The Soviet Super Cities

Part of the 1960’s in the Soviet Union was characterized by a state-wide movement to increase the number of citizens working in the factories so that the industrial numbers of the Soviet Union continued to grow. In order to facilitate this desire the Soviet government began building large cities to house all of the new citizens entering the area.



The city of Togliatti, located on the Volga River, was the home of the Volga Automobile Factory, one of the largest factories within the Soviet Union, and also over 150,000 citizens. The city had enough housing to accommodate over a quarter-million citizens and the buildings were large, high-rise apartment buildings that were built very quickly (with “heroic intensity”Smilie: ;) and was meant to be the ideal “Socialist” city with the principles of communal living as the building blocks.



According to the Soviet government, Togliatti was the home of broad streets and squares, bright, multi-storied houses, schools, movie theatres and anything else that a Soviet citizen could want or need. Along with this description, the government hailed it as a major cultural and research center and a home of roughly 2,000 students.

While the Soviet government praised the city, the locals did not speak so fondly of it. One citizen, Mikhail Shatrov spoke about Togliatti, saying “Don’t think we have everything in order here…what’s there to do in the evenings?…not a single movie theater or Palace of Culture. There’s no place to go!”.



The issue with the city was the citizens would spend eight hours a day working in a modern factory with many amenities, but as soon as they left they would be in an over-crowded and low quality city with no means of enjoyment. Because of this, the citizens felt that their only purpose of living was work, certainly not what they had in mind when they moved to the new “super cities”.

This is an example of what can happen when a top-level leader gets so wrapped in production that they forget about the people actually doing the work. Togliatti was a good city in the sense that its factories were up-to-date, but without a happy work force, there is only so much production that can be pulled from the city.




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Space: The Final Frontier

The Cold War was a long struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not only being an ideological battle, it was also a battle of technological achievement. One large part of this technological battle was the Space Race. Space was one of the few unexplored areas left and both states yearned to be the first to venture where no man has gone before.


On October 5th, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first artificial satelite, named Sputnik into space for the purposes of orbiting around earth. To prove that this successful launch was not just a fluke, on November 3rd of the same year, Sputnik II, complete with the dog named “Laika”, was successfully sent into orbit as well.

The successes of the Soviet Union in space showed that the socialist conditions of the state, which emphasized science and math in teaching, could warrant positive results that placed the state at the forefront of the space race. Understandably the United States increased its space program as the socialists were proclaiming that this was a victory over capitalism and the United States needed to come back out on top.


The United States’ efforts to combat the Soviet Union’s achievements came in the form of the National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, which increased spending by 5 billion dollars on higher science education and the Pentagon increased spending on missile development since there was now a threat that the Soviet Union could launch a powerful enough rocket to hit the United States.

Sputnik 1

The Space Race kicked off with quite a bang with the Soviet Union sending not one, but two satelites into orbit. Because of their actions, the Soviet Union kicked off a massive escalation of spending on military and educational efforts. While we all know what eventually happened with the Space Race and the Cold War, round one certainly belonged to the Soviets.


Stanislas Dmitriev: Virtual Matchbox Label Collection. 1999.

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Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone!

In today’s world, the flavor of the day in education is for each student to have their own creative path to higher learning. The Soviet Union’s system was much different than this. During World War II, the classrooms were split between sexes and each group of children and while the students were under high pressure to succeed, the teachers were subjected to even higher stakes.

Teachers and other school employees could be punished for having a lunch break go over the planned time and the student’s behavior and success had a direct effect on the teacher’s job security.

The students’ curriculum was the same from the first grade to the tenth grade, with the only difference being different military training for the male and female groups. The heaviest emphasis for the students’ learning was on Russian language and literature, which encompassed 2,772 hours a year and math took up 1,980 hours. Compared with the average American pupil at the time, the Soviet students were much farther ahead in math and science.

While the Soviet Union’s school system seems extremely rigorous, the classroom was a source of structure and guidance for the pupils and it gave the Soviet youth a source of pride in that they were getting a quality education.


P. N. Shimbirev and I. T. Ogorodnikov, Pedagogika (Moscow, 1955), p. 103.


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The Dangers of Obsessive Paranoia

As stated by my peers and I, central government censoring was an integral part of the the Soviet Union. Essentially this means that if the government does not approve of your actions, they will not be allowed. The mid-1930’s in the Soviet Union, however, saw a new-and much deadlier- kind of censoring that was called “The Great Terror”.


The Great Terror, also known as the “Great Purges”, was a time period that was characterized by massive bloodshed condoned by the state led by Joseph Stalin. While Stalin was in office, he knew of his critics and the dissent towards him and the way he ran the state, so when Stalin was reelected in 1934 he set out to destroy any perceived opposition, beginning with his largest political rival Sergi Kerov.

Throughout this Terror, Stalin targeted anybody who could be seen as a threat. This included opposing political officials, members of his own political staff, soldiers, clergymen and even intellectuals. The Great Terror continued to grow, and even “feed on itself”, as the mass paranoia created by the killings led to people throwing out names of random citizens in order to keep themselves safe.


In the end of this this period of time, the lowest estimates of the numbers killed by Stalin are around 20 Million. Given that that is one of the lowest projections, it is evident how deadly and crippling this was to the Russian state. As one of the greatest examples of state-sponsored killing, this period of time showed how a paranoid leader can nearly destroy a state.



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The Chinese Railway Incident of 1929

In 1929, The Soviet Union was trying extremely hard to find itself and in doing so were trying to build a dominant world power under the Communist system that Stalin wanted to implement with his “5 Year Plan”. While the Soviet Union thought that Communism was the right system for the world to operate under, not every body had the same opinion.

