Welcome to my historical blog on 20th Century Russia. Hope you enjoy what you see and read!

One Meltdown Leads to Another

City of Chernobyl years after the meltdown.

The ideas of “Perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness) were preached by Mikhail Gorbachev throughout his entire political career. However his preaching of Glasnost and his practicing of it were not equal. The Chernobyl disaster of April 1986 in the Ukraine is a prime example of how Gorbachev did not practice what he preached.

A KGB report on the disaster states “…a test at 1:21 A.M., the No. 4 reactor exploded and released thirty to forty times the radioactivity of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” (Revelations). Chernobyl is still known today as one of the most disastrous industrial accidents in history. Ironically in a interview prior to the accident, journalist Maksim Rylskii talked with Vitalii Skliarov, Minister of Power and Electrification of the Ukraine, on the probability of a meltdown, his answer was, “The odds of a meltdown are one in 10,000 years,” (Soviet Life). The explosion instantly killed thirty people and is suspected to have killed 100,000’s more.  The environmental degradation that happened after the accident destroyed some of the most fertile land in the Ukraine.   The USSR’s response  was not ready for a disaster of this magnitude. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes due to the radiation. Yet the USSR had no place for them to go, or the proper healthcare system to see that the victims of the meltdown were properly treated.

aThree weeks after the explosion on May 16, 1986,  Gorbachev addressed the public about the disaster. All the while the explosion was already known about due to Sweden detecting radiation material near some of there nuclear plants (SMSH). His practicing of Glasnost was apparently not a top priority at the time of the disaster but only when Gorbachev was able to formulate a well written response. Gorbachev stated in his address, “I have every reason to say that, despite the gravity of what happened, the damage turned out to be limited, ” (Gorbachev) The damage was quite extensive contrary to Gorbachev’s statements. 14,400,000 acres of farmable land was destroyed because of this meltdown (Chernobyl Accident). A fact not present in Gorbachev’s address, however stabs at Western powers and praises for soviet workers were repeated throughout the speech. This shows that Gorbachev was not practicing his idea of “Glasnost” but was doing the exact opposite. He was trying to change the publics attention away from the fact that the worst industrial disaster in history happened under his leadership, and towards irrelevant facts like how the West was reacting. The Chernobyl disaster shed light on the entire soviet system and how fragile it actually was and pushed the whole system towards collapse.

 

Sources:

Revelations from the Russian Archives: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/cher.html

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1985chernobyl&Year=1985&navi=byYear

Peace and Plenty in Pripyat: Soviet Life (Washington: Embassy of the Soviet Union in the USA, 1986), pp. 8-13

Mikhail Gorbachev, Address on Soviet television. May 14, 1986: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1985chernobyltv1&SubjectID=1985chernobyl&Year=1985

Information on Economic and Social Consequences of the Chernobyl Accident. July 24, 1990: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1985cons1&SubjectID=1985chernobyl&Year=1985

Picture: http://abcnews.go.com/topics/news/disasters/chernobyl-dis

3 Comments

  1. Annemarie Lucernoni
    December 9, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

    I had much the same idea in my post about Chernobyl! I also found it interesting that when it came down to it, despite Gorbachev writing in support of glasnost since the early 1970’s when it came down to a national disaster he made the decision to revert back to old Soviet methods of repression. I read an interesting short book for a class last year called Chernobyl: The Forbidden Truth by a Ukranian reporter named Alla Yaroshinskaya who was trying to write articles about health problems in the villages surrounding Chernobyl after the accident and her first hand experience with Soviet restriction of the media, definitely worth a look if you like this topic.

    Reply

  2. A. Nelson
    December 10, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    This post highlights the contradictions of “glasnost'” nicely. And the title is terrific!

    Reply

  3. jrc554
    December 11, 2013 @ 6:37 am

    Very interesting post. Its amazing that Gorbachev tried to use this national tragedy as a opportunity to strike out against the west and how they reacted to an incident that happened in Soviet territory. Again, Gorbachev’s attempt to make this disaster seem like a footnote in an isolated region continues the overarching theme of the Soviet Union covering up their own blunders no matter how irresponsible, reckless, or important that society knows the truth.

    Reply

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The Beginning of the End

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Afghanistan is not a friendly place to outsiders. Especially the outsiders who execute their leader and place an unwanted one in his place. Ironically enough Afghanistan’s ally, the USSR did just that in 1980. Lets step back though to 1979 when the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (Hafizullah Amin) was asking the Soviet government for military aid. This plea for help was the result of attacks by the Islamic extremists (mujahideen) who wanted to oust Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammad Taraki and end the progressive reforms they wanted for Afghanistan. Some of these reforms included equal rights for women, secular education and new land laws. (SMSH) However these changes would never see the light of day, not because of the extremists but because of the USSR.

