s first Communist state, the West’s principal adversary during the cold war, and a dominant force in international affairs until its collapse in 1991. The western part (in Europe) accounted for a quarter of the country's area, and was the country's cultural and economic center. As the Communist Party continued to consolidate its authority throughout the country, it became a monolithic presence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Stalin's regime was arguably the most repressive in modern history. Taking a position less sympathetic to the Bolsheviks, one may argue that state-sponsored class repression was inherent in Leninist ideology, predated the civil war, and was therefore not a consequence of the objective circumstances of the time. Gale Encyclopedia of World History: Governments. New York: Macmillan Publishing. The BETA advance soon brought it to the doorstep of the Soviet Union, and in 1975 the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic was invaded, and the Ural Hive (Objective 3) was established. This precipitated a return to more interventionist economic policies by the government. The Supreme Soviet also chose the Prosecutor General, who supervised all prosecutorial agencies of the state. ." For various political and socioeconomic reasons, these tensions between peasants and landlords, urban industrial workers and their bosses, and alienated middle-class intellectuals and the anachronistic tsarist state grew in the decades before 1914. Generally, they lived in appalling conditions, often in the most remote and inhospitable locations of the USSR. The Plan became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans and was basically fulfilled by 1931. A significant proportion of the victims were Jews and members of national communist parties. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/union-soviet-socialist-republics-0, "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Its origins were in a Bolshevik division formed in 1917, the Cheka, to root out dissenters and coup-plotters in the party at a time of tremendous political instability. It was, however, only during the perestroika period that the federal forms gained legitimacy. A History of Russia from Nicholas II to Putin. Surveys of public opinion in Russia both before and after 1991 showed a majority of Russians in favor of preserving the Union, but in the aftermath of the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev of August 1991, Yeltsin chose to assert Russia's independence from the USSR. He had no choice but to accept the treaty and resigned on Christmas Day 1991. The Soviet Union's highest mountain was Communism Peak (today it is called the Ismail Samani Peak) in Tajikistan measured at 7,495 metres (24,590 ft). New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. ." Ruling power was to be invested in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, now renamed the Supreme Soviet. Was the Terror simply a product of the deranged mind of a power-hungry tyrant? By the 1980s the Soviet economy was suffering but it was stable. https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/union-soviet-socialist-republics, "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics After becoming prime minister in March 1958, Khrushchev’s position in the state and party was solidified. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. According to official statistics, the Cheka killed 12,733 prisoners between 1918 and 1920; unofficial calculations suggest a figure closer to 300,000. Moreover, to these historians a certain systemic rationale existed for the apparently irrational waves of repression, one linked to center-periphery conflicts, interelite rivalries, and the chaotic and dysfunctional elements of the highly bureaucratized regime. Despite meaningful democratic reforms the provisional government was unable to win mass support and it was, in turn, removed from power by the 1917 Bolshevik October Revolution. Soviet relations with the West first improved in the years after Khrushchev, which led to détente, or a relaxing of strained relations, in the early 1970s. The Union was successful in many fields, putting the first man and satellite into space and winning World War II alongside the United States and United Kingdom. 1992. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918–1956. Schapiro, Leonard. What were their fears? Gorbachev's new ideas had gotten out of hand and the communist party lost control. One of the more reprehensible features of Stalin's rule after World War II was his increasing anti-Semitism. There was hope that the relatively moderate policies of the years 1934 to 1936 would curtail the suffering, but by 1937 mass arrests and executions became the norm. The Central Asian republics had independence virtually thrust upon them when Boris Yeltsin joined the leaders of Ukraine and Belorussia in December 1991 to proclaim that the USSR would cease to exist. London: Collins/Harvill Press. The Allied victory in 1945 gave the Soviet Union an opportunity to widen its sphere of influence. After the Bolsheviks seized power, their many opponents rallied to contest the Marxist vision of Russia's future. Washington, DC: The Division. Service, Robert (2003). Hosking, Geoffrey. Beginning in the summer of 1936, and more conclusively during the spring of 1937, Stalin extended these repressive measures, seeking, it appears, to eliminate any real or potential political opposition to his rule. Achievements or political attractiveness was in the Soviet Union, but economic difficulties political! The CPSU way, reports of Cheka `` excesses '' began to reach Moscow policies of extermination leader... Stalin did not end in the Soviets and on the international stage consolidate its authority throughout the post-Soviet also. To root out all counterrevolutionary and antistate activities to bolster the fragile Leninist government several global changes have... 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