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On April 26, 1986 the worst nuclear accident in human history occurred at Chernobyl located within the northern Ukraine. This occurred due to a surge of power at nuclear power station’s no. 4 reactor, what ensued was a massive explosion that let out massive amounts of radiation. This disaster led not only to the destruction of the nearby town and environment, but also to the economy and international relations.

Following the explosion, Russian leaders raced to evacuate the nearby town of Chernobyl and also tried everything they could to cover up this accident from the rest of the world. However this cover up was disastrous and instead the Soviet Union not only lost all credibility on the world stage but also got footed with a tremendous bill.   Though the Russian government have never published the exact figures many people believe the cost have well exceeded beyond three billion dollars.  The cost to clean up such a horrific disaster far exceed just throwing money at the issue.  Not only did the Soviet leaders need to clean up the affected area but they also needed to find homes and jobs for the thousands displaced from this nuclear disaster. Yet, as one could guess a significant consequence from this nuclear disaster came in the way of international relations. Not only did this produce resentment from many prominent countries such as the U.S. and the UK but also countries like Switzerland resented the Soviets for trying to cover up the issue instead of warning the surrounding countries. But one of the most significant forms of resentment came from an unforeseen location the people of the Ukraine. The people of the Ukraine long felt as if they were being abused and miss used by the soviets and this disaster was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

This disaster at Chernobyl was just another issue added onto the long list of issues compiling on top of the weakening Soviet Union. Though many could argue that this led to the fall of the Soviet Union I am not one of those people. Even though this event led to disastrous consequences on the global scale it’s still didn’t have as major an impact on the home front as the Soviet-Afghan war which wouldn’t end to almost three years later.

Sources:

Current Digest of the Soviet Press. Vol. 42, No. 18 (1990), pp. 6-7. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1985chernvs1&SubjectID=1985chernobyl&Year=1985

United Nations and Chernobyl. 2002. http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=article&ArticleID=1985chernobyltv1&SubjectID=1985chernobyl&Year=1985

 

At the height of the Cold War both the USSR and the United States agreed on one concept that in order to gain the upper hand in this war they must extend their political ideologies to other lands. While the United States tried to do this mostly through diplomatic means the USSR had other ideas. One of the prominent targets for the USSR was Afghanistan. The reason why the USSR wanted to target Afghanistan was due to its deep political ties to the country, thus it wanted to cement its reign over all those planning to rebel against the Afghanistan government. Though the Soviet government continued to say it is invading Afghanistan due to aid being requested by the government of Afghanistan, most people did not believe this due to their constant denial that they would invade Afghanistan for any reason.

Afghanistan- too many people Afghanistan is nothing more than a country in the Middle East filled with mountains and sand. However, what most people don’t know is Afghanistan has an infamous reputation in terms of an empire graveyard. Afghanistan has shown throughout history to be almost impossible to capture however on December 25, 1979 the Soviet Union planned to change this.

However once in Afghanistan, Russian troops and leaders ran into an excess of unforeseen challenges that weakened the Soviets ability to conduct attacks on the militia. There is a reason Afghanistan is called the graveyard of empires. The Afghani terrain is perilous with large impassible mountains, sudden cold temperatures, and extreme heat, to wide open fields surrounded by mountains the terrain the Soviet troops ran into was counter intuitive to waging modern warfare. Yet the biggest issue the Soviet troops came across was a group of freedom fighters known as the Mujahidin commonly known today as Al Qaeda.

At first the Soviet Union was able to handle the Mujahidin however after the CIA stepped into to back and train these freedom fighters the Soviet Union we unable to get any push against their enemies. Soon the Mujahidin, armed with American weapons such as the FIM-92 Stinger missile, were able to resist and fight against the Soviet troops; fighting them into a stalemate. This stalemate lasted almost a decade in which the USSR lost thirteen thousand troops and millions upon millions of rubles in a war they gained nothing but disastrous consequences.

To any American historian it is clear to see that Afghanistan was Russia’s Vietnam. At first they believed the war would be over almost instantaneous yet it lasted for a decade and allowed for soviet citizens to begin to question the status quo of the Soviet government. Than the economic burden placed on the economically weak Soviet Union proved to be its undoing. Two years after the end of the Afghanistan war the entire Soviet Union collapsed.