The USSR answered Afghanistan’s call for help on December 25, 1979. They sent a small contingent of Soviet troops to help out with the fight against the extremists. Yet this “invasion” as the Western powers perceived it was just the USSR helping out a friend in need. The USSR’s next move would be the move that would lead to the start of the downfall of communism. That move was the execution of Hafizullah Amin and implanting Babrak Karmal as the president. The reason for this execution as stated in SMSH was because of Amin’s execution of Taraki who was friends of Brezhnev and he felt betrayed by Taraki execution. Yet the blatant interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs was not seen as a justified action by the international community.

Things only got worse for the Soviets as the Mujahideen moved into the mountains and began a fierce ten year guerrilla war that ultimately ended with the Soviets withdrawing. The USSR sent thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan and many returned in caskets. As the war dragged on its toll on the economy back in Russia worsened until their was no economy. This coupled with civilian opposition to the war started the Soviets toward their own destruction. On top of all that the Mujahideen got the help of the US by weapons and ammo which greatly increased their effectiveness against the Soviets.

Overall the decision to help out in Afghanistan was not a bad idea, it was the personal decision by Brezhnev to execute Amin and place Karmal at the head of an already very unstable government. As a result of this more men joined the ranks of the Mujahideen and bloody ten year guerrilla war took place resulting in terrible conditions back home in Russia that would ultimatelylead the USSR down the road of collapse.

 

Sources:

Picture: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980&navi=byYear

Text: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980&navi=byYear

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1980appeal1&SubjectID=1980afghanistan&Year=1980

7 Comments

  1. mikevk117
    December 3, 2013 @ 2:14 am

    This is a great general overview of why they went in and what actions caused the quagmire they would eventually be forced to embarrassingly in a way withdraw from years later. Great post!

    Reply

  2. Kyle
    December 3, 2013 @ 2:33 am

    I liked the detail in which you go into about the politics leading up/ during Soviet involvement in Afghanistan. This is a good post!

    Reply

  3. rkw15
    December 3, 2013 @ 5:53 am

    I really liked the simple explanation of the Soviet Invasion. I have learned about it in at least three of my other classes, but no one has been able to explain it that clearly.

    Reply

  4. Casey Pietsch
    December 3, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

    This was a really great post! I think you provided a good summary of the events that occurred when the USSR answered Afghanistan’s call for help on December 25, 1979. I also thought it was great how you explained that it was a “personal decision by Brezhnev to execute Amin and place Karmal at the head of an already very unstable government.” I think you did a great job of tying in the image above with your blog post.

    Reply

  5. A. Nelson
    December 4, 2013 @ 8:32 pm

    Some good detail here. For more context on the start of the Afghan war, check out Kyle’s post here: http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/kylsmith991/2013/12/03/the-quagmire-of-afghanistan/

    Reply

  6. wilkins
    December 5, 2013 @ 2:40 am

    Good post, interesting to see there was a negative attitude to the war by the Russians as there was in the Vietnam war by the Americans.

    Reply

  7. jrc554
    December 6, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

    This just goes to show that the Soviet’s continuous manipulation of other nations and obsession with furthering its “buffer zone”, this time to the south, was, as you said, another nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union. This failure in Afghanistan, which the Soviets perceived would be a quick and easy invasion, made it clear to the world that the SU was spreading itself to thin and wasting resources, money, and lives ended up puncturing the domestic economy, and leading citizens to question the state that Soviet Union was in.

    Reply

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The Space Age Begins

Soviet citizens greeting Gagarin as he returns home.

As the Nuclear Arms race was in full swing, the USSR was looking for something new to show the world why they were the better than the US. Sergei Korolev, the lead scientist of the Soviet’s space program, had the answer. Having a lot of help from the ballistic research done by the military, and working in isolation as a prisoner in Sharashka throughout most of his research and work, Korolev finally gave the USSR what they needed.

On April 20th, 1961 the first manned mission to space, aboard the Vostok 1, was deemed successful by the USSR. The first man to go into space, Yuri Gagarin, returned safely (pictured right) to earth and instantly became a hero of the USSR. Funny enough, “Yuri’s triumphant walk through Red Square in front of a crowd of hundreds of thousands made him more nervous and afraid than his historic flight,” (Russian Archives).

As the successful mission reached the rest of the worlds ears, the US frantically began their mission to best the USSR. However the damage was done. The USSR proved to the world that they had the technology to put a man in space, thus making them more feared and respected on the international stage. Before the decade was over two more cosmonauts would be launched into stardom; German Titov, and the first woman cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova. It would be another 8 years until the US would best the USSR and make the historic landing on the moon.

