All posts by rwinkler

Afghan War Is the Soviet Vietnam


The Soviet Union military involvement in Afghanistan lead to the forming of one the most cohesive social groups in Soviet Union society the Afghan veterans. These veterans formed a bond with one another because of similar situations that they faced in combat. Just like the United States veterans of the Vietnam War played a cultural and social role in the U.S., so would USSR Afghan vets in the Soviet Union. A brotherhood was formed out of the war in Afghanistan a brotherhood that could not be ignored by its government, by its enemies, and most importantly by the people of Soviet Russia.

Like in most wars soldiers die or have physical and mental issues because of the traumas they have seen. However, the responsibility of the government is to take care of its brave men who go off to fight for whatever reasons they were giving. The Soviet Union did not take care of their vets well at all. In the Seventeen moments the document called, “What Society Owes the Afghanistan Veterans,” states, “  When they first arrive, they assemble in a big room to hear the following honest and straightforward address: ‘You have fulfilled your duty and have sustained serious wounds.” The hospitals and care for returning vets were not adequate to the needs of these vets. The document showed how the government was unable to help and the negative effect of returning vets without having proper care for their injuries was seen in job losses, alcoholism, and the ability to not function properly in society. These issues are seen even here at home in the U.S. where are veterans are having many of the same problems. Just like the U.S. the end results are veteran groups being formed to fight for the rights that they earned.  

Even as the cold war raged on, the similarities of U.S. Vietnam war echoed loud in the Soviet Afghan war. Just like Vietnam, Soviet soldiers were being asked to die for people who clearly did not want them there, and the bloody fighting left them shattered on their return home. Soldiers who did not want to fight in this war came home broken and badgered. The unpopularity of the war among soldiers did not however, stop them from committing crimes that are comparable to Vietnam Mylai. In the East View database, the article, “We Serve in Afghanistan,” spoke of the, “the cutthroats are still going about their dirty business of setting schools on fire and killing activists.” These acts where highlighted to show the difficulty that the Afghan people had to overcome for their new life. These acts are a stain that Soviet soldiers dealt with for the remainder of the war.

The legacy of the Soviet Afghan war was that men came home broken and felt abandoned by its government. This eventually leads them to start their own organizations so they could look after each other. The Soviet Union losses the war and their economy, which in no small part leads to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The story of the Afghan vet is so comparable to Vietnam vets experiences and mood that it is kind of scary how history repeats itself even in the same century. The history of these wars left their mark on both sides and will never be forgotten by the people who fought in them.      




Moving On Up To the East Side


During the nineteen sixties the Soviet Union had a problem in their cities of providing adequate housing for their people. Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union at the time, decided to build what he thought would be greater housing then before. Khrushchev’s private housing was supposed to be this grand building of high end apartment buildings but instead became the slums of the city. Khrushchev’s plan was a good thought but poorly executed. Khrushchev had many problems that he faced during the course of building but what is important when looking at the private housing construction is the effects it had on the people that lived there and how that effected the government as a whole.

The problem that Khrushchev had was the plan was too enormous to start off with. This is not new for Soviet history, they kind of have a go big or go home attitude with their programs and this was no different. I think the need to build up the Soviet Union after the destruction of World War II is the number one reason for this big idea. Since there is a need and a want in the Soviet Union for better housing you have the government start giving private contracts to builders to build housing. So the building is a social program that cost the Soviet government money and must be managed to make sure that the program is going well.

The managed part is the biggest problem that the government had in implementing this program. There was no supervision that looked over the construction. In the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, this issue was looked at in depth by stating that, “It is necessary to establish some kind of technical supervision.” The construction was a disaster because the government really did not have oversight from the beginning. This is why you have buildings looking so run down and cheaply built.

The people that lived in the new housing had promises of better living conditions and the government failed to provide this. Since Khrushchev headed this plan it was forever linked to him. Whole villages and farmland that had been cultivated for centuries were ploughed under to make way for new apartment blocks. By doing this it changed the culture that Russia and the Soviet Union until this time had which was agriculturally driven. This building plan was the end of that and put a stamp on what the modern Soviet Russia was.  In the end housing plan did not have all the grand things to it as promised and it did nothing to fix the living conditions for the Soviet people.