Sources:

“Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2013.http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1499983/Soviet-invasion-of-Afghanistan

“Soviet-Afghan War 1979-1989” CNN video, 43:23. Posted by CNN. March 29, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7Ji5EsJxbU

Gress, Michael. The Soviet-Afghan War: How a Superpower Fought and Lost. Kansas: University Press of Kansas , 2002.

Image:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2005/10/29/arts/Fyodor2650.jpg

 

To Space

on November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized 7 Comments »

 

One of the most memorable events to ever happen in human history was the moon landing that occurred in the 1960’s This was one of the most memorable events in the history of the United States and it also officially ended the race to the moon launched by John F. Kennedy. I distinctly remember learning about this moon landing and the quote “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” however we never really learned about the first man in space.

This man’s name was Iurii Gagarin he was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. Due to the fact he derived from the USSR we as Americans never really learned about this man. In the 1960’s, Iurii Gagarin was chosen from the Russian countryside along with 19 other pilots for the Soviet space program. Gagarin was further selected for an elite training group known as the Sochi Six, from which the first cosmonauts of the Vostok program would be chosen. During this selection process Gagarin excelled and soon became the chose one to endure the travel to space.

Thus Gagarin ventured into space on April 1961 becoming the first human to not only trek into space but also became the first human to ever orbit the earth. In doing this Gagarin became a space race hero. Though this was a success not many people know that this success was a culmination of the countless years of failure and experimentation that occurred within the Soviet space program. His space venture was not soon forgotten by the Russian people, he was instead immortalized. Due to being “raised in the Russian countryside during the Great Patriotic War, and plucked from his village by the space program as trainee, Gagarin embodied the opportunities abundant in Soviet society for the Russians who readily identified with him.” He also became a worldwide celebrity traveling all over the world promoting the Soviet Union’s accomplishment of being the first to put a human into space.

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and three days later they dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Though these weapons effectively ended World War II, little did they know that the atomic arms race was just beginning. Than just four years later on August 29, 1949 the Soviet Union successfully tested their first atomic bomb. The explosion, watched by Lavrentii Beria and Igor Kurchatov, frightened the United States due to the fact the Soviet Union built this deadly weapon in only four years. This made many believe that the Soviet Union had spies within the Manhattan project. Thus, countless scientist where put on trial in 1950 and many other scientist including the creator of the Atomic bomb were accused of being spies.

Than in 1953 another bomb was dropped, known as the “Layer-Cake Bomb” due to its interact alteration of uranium and nuclear material, which created and explosion 30 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Even though the United States dropped their first and more powerful atomic bomb just a year earlier, fear still gripped the United States due to the fact the atomic bomb dropped by the Soviet Union was of an original Soviet design by Kurchatov and Sakharov.

This continuous atomic bomb research and testing would lead to the formation of the Hydrogen bomb by both super powers. The H-bomb, also known as a thermonuclear bomb, is the strongest and most lethal weapon ever created. On October 1961 the Soviet Union detonated the Tsar Bomba which is the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated with a blast yield of 50 to 58 megatons of TNT. During the Cold War the atomic arms race was in full sprint with both super powers developing enough thermonuclear weapons to destroy the world two times over. The buildup of atomic weapons and the firm belief of Mutual Assured destruction became the cornerstone on which every political and economic decision was made. Thus one could easily say the atomic arms race was the defining cornerstone of the Cold War.

Sources

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

Soviets test “Layer-Cake” bomb: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviets-test-layer-cake-bomb

 

 

As shown in the picture above there are many similarities between Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler but for some strange reason we look at Hitler as the symbol of a monster, while Stalin is just looked at as being a bad man. Though there is no denying that Hitler was a monster and executed horrendous acts, I believe Joseph Stalin was worse. The reason why I believe this is that Stalin massacred his own citizens and though no one truly knows the exact number it is believed Stalin massacred as little as 20 million people during his reign.