Sources:

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History- http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1961gagarin&Year=1961&navi=byYear

Russian Archives – http://russianarchives.com/gallery/gagarin/gagarin4.html

Picture- Matthew Cullerne, ed.: Soviet socialist realist painting 1930-1960s. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art. 1992.

 

7 Comments

  1. Eric
    November 18, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

    Nobody seems to remember the Soviets being the first in the outerspace race, everyone remembers the triumphs of the US getting to the moon. I am curious why? I wonder how the US were able to catch up so fast and eventually pass the Soviets even after there massive lead.

    Reply

  2. Connor Balzer
    November 18, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

    The great success of the Soviet space race was the pride and joy of the USSR during the Cold War era. Korolev made great strides in the scientific field and the Soviet Union used his genius to out do the US every step of the way. However, it is interesting to note how the US caught up and put a man on the moon before the Russians. Do you think this was due to the way the Soviets forced their space program forward which may have caused them to outpace themselves and lose steam? Or was it because they put all their eggs in one basket with Korolev and didn’t have any equivalent back-ups to take his place? Or something else entirely.

    Reply

  3. sean5221
    November 19, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    I really enjoyed reading you post about the beginning of sending humans into space. Your take upon such a significant event within human history is also very interesting in how straight to the point it is. I really enjoyed how you discussed in some part the United States response to the USSR’s successful launch of a human into space. And you also discussed the two other launches of cosmonauts which I had no idea even occurred.

    Reply

  4. wilkins
    November 19, 2013 @ 12:52 am

    So interesting to hear that the USSR had superiority in this field before the USA. I guess the first man on the moon in 1969 out-shadows this achievement in general knowledge history.

    Reply

  5. mikevk117
    November 19, 2013 @ 1:20 am

    This is a very good overview about the beginnings of the manned space race. The importance these missions had were not only to show the technology that was required to send a man into space but the sheer size of crafts that would be easy to fit with missiles and use against the United States if the USSR ever needed to resort to a long-range attack during the Cold War.

    Reply

  6. Austin Wood
    November 19, 2013 @ 3:47 am

    I really like this introduction to the space race, and really find it interesting that the scientist responsible was a prisoner. Seems pretty crazy to me. This was definitely a one up by the Soviet Union and definitely a subject to brag about to the United States. Now it doesn’t seem as astounding, but being the first country to go into space and return safely is really a huge deal when you think about it. Great post!

    Reply

  7. amy925
    November 20, 2013 @ 1:45 am

    I did my blogpost last week on the great space race between the United States and the USSR. Your post does a good job at highlighting the tensions that had arisen between the two in regards to who would make it to space first. The USSR made it to space first, however, the US got the best of the USSR when they made it to the moon.

    Reply

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Mines Bigger than Yours

Soviet nuclear bomb explosion

Soviet nuclear bomb explosion

The Nuclear Arms race that dominated the Cold War era began with a bang. Get it? Bad pun I know nevertheless it was true. Immediately following the Korean War, on August 29, 1949, with help from soviet agents within the US nuclear program, the USSR detonated its first atomic bomb. Previously thought in the international community to only be a US technology the Soviets declared their strength and presence as a new world superpower. Igor Kurchatov was the lead scientist for the Soviets from the beginning. He however had bigger plans for the Soviet nuclear program.

Andrei Sakharov, a Russian scientist with Kurchatov, came up with his own theory a “cake layers” method of putting thermonuclear material in between uranium-238. (SMSH) Thus creating a much more potent reaction than the atom bomb, this method produced a fission reaction with hydrogen that yielded  a 400 kiloton explosion. However the US was still first to detonate a Hydrogen bomb on November 1, 1952. Less than a year later the Soviets were able to complete their designs and test their first hydrogen bomb. Thus beginning the race for bigger yields and the most destructive nukes.

Even after the death of Stalin, his successors continued his nuclear program to the end of the Cold War. Yet even within the ranks of the USSR elite questions were raised about the intention of such weapons. Georgii Malenkov, chairman of the Council of Ministers, publicly raised such questions, and said that weapons as destructive as these had the potential to end modern civilization thus asking why the pursuit nuclear capabilities was a soviet top priority. As you can imagine Khrushchev did not like these questions and the chairman later fell in line with Soviet thinking. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, nuclear war was a possible capability between the two superpowers.

 

Sources:

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1954bomb&Year=1954&navi=byYear

http://www.pbs.org/opb/citizenk/superbomb/layercake.html

http://dlib.eastview.com/searchresults/article.jsp?art=0&id=13833946

picture: http://voiceofrussia.com/2009/07/31/272736/

One Comment

  1. Rob Lajeunesse
    November 12, 2013 @ 3:29 am

    This is a really good post and brings into view the absolutely crazy thinking that was going on during those days. It was really the race to see who could first blow the other country up through mutually assured destruction. Both sides ended up detonating several thousand bombs in tests. However, the Soviets took the cake with the biggest bomb ever which they cleverly named “Tsar Bomba.”

