The Prague Spring was definitely a crisis for the Soviets. Communism was supposed to be a real government for the people but when the people in Czechoslovakia decided that they didn’t want communism anymore and then were put down by the Soviet Army, it hurt the communist movement. One thing you didn’t mention was that Vaclav Havel, a playwrite, was one of the movements leaders and was imprisoned for his participation in the Spring. He would eventually become the leader of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution that split Czechoslovakia from the USSR.
Communism is practice has contradicted its message with its actions. Soviet and other communist leaders spoke out against imperialism time and again and framed imperialism with Western capitalism. But the Soviets were arguably the worst imperialists during the Cold War. Although the U.S. propped up violent dictators and discredited any free election that put communists in power, the Soviet Union ran a ring of satellite countries in Eastern Europe that it had captured from the Nazis during WWII. These states had their own leaders but in reality were controlled by Moscow. Soviet politicians rising through the ranks usually had a period where they held a position in one of the satellite states. The Soviets put down any proposed change to their status quo, even if it required the military–memorably the Hungarian crisis of 1956. And in 1980 they really gave up the ruse of anti-imperialism when they invaded Afghanistan. I don’t view their “sneaky imperialism” through aid necessarily terrible. It was bad for the U.S. that communist parties in Third World countries were receiving aid from the Soviets but the worst part of Soviet policy in this “Third World War” was the false anti-imperialist rhetoric that was so contradicted by their actions that it drove some of their allies, such as Yugoslavia and China, away.
I remember reading books about Russia and dacha would be mentioned and I wouldn’t have any idea what it was. Finally understanding what a dacha is and it’s importance to Soviet society makes everything make more sense. It does seem like a thing that distracted people from the harshness of Soviet life.
Sounds like a Stalin thing to do, although you can’t ignore the part Beria played in this. Beria is one of the more infamous of a long line of cruel Russian Secret Police chiefs all the way up to Putin (I don’t know who’s in charge now but it’s likely it is a terrible person who takes orders from the calculating genius of Putin). This also isn’t the only reason the Poles hate the Russians. Poland has always had trouble staying independent from Germans, Russians, and the Hapsburg Empire. They had sovereignty for the short interwar period then they were taken over again and were under Soviet control until the 1980s. Polish hatred of Russians is deep-seated and won’t be solved just by an apology for this massacre.
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.
Many times sports are a reflection of the society as whole and that’s a good point about an anti-Western government looking West for innovation. But it follows the philosophy of can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Stalin understood how far behind the USSR was and knew that at the moment the West had the answers and was not so proud that he couldn’t ask for their help in multiple fields.
High culture has always been very important to Russia. But, as in an totalitarian/authoritarian state, art walks a fine line. The freedom in the U.S. that allows SNL to mock the president and members of Congress can get somebody killed in other countries, like you showed with your examples. I do want to know if the government persecuted those who listened to controversial music or went to see a play that was deemed inappropriate.
The Moscow Metro is another example of how the Soviets were able to force industrialization at a rapid pace. They used propaganda and patriotism like they did in many of their other projects. I found it interesting how they laid out the various stations so artistically and that each station is different. I come from DC where every metro station is exactly the same and I thought it was neat how, when I visited Paris, each station was different. And on the topic of the Moscow Metro I want to bring up the “subway dogs” who ride the Moscow Metro like people, getting from stop to stop and navigating the city: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxJf2L2B5fY
I saw the picture in a few places but they wouldn’t download to the blog and this one was able to. I didn’t look into the website but I thought it was really weird this group used it. I don’t get what they’re trying to say but it seems aggressive.
Most of the world was scared of the Soviet communist experiment and Chiang Kai-Shek was one of the worlds most powerful communist haters. He hated communism so much that he was willing to risk war with a European country while China was still very weak. This incident does foreshadow the Koumintang’s war with Mao Zedong’s communist rebels, not just that there was a war, but that he would at first seem victorious before his enemies eventually won.