One of the deadliest events in Russian history was the Great Purge, which was a systematic campaign of political executions and repression orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1939.  This massacre incorporated everyone within the Soviet Union from leaders of the Communist party and the Red army to the peasants; no one was safe from the reach of Stalin. This political purge was an effort by Stalin to eliminate any potential threats to his regime past or present.  However, many people don’t know that Stalin, due to the murder of Sergey Kirov in 1934, launched a massacre which saw to the execution of nearly one million citizens.

This Great Purge also saw these elaborately staged events in the form of three trails of high ranking Communist members.  Those brought to trail where accused of conspiring against the Soviet Union and planning the assassination of Joseph Stalin. The first trail consisted of Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev and 16 other members of a made up party. They would confess to all charges and were sentenced to death. The second trail consisted of lesser known figures such as Karl Radek and Grigory Sokolnikov as well as 17 other men and was accused of plotting with Trotsky who was supposedly conspiring with Nazi Germany.  The all were found guilty and executed.  The third and most famous trail due to the people involved saw Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov and 21 other defendants accused of trying to assassinate Stalin and turn over the USSR to its enemies. They were all found guilty and executed.

After reading into the Great Purge and seeing the atrocities that Stalin committed I feel that Stalin is one of the most horrendous men to ever live. Though one could argue that Hitler was worse there is no denying that both men were truly monsters.

Sources:

Evan Mawdsley, The Stalin Years: The Soviet Union, 1929-1953 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998), pp. 131-133.

Case of the Anti-Soviet Bloc of Rights and Trotskyites: heard before the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the U.S.S.R., Moscow. March 2-13, 1938 (Moscow: People’s Commissariat of Justice, 1938), pp. 5-6

Picture:

http://instantworlddomination.com/the-soviet-story/

Anti-religious and atheistic satirical magazine

The passage of the Law on Religious Organization in 1929 signaled a new level of religious persecution within Russia. Even before the passage of this law, in the early 1920’s actions against religion were taken by the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks tried to remove religious influence from Russian homes believing religiously sanctioned families were “tsarist society in a microcosm.” In doing this restrictions were lifted upon many issues such as abortion, divorce and women, under law, were even given equal rights.

With the passage of the Law of Religious Organization, the goal of the Soviet government was evident. The Soviets wanted to physically remove any religious influence from Soviet society believing it would affect the progress of the country.  The main goal was to try and undermine the importance of religion believing that it would create a state universally focused upon the scientific development.  One of the parts of the Law of Religious Organization required congregations to register with the government in order to legally worship.  Those who do register for legal worship had other guidelines that must be followed such as only having one set of premises for which all of its prayer meetings. Even though this law never fully banned religion the state did try and turn people away from any form of religious worship.  The Soviet state did this by establishing the Commission on Religious Questions who believed that in order to fully eradicate religion can only happen through “agitation and education.” (335) The premise of enforcing these laws fell mostly upon the local police authorities who were responsible for the closing of churches

The passage of the Law of Religious Organization showed just how far the Soviet state was willing to go in order to ensure the prosperity of its country. In doing this it allowed for the continuous work week to be established which would help Russia catch up economically to the prospering countries of the Western world.

Sources:

Freeze, Gregory L.. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Mervyn Matthews, ed., Soviet Government: a selection of official documents on internal policies (New York: Taplinger, 1974), pp. 63-70.

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.phppage=article&ArticleID=1929religious1&SubjectID=1929religion&Year=1929

http://www.martyredintheussr.com/links.html

       Following the Russian Revolution that occurred in the early nineteenth century was the formation of a provisional government in order to maintain rule over Russia. This provisional government, also known as the Duma, wanted to transform the former autocracy into a system based on awarding civil rights to its citizens and other liberal principles. This concept of liberal policies even spread into the military, the direct result of this being the creation of Order No. 1.

This order was issued on March, 1917 drastically changed the whole concept of the Russian military. The reason why it sent shock waves throughout the military was that this doctrine called for democracy within the military, where soldiers would not only be elected into their position but be given all the same rights as any normal citizen.  The claim for elections was just one way in which this order effectively dismantled any form of discipline within the military.  Oder No. 1 also abolished the necessity for members of the military to stand, “standing at attention and compulsory saluting, when not on duty.” Now to a normal citizen this may not seem important, yet it is important being it shows not only discipline on behalf of the soldiers it also shows respect for the officers. Without this respect officers no longer have control over their men and without this control you have no hope of ever winning a conflict of any type.