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When the Tide Turned

 

This fountain left standing in the middle of Stalingrad came to symbolize the struggle and triumph of the city.

This fountain left standing in the middle of Stalingrad came to symbolize the struggle and triumph of the city.

Now some historians might say that the Battle of Kursk is where the tide turned in favor of the Red Army in World War Two, however I have a different theory. The Battle of Stalingrad was the real turning point in the war for two reasons; one the Battle of Kursk was all but decided before the battle even started mainly due to the fact that the Russian armies had ample time to prepare their extensive defensive positions for the German offensive that they knew was coming in the summer of 1943, secondly the Battle of Stalingrad was a much more strategic loss for the German war machine because it was an all out offensive that needed to be successful for the Germans to have a shot at defeating the Russians in the long run. The main reason for this is that the Baku oil fields to the South were the main fuel suppliers to all of Soviet Russia and their armies and cutting this off would make them vulnerable to the famous Nazi Blitzkrieg which relied on tanks and aircraft but those could only be provided by capturing the oil fields.

 

Funny enough the call to lay siege to Stalingrad was not General Friedrich von Paulus’s, who commanded the German Sixth Army which was the primary attacker on Stalingrad. In fact it was Hitler’s magnificent idea to attack Stalingrad mainly because he thought it would be nice to take the city who is named after the Soviet leader. I can also think of another time, (D-Day), when Hitler opted not to send his Panzer divisions to reinforce the Normandy coast because there was no way the Allies would be so daring to invade from the sea. Look how that turned out.

The German army did have the advantage going into the siege, “The Sixth Army commenced its advance on August 21 and, after over two months of withering bombardment gained control of nine-tenths of the nearly totally destroyed city,” (SMSH). Now most Generals throughout military history would look at this situation and see a lost cause, not General Georgii Zhukov though he was more afraid of Stalin than Hitler, and also his orders were to hold the city at all cost. These orders came down from Stalin himself in the famous, “Not One Step Back,” (Stalin Order No. 227) memo. Taken straight from the memo, “From now on the iron law of discipline for every officer, soldier, political officer should be – not a single step back without order from higher command. Company, battalion, regiment and division commanders, as well as the commissars and political officers of corresponding ranks who retreat without order from above, are traitors of the Motherland. They should be treated as traitors of the Motherland. This is the call of our Motherland,” (Stalin Order No. 227).

Fortunately the Russian Army was able to hold out long enough for a Russian counterattack to take place on the flanks of the German army. The Russians numbered around a million soldiers and were able to surround the German army now trapped inside the city of Stalingrad. Trapped inside and no where to go the remaining German soldiers suffered horrible fates as the miserable russian winter wore on. Out of the 400,000 German Soldiers at the beginning of the assault only 112,000 made it out alive after newly promoted  Field Marshall Paulus surrendered on February 2, 1943. Thus halting the entire German advance in its tracks and turning the tide of the entire war.

 

Sources:

 

Text: (SMSH) http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1943stalingrad&Year=1943&navi=byYear

(Stalin Order No. 227)http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1943step1&SubjectID=1943stalingrad&Year=1943

Picture:   Tsaritsyn–Stalingrad–Volgograd. Volgograd: Izdatel’. 2000.

3 Comments

  1. bfulcer
    October 21, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

    The ability of the Red Army to keep control of Stalingrad was definitely the turning point in the war. Despite the heavy losses by the Russians, the Germans were never again able to the gain upper hand in the East after the Battle of Stalingrad. It’s also interesting that it was Hitler’s decision to attack the city (based primarily on it’s name none the less) and not the decision of one of his generals. This was a well researched post.

    Reply

  2. Ben Wolfenstein
    October 22, 2013 @ 12:59 am

    I agree with your sentiment that the Battle of Stalingrad was the turning point for the Soviets rather than the Battle of Kursk. I’ve actually never heard of the Battle of Kursk and I’ve studied a lot of WWII history. Until the German surrender at Stalingrad, the Nazi war machine had seemed unstoppable. France had been defeated, most of Eastern Europe, including a large chunk of Russia, was in Hitlers hands. The British hadn’t caved, but Rommel still had control of most of North Africa. Stalin, who saw the symbolism in Stalingrad just like Hitler, would not let the city that bore his name fall and showed the world that the Nazis could be defeated. After Stalingrad, the Allies invaded Italy and the Soviets won the Battle of Kursk. The Nazis were on the defensive from then on, and momentum was in Allied hands.