With Heavy Hearts We Announce Stalin is dead!


March 6, 1953, the Soviet Union announced that Comrade Stalin had died the day before. The address that was given to the Central Committee and to all working people of the Soviet Union highlighted the greatness of Stalin. It was a great piece of work politically; it showcased all the great things that the party and Stalin did for Russia. The address was a look at what we did for you the people more than it was were so sorry Stalin died. The address made over Stalin death was a very easy way to thank Stalin for what he did and to push the party forward. The change of power was under way.

In the wake of Stalin’s death, the funeral in Moscow ended up being deadly for the thousands that flock to see a glimpse of the great Stalin. The mobs of people became too much and a small girl ended up getting crushed.  The people screamed, “Form chains! Form chains!” while people where being crushed and mangled in the confusion in the crowed. I think the want to see the simple Soviet man as one spectator called it, was a huge reason why so many people in Moscow where in an upheaval at his funeral. It is ironic that with how many people died by the hands of Stalin that even his funeral people died. A fitting way to end his regime, don’t you think?


In the end Stalin can never be erased from Soviet history his influence defined what Soviet Russia was. As the address stated, “The immortal name of STALIN will live forever in the hearts of the Soviet people and all progressive mankind.” The hearts of the workers and the collective farmers could never forget Stalin and the party for everything they did to them. This chapter of Soviet history is done. Lenin last brother in arms is gone and Russia will look to form a new chapter for the Communist party.



From Russia with Love

we will take your place

In the mist of World War II, gender roles were once again on the forefront in socialist Russia. The roles of men and women were played out in the 1930’s and were thought to be settled by many Russians. The truth was that in the time of war many young Russians played on this romantic mood that the war brought to traditional gender roles. Men defended their motherland and in the abstract, their mothers, wives and lovers in contrast, while women relied passively on the martial valor of their men. This was at odds with how life was and how women acted during the war. Since all the men were placed in the front, women had to take the roles in factories and communities. This allowed women to have leadership skills that played a very crucial role in the post war era.

One of the most important things that came out of young romance during war time was the skyrocketing illegitimate children that were out of wedlock. The Soviet state wanted to protect the institution of marriage but saw that the need for future soldiers on the front line and workers in the factories was more important. So they made a decree in three articles that insured the child and the mother or father that was still alive, the ability to get all that a Soviet citizen was allowed. The articles also stated what the procedures were for anybody that found themselves in this situation. It also gave how the child was to be named depending on which parent was alive. This new decree was a very radical change in the thinking of illegitimate children because before the war it was illegal to have a child outside of marriage.

Having large birth rates during WWII is not a surprise, but what was is how the Soviet government changed its tune over how these future Soviets came into this world. This is seen by the aid they gave to mothers and their children. A welfare program that ten years ago would have not been thinkable. The Soviet government understood that these children were going to be needed and if they did not help or try and justify what was happening the situation could have broken the family structure that they worked so hard on. It is funny to think how a war and some young people seemed to change a way of thinking about a certain social issue.




Deficiencies can Cause Blood


The Great Terror refers to the bloodshed that overwhelmed the Communist Party and Soviet society during the years 1936-1938. The victims ranged from Internal Affairs Commissar Nikolai Ezhov, 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. All together there were three show trials that executed high ranking Soviets. The trials caused frenzy in Russia that made Soviet turn against Soviet in a kind of second civil war. The trials were shams that led to millions of deaths. Today I want to examine the address that Stalin made in response to these trials and how that way of thinking caused them to be justified.