Within the  first two months of the implication of Order No. 1, infighting within the army almost brought the military to its knees. Internal warfare became a common site being that many competent and high ranking officers where jailed and replaced with more popular soldiers who lacked both the experience and leadership qualities of the fallen officers. Realizing that the Russian Army was destroying itself the newly appointed Minister of the Army and Navy, Alexander Kerenskii, decided that in order to bring back a sense of pride and legitimacy to the army he must launch an offensive operation against the Germans. This ended up bringing the state of the military to an even lower level due to them being repulsed by the Germans.

I believe the passage of Order No.1 shows us one clear statement, you cannot treat your military as a democratic society. In the military, you cannot be allowed to elect your leaders or it becomes exactly what we saw happen in the Russian military , a popularity contest. The only question I have left and want to look deeper into is why did the Duma believe this doctrine would be a great addition within the military society?

The fall of the once great Russian Empire in the early 1900’s was not a silent and peaceful crumble from its once great stature as world economic and military power. Nicholas II, known as the last of the tsars, inherited an empire on a spiraling decline and the fact that Russia was defeated during the Russo-Japanese war didn’t help his favor either.

The road to the massacre on bloody Sunday began almost a year before the actual event. In 1904 an Orthodox priest named Georgii Gapon was able to mobilize thousands of members of workers into the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers.” (Freeze p. 250) Soon this assembly began to spread and take a life of its own; the assembly swelled its ranks, which members soon consisted of former Marxists revolutionaries. On December of 1904 workers at a factory in St. Petersburg, whom were also members of the Gapon Assembly, were laid off with little to know justification. Thus, in order to maintain its credibility the assembly had to rise up in defense of the affected workers.

What ensued was a city wide strike in early January 1905 leading to the organization of a mass march on the Winter Palace with a petition, demanding higher wages and shorter hours, for Nicholas II. However, Nicholas II decided to send a direct message to the presentation to the petitioners by failing to appear at the Winter Palace in order to receive the petition. Nicholas II didn’t stop there; he authorized the authorization for military units to fire on any advancing petitioners. This authorized the massacre of hundreds of petitioners, which included women and children, all of the members of the mob were unarmed many even holding Orthodox crosses and icons. This massacre turned almost all public opinion against the tsar almost as soon as word started to spread.

Bloody Sunday saw over a hundred peaceful protestors killed in and many more wounded. This massacre signaled the beginning of the 1905 revolution and the end for Nicholas II and the reign of the Russian tsars.

 

Picture from: http://everydaysaholiday.org/sunday-bloody-sunday/

Resources: Gregory Freeze, Russia A History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 250.

The colored picture shown above was taken, incredibly around 1910, by man named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. Out of the hundreds of images Prokudin- Gorskii took during his journey around Russia between 1907 and 1915, I found this image to be one of the most intriguing due to the history behind the city.

Located in Georgia the city of Tiflis, rest on the banks of the Kura River. At the time this picture was taken Tiflis had an overall population of 160,000 and a multinational population including Armenians, Persians, Poles, Jews, Georgians and Russians.   Tiflis was a major trade and cultural center in Russia during the late 1800’s. However after the Russian Revolution in 1917, Tiflis became the capital city of the newly formed Democratic Republic of Georgia on May 26, 1018.  Than on February 25 1921, the Bolshevist Russians invaded and claimed Tiflis under Soviet Rule.

Once the Soviet Union dismantled the country of Georgia was once again reestablished, placing the newly renamed city of Tbilisi as the capital. It is interesting to see how the modern day city of Tbilisi, shown below, continuously rebuilt and flourished throughout its history. Whether it was 1800’s or most recently the war against Russia in 2008, the city of Tbilisi has always been the center of relations, whether good or bad, between the countries of Georgia and Russia .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permanent record: http://loc.gov/exhibits/empire/architecture.html

Cited Sources:

http://lhc.tsu.edu.ge/

http://www.visitgeorgia.ge/en/information/tbilisi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tbilisi#Russian_control

http://www.tbilisi.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=ENG&sec_id=69

 

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