    Reply

  3. Kyle
    October 22, 2013 @ 1:36 am

    Stalingrad was truly the end of the German offensive on the Eastern Front. The loss of the entire army group was devastating. Hitler’s insanity is also responsible for the loss at Stalingrad. He ordered that the army group make no attempt to break out from the siege. On a side note, Paulus was promoted to Field Marshall to prevent the surrender. Hitler expected him to commit suicide before surrendering the army group.

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The Great Purge

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My mom always told me to use my words and not my fists to settle fights and arguments… apparently Stalin’s mom did not teach him this lesson. The Great Purge is the darkest point in Russian history, “Its goal was to sweep away all of Stalin’s real and imaginary enemies and to infuse all levels of Soviet society, especially upper echelons, with a sense of insecurity and abject dependence on and obedience to the “Great Leader,” (Orest).There was no loyalty or citizenship in Russia during the bleak years of 1936 through 1938. Survival of the most well connected/I hope stalin likes me, was the name of the game. Now to be fair to the Russian historians who like to think of these crimes as prudent action, the Politburo stated that these “purges” were in response to terror threats and attacks against the state. Now anyone that can read and has read a bit of history around this time knows that Stalin was not a sane man in the slightest degree. Terror and more terror were his weapons against his own people to crush any opposition that might challenge him for power.

Stalin however did not oversee the entire operation he just told, Genrikh Iagoda the first People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs to oversee the first of three waves of  “trials.” In the first wave of show trials, “July-August 1936 Lev Kamenev, Grigorii Zinoviev, and fourteen others were convicted of having organized a Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center that allegedly had been formed in 1932 and was held responsible for the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934,” (SMSH) however these were just a few men in comparison to the thousands who also were executed. Soon after the first rials Stalin replaces Iagoda due to lack of “numbers” in the trials and in his place appointed Nikolai Ezhov. He would oversee the remaining two sets of “trials.” These next two trials would be focused on the leaders of the industrial sector,  and members of the reigning party’s Central Committee who were supposedly connected to the Trotskyite-Zinovievite terrorist center. Even the Red Army was hit my these purges and the upper levels of the army were riddled with summary arrests and executions. Soon enough Ezhov set up quotas for each tribunal of judges to meet. Now that basically means they were just looking for people to call traitors and execute them without any form of fair trail. Ezhov, “projected totals of 177,500 exiled and 72,950 executed were eventually exceeded,” (SMSH). These trails decimated the entire political structure of the state and the command structure of the Red Army, all because Stalin was afraid of opposition. The country tore itself apart and only due to the Nazi invasion was it able to put itself back together.

 

Sources:

Text:

Seventeen Moments in Soviets History (SMSH) -http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1936terror&Year=1936&navi=byYear

Orest Subtelny -http://www.brama.com/ukraine/history/terror/

Picture:  Isaac Deutscher: The Great Purges. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. 1984.

5 Comments

  1. seeingred
    October 14, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

    It’s always surprising to read about Stalin’s intense paranoia. His bloodthirsty tendency to rid of any opposition has been a recurring theme among dictators throughout history and I’m always vexed by how the people can continue to follow a clearly flawed leader. The fact that quotas were set up to find traitors is an awful practice. Nowadays, many complain that police officers have to hit a quota of sorts for traffic and speeding tickets. It’s one thing to be afraid to pay a fine, it’s entirely different to fear for one’s life for any sort of inconsequential reason.

    Reply

  2. Ben Midas
    October 15, 2013 @ 1:11 am

    Nice post on the purges. Try to think about what purging the Army meant for Russia when we start talking about World War II.

    Reply

  3. amy925
    October 15, 2013 @ 1:28 am

    Going off of what Ben said, it is crazy to think about someone decimating their own army’s numbers right before a war was about to break out. Stalin was so paranoid and clearly not in a right state of mind to wield so much power.

    Reply

  4. sean5221
    October 15, 2013 @ 1:42 am

    Overall very nice post, especially the opening sentence it was very unique. You offered a great look at the Purge and even offered a look at what the Russian historians would have said about it.I found this to be really unique seeing as in my post I never ever had that thought cross my mind.

    Reply

  5. Annemarie Lucernoni
    October 15, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    Its crazy that the numbers executed/ exiled were so vast. I did my post on the 1937/1939 censuses in which Stalin then tried to cover up the huge difference between his predicted population and the actual population as a result of these purges/ the famine, and this definitely helps to explain why he was so insistent that the numbers be pumped up. If word had gotten out about the extent of these purges it definitely would have led to revolt or possibly even international interference (not necessarily positive interference, the purges show the weakness of the regime and that could have invited Germany to come in even more frequently).

    Reply

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On the Brink

Soviet railway workers and officials who were seized during the Chinese raids.

Soviet railway workers and officials who were seized during the Chinese raids.