Stalin had three basic facts that he stated in his March 29, 1937 address on the deficiencies in party work and how he thought they should handle it. All of this was surrounded by Trotskyites and how they had played a role in this deceit to the Soviet Party. The first fact dealt with espionage work of the agents of foreign states, second that the agents of foreign states had penetrated not only into our lower organizations but also into some of the responsible positions. The third fact was that leading comrades both at the center and in outlying regions have not only been unable to see the real face of these wreckers, diversionists, spies, and murderers but have proven to be careless, indifferent, and naive about it. Stalin called them, “The wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Stalin goes on to say that, “These party comrades were just wholly absorbed in the economic campaigns and the colossal successes on the economic construction front, and simply forgot some very important facts that Bolsheviks have no right to forget.” This is such a great line by Stalin because he basically said that because Russia was doing so well that these certain members forgot what the party is really about, they lost their way. This however, is not the case but Stalin used this perfectly against them.

Stalin in this address laid out what he thinks they should do. Stalin kept saying you have to smash and throw out the rotten theory, do not fall into the capitalist encirclement. This thought showcased his ideas of how the Soviet state should think and act. In not allowing yourself to fall into that rotten theory of thinking, you then can liquidate these deficiencies in the party. This was the point of the address to highlight what the party at this time was facing.

Stalin went after his political opposition in cold blood. He decided to cut out every voice that was against him and he did with the justification that there were terrorist plots against the people and he had to stop them. Stalin used Sergei Kirov death as a reason to go after Trotskyites. In his address he masterfully examined the problem and basically reasoned why these former members had to go. Stalin also highlighted what went wrong and how they fell. This deceit that Stalin does himself only strengthens his position and ends up costing millions of Russians lives. This address changed the view in which Stalin was looked at. You see the true man he was, a power hungry and manipulative person that would do anything to keep his power, a contradiction to a stateless society.



Religion Is the Opiate of the People

In the 1920’s you had strong anti-religious propaganda across Russia. There were severe laws against religious organizations. The policy of the Soviets seemed to be slowly crush any religion in Russia and push a new cultural dynamic for Russia overall. The Soviets achieved this by the destruction of churches in the great industrialization project. The industrialization of Russia gave the Soviets a way to physically remove religion out of Russia. These effects can be seen politically, socially, and economically.

In 1929 you had the uninterrupted work week, which was meant to increase productivity by keeping machines in operation throughout the year, and to wean workers away from Sundays and religious holidays as days of rest. The only exception was revolutionary holiday celebrations, which gave every business and person off. This policy changed the social and economic dynamics by making work the most important part in a Russian life, not religion. It also gave Russia the ability economically to manufacture at a high level which only helped their economy.

The great industrialization project allowed for materials from the churches to be used for scrap or metal. This is depicted in the picture below. churchbellspic

There is also another great poster that the Soviets used called, “Down with Easter, Up with Industry,” this pretty much summed up the goal of the Soviets. It highlighted the importance of industry and portrayed religion as filthy as pigs. These images are good propaganda that was used to push the Soviet agenda.


Essentially, the closing of churches is one of the last final struggles that the Soviets had from the old autocracy that ruled before. This final chapter puts the stamp on a long list of things the Soviets did to centralize power. The closing of churches changed a long standing belief in Russia and turned it into an industrial power that would be tested during World War II.


A War Without an Army


This week I will be examining the revolution in the army. The revolution in the army would help bring an end to the Romanovs rule of Russia and also change the political course of the country in a direction that will have profound effects on the later part of the 20th century. The social structure of the army will only add fuel to the fire in the February and October revolutions in 1917. These revolutions will in a way free the army soldiers who are peasants and put Russia on a collision course with communism.

The Russo-Japanese War in 1905 where Russia was badly defeated by Japan led to bad tensions between the people and the regime over political reform and eventually led to “Bloody Sunday” where troops guarding the Winter Palace gunned down unarmed demonstrators. Social unrest was starting in Russia and now blood was shed openly by the hands of the Russian army. Russia enters WWI with about seven million men in 1914 alone. More than eighteen million would serve. The bulk of the army was peasants that had left their land to fight in what many people thought would be a short war. When Russia gets steamrolled and lost nearly a million people in the German Poland offensive in 1915, the devastation of losing was almost the breaking point of the army.

