The Major Themes of Russian History

For my last blog post this semester, I wanted to look back at the Russian History that we have studied.  Looking at my blog posts from the semester, I was able to come up with one overarching theme that I think best describes Russia’s past.  Stalled progress and stagnation are two words that accurately describe Russia’s history.

Looking back to my first post of the semester, I noted how it’s pretty well known that Russia lagged behind the western world as far as technological and social advancements.  A later post about the city of Akademgorodok focused on what seemed to be Russia’s desire to devote itself to scientific research and advancement.  Unfortunately, it was unable to escape the problems of elitism and corruption, and never was able to succeed as a true center of innovation.

The common denominator between failures like these and other soviet failures is the corruption and translucency of the government.  Prior to the Revolution of 1917, the problem was that too many individuals and groups wanted power. For example, in the cases of Pyotr Stolypin and Lavr Kornilov, there was simply too much corruption and a lack of true Russian leadership to stabilize the nation.  Post-1917, The extreme corruption, lack of transparency, and willingness to persecute opposition was at the forefront.  Starting with the Lost Census of 1929, the government showed that it was not afraid to cover up any event or occurrance that undermined the nation or its leaders.  The era that followed this, known as “Stalinization” ruled over Russia until World War II, when “de-Stalinization”, an effort to undo everything done by Josef Stalin. Led by Nikita Khrushchev, this effort looked to create a more transparent government, reduce the coercion and persecution that occurred under Stalin, and grow individual freedoms.  Unfortunately, along with the idea that Russia’s history is defined by stalled progress, these anti-Stalinist ideas were not really so anti-Stalinist.  For example, Khrushchev instituted a moral code that “all good communists should abide by.”  This moral code is an example of stalled progress as it set guidelines as to how communists should act, which went against the idea of more personal choice and freedom.  It also didn’t fully reduce the role of government in people’s lies, as it was up to party representatives to “intervene” if the rules were not followed.  So, in essence, de-Stalinization wasn’t extremely effective in de-Stalinizing the country.

Russia has a long and illustrious history, but much of it can be summed up in a few words.  Most history buffs can tell you that Russia has had a history of technological and social lag and stagnation, but after this semester, I can expand on that.  The lag and stagnation that has repeatedly occurred in Russia can be attributed to the corruption, coercion, and general weakness of the Russian government over time.

Connor Balzer

Great Post! I think this a great way to cap off the semester and really put Soviet history into a nut shell. I have to agree that Russia really did suffer from always being a step behind and this was due in large part to the governments inability to give the people any real freedom or share with them the truth. The potential of the Soviet Union was always evident, and at times even came to the forefront as it did during the space race; however, the strict regime put up to many barriers to allow the country to truly shine.


I agree, this is a really great way to sum up your blog for the semester. The corruption in government theme really has been brought up in every week’s blog posts and is very true. I liked how you pointed out the flaws in de-Stalinization and called it out for being a sort of oxymoron. Really good post!

A. Nelson

What a great way to conclude your blog for the course! Looking back at all of your posts and seeing how the limited effectiveness of reform influenced so many aspects of the Soviet experience gives your blog a nice cohesiveness and helps orient the reader. Of course one could also find themes of radical social transformation and overcoming adversity in the same places you see stagnation. It all depends on your frame of reference. Good job!

Lianne Gripp

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