 

Only a year after the historic Five Year Plan was accepted and implemented in 1928, there was a conflict that had the potential to disrupt everything. This event is known as the Chinese Railway Incident however it was far from an “incident.”

During the time when the Communist governments in Russia were coming to power there was a civil war raging in China between, the Kuomintang (Nationalists) lead by Chiang Kai-shek and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Ze Dong. During the reign of Chiang, he felt that his people were rightfully entitled to rule Manchuria. This provided friction between the Communist Russians and the Kuomintang because years earlier after the Bolshevik took power they secured the ownership of the Chinese Eastern Railroad. This interfered with the notion that the Kuomintang had rights over Manchuria.

So you can probably guess what happens next right? Beginning on May 27, 1929 Chinese militants raided several Soviets railway offices and stations. “Some eighty Soviet citizens, officials of the consular service and the railroad, were arrested and documents were seized,” (SMSH) this caused an outrage in Moscow but the protests were not recognized by the Chinese and further raids were carried out into July, which eventually led to their full control over the CER. This triggered the Russians to mobilize planes and tanks that were deployed to Manchuria. This move by the Soviets forced the Chinese to retreat back and returned the CER back to the Soviets.

While this was going on the FYP was being carried out in the main part of Russia. Luckily for the Soviets the deployments and success of their military saved them from further action. However unlikely it would be that the Chinese would start a war with Russia the consequences of such a conflict could have been detrimental to the Five Year Plan.

Sources:

Freeze, Gregory L., Russia: A History

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1929railway&Year=1929&navi=byYear

Picture : http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1929railway&Year=1929&navi=byYear

4 Comments

  1. Austin Wood
    October 7, 2013 @ 7:54 pm

    I didn’t read too much about this event in Seventeen Moments because I did my post on Magnetic Mountain, but it does some to me that it was more than just an incident. I’m kind of confused on how the soviet citizens and officials were arrested if they had control of the railroads. were they arrested by the Chinese forces? I could definitely see how that was a huge controversy and how it could have escalated quickly if China decided to respond to the Soviet Union’s mobilization. I also agree that it would have definitely put the Soviet Union in a rut in terms of the five year plan if they had to start yet another war.

    Reply

  2. mikevk117
    October 7, 2013 @ 11:02 pm

    It is certainly interesting how a war might have damaged the First Five-Year Plan. The goals Stalin put in place certainly were too high for any sector in Russia to meet and would only have been hampered if property and lives were damaged by warfare. However, it also could have ignited economic growth if parts and production of war materials were needed similar to how WWII spurred economic growth in America.

    Reply

  3. Kyle
    October 8, 2013 @ 1:34 am

    This is an interesting topic! I did not know just how close China and Russia had come to armed conflict. Modern day China and Russia may have been very different. Great post!

    Reply

  4. A. Nelson
    October 10, 2013 @ 2:06 am

    Some important (but often neglected) issues are addressed in this post. Also, check out Cory’s thoughts on the same topic: http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/cmitch15/2013/10/07/the-chinese-railway-incident-of-1929/

    Reply

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Uprisings are Traditions in Russia

 

Loyalist soldiers from Petrograd assault across the frozen sea to Kronstadt.

Loyalist soldiers from Petrograd assault across the frozen sea to Kronstadt.

One would think that looking at Russia in the early twentieth century would think that by 1921 they would be tired of revolutions and riots and would want to take a break for a while. However that was not the case at Kronstadt, a naval base off the mainland of Russia near Petrograd. This base was taken by Peter the Great in the eighteenth century and basically turned into an impenetrable island that was used as a deterrent to countries who would try to invade Russia from the sea. The sailors that were stationed there were loyal soviets and were committed to the Bolsheviks cause up until they realized that the Bolsheviks were no better than the Romanovs when they were in power. On February 28 upon realizing that they were supporting another dictatorship party they went into open rebellion and established marshal law on the island. “Anger at material deprivations was compounded by the authoritarian regime the Bolsheviks were building, which seemed to violate the spirit of the revolution that the sailors had helped win.” (SMSH) Loyal Bolsheviks such as a sailor named Petrichenko who separated from the main party led the Kronstadt Soviet and drafted fifteen articles that would be unanimously passed. This uprising was a serious problem for Lenin and the Bolsheviks in power in Moscow. Upon realizing how bad this could be on the newly formed communist regime reputation, a “media blackout” was ordered by Lenin and the island was quickly surrounded by the Red Army.