As the war progressed into 1917, the February revolution kicked off an uprising within the army. Factors that helped this were the lack of the soldier’s equipment, weapons, and food.  The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies helped create what was called Order No. 1. It stated, “That in all companies, battalions, regiments, parks, batteries, squadrons, in the special services of the various military administrations, and on the vessels of the navy, committees from the elected representatives of the lower ranks of the above mentioned military units shall be chosen immediately.”  It goes on to state, “The addressing of officers with titles such as “your Excellency” was abolished and replaced by “Mister General,” “Mister Colonel.”” This is huge because this went against military code of command and basically undermined the officer in the field. By April the army was seeing desertion of between 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers, which were all peasants who wanted to return to their villages to participate in what they expected would be a division of the land. General Alekseev stated, “The army is just falling apart and cannot under the pretence system hold any military offensives.” No army can function if the leadership cannot direct the men.

The relative component to the army revolution is that it takes a class of people that lived at the bottom of society and essentially pushed them to strike back for the error of the autocracy in not appropriately equipping them for war and gave them this idea that everybody at the top does not know everything. This is driven by the upheaval politically back home, also propaganda is flooding the peasant soldier, and they are very susceptible to this. The revolution in the army helped the peasants have a force to take action with which changed the social and economic cultures of Russia forever.



Lenin Vision



In this week’s blog I will be trying to answer the question, what relationship did Lenin envision between trade unions and the revolutionary party? This question is a little complex and so is Lenin’s answer. First Lenin had an idea of revolutionary theory which, Lenin states, “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” This idea or “theory” had to be achieved through originations and struggle. This is important because Lenin acknowledges that in countries were political liberty exists there was always a distinction between trade unions and Social-Democracy. This distinction is different in every place but he felt that they should be closed and as little complicated as possible.

Well what does this mean? It means that Lenin advocated that workers originations for economic struggle should be in the trade unions. Lenin also thought that every Social Democratic should work to assist these originations. Now even though Lenin said this and did believe it he also thought that the trade unions had a long way to go before there was proper consolidation of the two. An example of this is Lenin’s thought that trade unions had old bourgeois attitudes that came from capitalist ideas. That fits into the idea of Marxism where there must be capitalism before you can get to communism.

In short Lenin saw trade unions as non-party organizations that helped move the masses. Lenin in a way relied on the trade unions which is smart if the future of your country is going to be a worker state. Lenin saw his party take control of the unions and allowed them to be leaders of the masses. Using the trade unions allowed Lenin to move the party towards the people and keep the class struggle towards the bourgeoisie, economists, and capitalism. This will give way for socialism to rise. So Lenin saw the trade unions and the revolutionary party as being together only after the party engaged the unions and the masses.

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The Church of St. Dmitrii

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The Church of St. Dmitrii in the Russian town of Vladimir, east of Moscow, has such a great elegance and beauty about itself. The church also has a great bit of  mystery to it as well. It has carved white stone facades that have served as remarkable testimony to the anonymous medieval artisans that built it. The church was built around 1197 by Prince Vsevolod III. The church at the time of construction was considered a royal church fitting into the autocratic society that Russia had until the Soviet Union. Many churches that were being built at the time were a way for local princes to show off their power and support of the Orthodox Church. This church definitely did that for Prince Vesvolod.

The church has many masteries about itself concerning the carvings in and outside the church. There was many relief images of lions, centaurs, snow leopards, and exotic ornaments carved on the white-stone walls. There were also images of King David inside the church. The mystery lies in the fact that many of these images were non-Christian which is odd when considering that at this time Christianity was the religion in Russia. Historians still debate today on what the inspirations or meanings behind the carvings were and why they would have included them.

In 1238 the town of Vladimir would fall when the Mongols invaded Russia. The church structure would survive until Russia was united once more. The town of Vladimir never really recovered due to the invasion and also the massive growth of Moscow which left the church kind of untended especially during the Soviet Union control of Russia. This could explain why this church survived and some did not. In June of 2005 the church did reopen and is one of the best sites to visit while in Russia.

The symbolism of the church shows the very beginning of Russia and in a way how it ended up. The church symbolizes Russia’s view on society, religion, and also culture. The mystery of the church carvings really shows the uniqueness that Russia has even under the most imprisoning times. The church is a testimony to the religious continuity of Russia.

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