In China, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang forces fought against and destroyed the Chinese Communist forces and took over the majority of the power within China. Because of this, the Kuomintang cut off all ties with the Soviet Union and looked to extend their influence into Manchuria, a key strategic area for Soviet railways.



The railways in Manchuria were the property of the Soviet Union, but seeing the Communist Russians in the area angered many of the Kuomintang forces. Tired of this, on May 27, 1929, the Kuomintang raided the railway towns and captured many of the Soviet workers and their documents. Eventually, despite the wishes of the Soviet Union, the Kuomintang had full control of the area’s railways.



In September of the same year, the Red Army invaded Manchuria and seized the reigns to the railroad back from the Kuomintang by November and things were relatively back to normal. This inflamed relations not only between the Soviet Union and China but also with the Soviet Union and the United States, who did not support the Communist ways.

In summary, while the Soviet Union were bent on perfecting their Communist system and spreading it around the world, not quite everybody else shared the view and through some conflicts, international relations around the world were inflamed, leading to future conflicts.


Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford, 2009. 344-345. Print.


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Order No. 1 and the Russian Army’s Downfall

A bi-product of the Russian Revolution in the 1910’s was the creation of a provisional government to rule the land. The government sought to transform the state based on liberal principles and awarding civil rights and autonomy to its citizens. The want for democracy spread as far as to the military, where the infamous “Order No. I” jarringly impacted the Russian Army.

During the February Revolution, the Russian Army had roughly 7.5 million troops. This was a very large army which the majority of which were drafted from the peasant class. What this means is that when the revolutions began in Russia there were surely some soldiers who longed to return to their homeland to rebel but could not because of their military obligations.

Order No1

Order No. I, issued on March 1, 1917, called for a democratic army in which soldiers would be elected to their positions and the soldiers were intended to “enjoy the rights of all the citizens outside the service”. This order essentially took the authority from the high-ranking officers of the army and decreased its overall legitimacy


In the first few weeks after the passing of Order No. I, the Russian Army saw about 120,000 soldiers leave so that they could fight for their rights at their homelands. Also, as a result of the more democratic processes of the army, many officers were arrested and more “popular” soldiers took their place. The in-fighting within the army continued as those soldiers who were rebelling defended their actions as trying to “free Russia”.

Realizing that the Russian Army was on the verge of destruction, Aleksandr Kerenskii, the new Minister of the Army and Navy, decided that the Army would launch an offensive operation in Germany in order to bring a sense of pride to the Russian Army. His goals worked at first through some early Russian victories, but once the army was repulsed by the Germans, the Army lost almost all of its legitimacy and the destruction was accelerated.

In summary,  I think this is a valuable lesson as to why you should not make the backbone of your military the peasants which the government rules with an iron fist. This military revolution is not nearly the first of its kind and perhaps if the Russian government had some foresight this would not have occurred.


Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford, 2009. 276-279. Print.

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Father Gapon and Bloody Sunday




Pre-Revolutionary Russia was a world which most Americans would deem as one not fit to live in. The economy was almost non-existent, the autocracy that ruled was corrupt and unfair, and the food shortages were crippling to the majority of the Russian citizens.There was no such thing as individuality or thinking for oneself. On top of that, there was no suffrage for any citizen, no labor unions or any kind of association for the citizens to join to make their voices heard.

There were some attempts at trying to begin a revolution so that the citizens could obtain more rights but almost all of them fell through and the conditions for the citizens worsened. Finally, after a few years an Orthodox priest Georgii Gapon successfully gathered a group of workers numbering into the thousands into a coalition named the “Assembly of Russian Factory Workers”. This was a highly motivated group who were ready to step out and try their hardest to get some changes installed to improve their qualities of life.


This picture above shows the fruits of Gapon’s labors. In January 1905, Gapon’s group marched unarmed to the Winter Palace with a petition for Tsar Nicholas to sign in order to increase food distribution and make their lives at work better. In a move that is nothing but disrespectful, Tsar Nicholas failed to appear to heed the request of the worker’s union and he instead ordered his soldiers to kill the protesters. When the massacre was finished, hundreds were wounded or dead and the day would forever be known as “Bloody Sunday”.

This is just one story among many of the struggles of the peasants and working class during the times of Pre-Revolutionary Russia. Reading stories like this truly opens your eyes to the horrors of living in that society because no matter how bad the conditions got, as soon as you voiced your opinion you were struck down. I don’t know about you all, but I could never live in a society without any free-thinking.


Finegan,Patrick G.,,Jr. (1990, Dec 16). Moscow faces apocalyptic times in the spring. New York Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from

Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford, 2009. 234-252. Print.

(Picture URL)

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Austro-Hungarian POW’s

Russa 1


My name is Cory Mitchell and this is my first blog post! I found this photo in an online exhibit of artist Sergei Mikhailovich Produkin-Gorskii. Produkin-Gorski’s work is extraordinary because he was among the first to produce color photographs. The interesting bit is that not many people knew about his work because he did not make his photography or his methods widely known in Russia or the rest of the world.

The above photo is of prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian empire.  This particular camp’s location is unknown but experts predict that it was located in the north part of the European side of Russia. The prisoners of war are most likely from groups of Poles, Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans. Typically photos of this nature would be confiscated upon their creation due to the prevalence of censoring by the Russian government. It is believed that since it isn’t too clear in the photo that the people are prisoners of war, the government did not confiscate it.

This photo is interesting because at first glance it really does not look like a depiction of a POW camp. Upon closer examination, seeing the uniformed soldiers book-ending the group makes it a little more clear. I also found it interesting that the Russian government was keen on censorship back then as well as now. It makes me wonder what else they could have confiscated or hidden from the world back then.


This picture was the work of photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Produkin-Gorskii and the gallery was found at the library of congress’ page online. My date of access was 1 September 2013. (Link to the gallery) (Link to the individual image).

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