The water froze solid around the island and created access point for infantry soldiers to attack the island. This uprising needed to be crushed quickly and relatively silently because the civil war was the main concern for the men in power in Moscow. Therefore using the classic Russian strategy, Lenin denounced these freedom fighters as traitors and conspirers against the communist regime and branded them enemies of the state. On March 7 Petrograd opened up fire on the island and began a ten day bloodbath against the fortified base. Troops from Petrograd crossed the frozen sea and attempted to take the base by force. However this was a idiotic attempt due to the fact that they were crossing open, coverless ground and were slaughtered by the sailors in the base. However this proved effective in the long run because supplies started to dwindle and eventually the Red Army was able to surround the base from three sides and  commence their final assault on the base on March 16. The base was overrun and taken back by the communist forces. This small uprising hindered the Lenin led Bolsheviks reputation but inspired them to make the New Economic Plan and essentially change the way they were to run the country.

 

Sources:

Seventeen Moments in Soviet History (SMSH) – http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1921tenth&Year=1921

Photo- Russian State Film & Photo Archive at Krasnogorsk. 2000. – http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1921kronshtadt&Year=1921&navi=byYear

 

6 Comments

  1. mwill17
    September 23, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

    Its hard to think that so few on the side of the Bolsheviks saw what they were really trying to accomplish and didn’t rise up themselves. I do wonder though how many other uprisings there were across the country in defiance of the Bolsheviks. Good post.

    Reply

  2. court18
    September 24, 2013 @ 12:58 am

    Great post! I also looked at the Kronstadt uprising and how it influenced the beginning stages of Bolshevik rule this week. One thing that you pointed out that I found really interesting was your comment about how Lenin attempted to turn public opinion against the sailors involved in the revolt. When these sailors rose up against the party, he made it seem as if they were turning against Russia as a whole. I feel that this phenomenon was quite common in the Bolshevik playbook. It helps to answer one of the questions we are supposed to be considering this week, that being “How did the Bolsheviks negotiate the transition from being revolutionaries to being rulers?” The Bolsheviks established security for their rule against counter-revolutionaries by purporting the idea that betraying the party was equal to betraying the state.

    Reply

  3. A. Nelson
    September 24, 2013 @ 1:00 am

    I really like the quote you used from Seventeen Moments to highlight the irony of the Kronstadt rebellion. How did this rebellion factor into the decision to adopt the New Economic Policy?

    Reply

  4. Eric Schneider
    September 24, 2013 @ 1:35 am

    It is interesting and so true for it seems like every month or so their is some type of revolt or revolution that needs to be dealt with. There are so many different factions in Russia each with their own agenda and what they want in exchange for their support. But with every major revolution and change of government their will be a division and breaking off from the main faction, its a natural reaction.

    Reply

  5. hgiannoni
    September 24, 2013 @ 2:07 am

    mwill7 does bring up a good point. As was mentioned in this post, as soon as the Bolsheviks realized what was going on at the island, a media blackout was implemented and the rebellion silenced as quickly as possible. How many other ‘small’ and ‘innocuous’ rebellions were there in the greater Russian state? Its almost a certainty there were many more that even today we do not know about and from that it can be inferred that while many people may not have been loyalists against the Bolsheviks, they were also fed up of living under a monarchy as well.

    Reply

  6. rkw15
    September 24, 2013 @ 2:41 am

    Thank you for explaining this event clearly and pointing out why the troops on the island revolted. I agree that revolt and uprising seems to be a tradition in Russia, one that carries on still today. I also find it interesting that Lenin foresaw the potential damage this could do to his regime and blocked the media.

    Reply

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Incompetancy at its Finest

While their officers enjoyed the ritual pleasures of tea drinking, Russian soldiers turned to the communal soup pot for sustenance.

While their officers enjoyed the ritual pleasures of tea drinking, Russian soldiers turned to the communal soup pot for sustenance.

One would think that having over six million soldiers in an army would be a great advantage in a ground war. That would probably be true for most countries but apparently not for Russia. I am talking about how this army seemed unbeatable on paper but when sent out into the field hardly stood a chance. Now history has shown that a nation specifically its leaders cannot maintain power if they cannot defend themselves in hard times. That is exactly what happened here in 1914. With the losses “at Tannenberg and the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes, in 1914, Russia lost two entire armies (over 250,000 men).”(Smele) These demoralizing losses, in a war that was supposed to be over fairly quickly, expedited the revolution by showing the people of Russia that their military commanders had no idea what they were doing. “Ineptitude began at the very top of the Russian general staff, where the minister of war insisted that the armed forces had mobilized efficiently and had adequate supplies, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.” (DHR Module 3) The retreat that resulted in the losses cost the russian military two million men. For a country that has been famous for its military prowess this may have been their darkest hour. The war itself did not solely contribute to the revolutions of 1917, for there were other factors that contributed to the fall of the Tsar and the Romanov’s.

Order No. 1 was one of those factors. Authorized by the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on March 1, 1917, this order authorized “soldier committees” which they placed all military authority under. Now these committees were elected ones but lets be real this is Russia we are talking about, fair election is not in their vocabulary. “The first few weeks of the revolution witnessed the desertion of between 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers, most of whom were peasants anxious to return to their villages,” (Siegelbaum) this shows that no matter what the Russia government tried to do they could not get their military under control. Maybe its because they were all workers and farmers and did not have any military discipline. Incompetence is the general term I would use to describe the men in charge at this time because of their belief that they could revamp an entire military structure and then somehow get back up and start fighting without any problems. Maybe the 1917 revolution was the best thing to happen to Russia at the time.

 

Here is a link to Order No. 1 in english if you wish to read more: http://www.dhr.history.vt.edu/modules/eu/mod03_1917/evidence_detail_22.html

 

Sources:

Digital History Reader Module 3: 1917 Did the War Cause a Revolution?

Izvestiia, No. 3, March 2/15, 1917. Frank Alfred Golder, ed.,Documents of Russian History, 1914-1917, translated by Emanuel Aronsberg (New York: The Century Co., 1927): 386-87.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History . Accessed September 15, 2013. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1917armyrevolt&Year=19

Smele, Jonathan. BBC. Accessed September 15, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwone/eastern_front_01.shtml#one.

17&navi=byYear.

3 Comments

  1. mwill17
    September 16, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

    I completely agree, the lack of disciplined soldiers combined with the lack of leadership and competency on the officer side showed itself on the field of battle. It would seem that this problem has plagued Russia for quite some time, especially once World War II came around. Good post!

    Reply

  2. Schnaitman
    September 17, 2013 @ 12:09 am

    Nice highlight of the issues created by the breakdown in the military. The ineptitude that you have pointed out was more than noticeable to the point where the military couldn’t even be considered an organized chaos. How much of Russia’s military history prior to 1914 do you think contributed to this snowball?

    Reply

  3. Ben Midas
    September 17, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    Order 1 is a very interesting topic. Several posts this week have touched on how the order hurt the Russian army through a breakdown of discipline. What other causes could there have been for the lack of discipline and widespread desertion? Remember that a majority of the army at this time was made up of peasants and serious changes were taking place in the countryside when you think about that question.

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Who is to Blame?

Bloody Sunday marked the beginning of the end for the autocracy that ruled Russia. This pimple on the face of history marked the beginning of the 1905 Russian Revolution that was to take place immediately after the events on that Sunday in January of 1905. The procession of workmen who were marching towards the Winter Palace in Petrograd  were unarmed and only wanted to ask the Czar for more food, specifically bread, but were only met with rifles and bullets. The strike was actually scheduled ahead of time and the Russian army knew that they were coming. The police in Petrograd told Father George Gapon, the leader of the movement, bloody_sunday_-_russia_-_1905  that the most they would be charge with was breach of the peace. So there was no indication that the army was going to open fire at first sight. However the army saw the workmen coming and did not hesitate to fire. The ironic thing is that at the front of the procession the men were carrying a picture of the Czar to symbolize their wanting of peace throughout this strike.

I guess nothing was going to stop these “soldiers” from firing on unarmed civilians. “Even the police, it seems believed that the military would not fire, for at the first shots one of them shouted, ‘ What are you doing? How dare you fire upon the portrait of the Czar!’ but this had no effect and both he and the other officer were both killed,” (Hero of “Bloody Sunday”). Once the shooting began the procession scattered and history was made. However who’s is really to blame here for this atrocity. Clearly the Czar is responsible for his armies actions however did he give the order to shoot on site or was it the officer in charge of that unit who, idiotically ordered his men to fire. An article from the London Times reported in October of 1905 that Russian barristers (lawyers) actually found the military authorities in charge on that day guilty of the actions that took place and not the Czar himself. I completely agree with the barristers decision to accuse the military leaders because in the end the officer in charge had the final say.

 

Sources:

Picture Titled – Russian Revolution 1905

picture source- http://robertgraham.wordpress.com/russian-revolution-1905/

Permanent Records:

1. Gapon, the hero of “bloody sunday”. (1906, Feb 18). New York Times (1857-1922). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96601455?accountid=14826

2. From The, L. T. (1905, Oct 13). BLAME FOR “BLOODY SUNDAY.”. New York Times (1857-1922). Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/96534550?accountid=14826

 

 

2 Comments

  1. joeconnorwilly
    September 9, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

    Bloody Sunday is a really interesting and complex event. We may never know who exactly is to blame for giving the order to fire, or if it was an action taken on by someone because of a miscommunication. I like how you did some outside research to look into who is to blame. The details on the demonstrators was also really interesting.

    Reply

  2. A. Nelson
    September 11, 2013 @ 2:15 am

    I agree with Joe. You chose really interesting articles from the NYT as well.

    Reply

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