The Soviet Money-Pit, Afghanistan

Soviet Union, as we all know, was a major player in the Cold War, and sought every advantage it could get over its United States counterpart.  The Soviet Union decided it would be best to expand its influence into the state known as Afghanistan.  The alliance between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan began with Afghanistan’s call for aid to the Soviet Union against the constant invading imperialistic forces (TASS).  One radio recording even states the official call of the Afghan government calling for all kinds of aid in hopes of protecting their borders and by honoring the “1978 Treaty of Friendship” agreement between the two countries (Pravda).

This source listed above gives a great description of what the 1978 Treat of Friendship is, what it entails, and how it came to be.

The Soviet Union agreed and sent a small battalion, meant only to act as a buffer against invading external forces.  Their actions were justified by the “1978 Treaty of Friendship,” meant to help protect its neighbors and build alliances with the country of Afghanistan (TASS).  As the current leader of the country was executed and replaced, the Soviets placed Babrak Karmal, who assassinated and replaced the Afghani leader Nur Mohammad Taraki.  However, it was clear that the Soviet Party within Afghanistan faced heavy resistance from the Islamic population, and was in fact splintering into many other groups at the time.

The Islamic fighters that we have all learned about, the Mujaheddin, fought guerrilla style warfare against the Soviet troops since they were no match in open combat.  The mountainous terrain made for a good ally in the fighting against the Soviet forces.  Once the Mujahideen crossed into Pakistan and united their forces, the Afghanistan War in a since began, as the Mujahideen fought against the Soviet backed Afghan forces for many years, eventually ending in Soviet withdrawal due to a huge monetary cost of the conflict on the sickly Russian economy.

This picture depicts the various forces that made up the Mujahideen.  As mentioned earlier, the Mujahideen were the fighters united against the Soviet backed Afghan forces, and wanted to repel any Soviet advances through guerrilla warfare.  Their constant incursions forced the Soviet Union to evacuate their forces from the country for being too costly.

Another reason why the Soviet Union was forced to pull out was due to the Stinger Missiles given to the Mujahideen forces.  With these weapons, the Mujahideen fighters began to shoot down many Soviet war helicopters, each one being destroyed dealing a major blow to the Soviet treasury (they were quite expensive and many were shot down).

This picture depicts the Soviet forces withdrawing from the country of Afghanistan.  As the resistance forces rose and continuously caused more and more damage to the Soviet forces, the Soviet leaders were forced to pull out, as the conflict was becoming a costly money-pit to the already weakened Soviet economy.

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the Soviet Union had to defend itself and its actions, which were contested by western sources saying they were not honoring their agreement of leaving Afghanistan.  The Soviet Union withdrew 50% of its armed forces within the first three months of the signing of the Geneva Accords for Afghanistan.  Also, the Soviet forces still positioned were faced with constant attacks from splinter organizations and resistance fighters, meaning the Russian forces had to adapt to a self defense style of protection for themselves (Current Digest of the Russian Press).  The Soviet command stated that the forces still positioned after the Afghan war were meant to deter any future conflicts of such nature and to provide protection for the civilian population.


Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report (28 and 31 December 1979), D3, D5 & D7, D11.

Pravda, 29 December 1979

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Mutually Assured Destruction?

The Soviet Union, after Stalin’s death in 1953, successfully detonated their first hydrogen bomb.  While the first detonation took place the year of 1954, work on the weapon began years before the first Soviet atomic bomb was even detonated.  Stalin put the testing of weapons and the acceleration of the Soviet Arms Race as a major priority in his time of rule, showing his determination to keep up with the advancing times.  However, unlike the first Soviet atomic bomb which relied heavily on stolen information from the United States, the hydrogen bomb that was detonated in 1954 is of original Soviet design.


However, along with the creation of this new style of weapon, political fallout and popular unrest came with it.  Many people, such as Georgii Malenkov the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, felt that the new weapon would invite in another world war.  If another world war were to occur with the level of destruction capable by the new weapons that each side was capable of deploying, the term mutually assured destruction is given new meaning.  Pretty much, the use of nuclear fission based weapons against each other would surely bring about an end to both sides, effectively killing each other off.

(I apologize for the use of simple URLs, but for whatever reason I could not get the pictures themselves to copy into the blog post).

The first picture in the link above shows many people protesting the advent of these newly established weapons.  While they do a feat of incredible success in the weapons development and arms race standpoint, many people felt that these weapons would lead to nothing good, as a matter of fact for any nation.  The second link shows a form of political cartoon showing an individual protesting the new weapons with a mushroom cloud rising in the background.  As mentioned before, while these weapons may help stabilize the arms race and balance out power, they are utterly relentless when used for combat.  May people did not feel safe with their inception, both civilians and political appointees.  Song were also written and became centerpieces for propaganda against the use of nuclear weapons, such as “May There Always Be Sunshine,” composed by Lev Oshanin.  Many other songs were written along with this one, all against the use and deployment of the destructive weapons.

The political fallout faced by the new weapon system was something that was kept quiet.  Khrushchev and other party leaders would in fact not even acknowledge the situation in public, even though there was a great amount of disagreement among their usage.  As mentioned before, while the weapons were able to balance the power throughout the world so to speak, the weapons themselves shouldn’t be used, and many people felt that way.  MAD (mutually assured destruction) would have a serious effect to everyone who uses the new weapons, as the destruction wouldn’t be limited.  In effect, the propaganda and all the anti-nuclear stances wish to avoid the possibility of MAD.  While their creation was impressive, the use of the nuclear weapons is still disputed today.



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The End of the Wehrmacht

This cartoon depicts the German Wehrmacht being halted by the newly established Russian defensive fortifications.  Originally rolling right over them, the Wehrmacht was faced with a crucial decision, whether or not it thought it would be able to defeat the Russians.

As World War II raged on, Hitler began to press his luck seeing how to world wide conflict had no clear end in sight.  Ambitiously, Hitler decided to invade Russia and attempt to capture the city of Stalingrad as his ultimate goal.  However, this was not the case.  For many reasons, the German Wehrmacht was unable to achieve its goal, and lost many troops, resources, and fighting spirit within the frigid landscape of Russia.

At first, it looked like the German forces had a great chance at success.  After Stalin’s unrelenting cleansing of many of Russia’s highest ranking officers and commanders of the Russian army, the German advance was (at first) almost unopposed.  Along with this, the Russian army was in a since outmatched from the beginning, as the German Wehrmacht was considered to be one of the best fighting forces in the globe (Freeze, page 376).  Both of these factors also limited the number of defensive fortifications that were able to be set up by the Russian forces.  Thinking the invasion would happen at a later time, Stalin believed he had ample time to set up the needed fortifications (Freeze, page 378-379).  However, due to miscalculated timing and a slovenly crippled (due to the military purges) army, the Russian defensive fortifications were (at first) mediocre at best.

This picture depicts the many Russians who lost their lives during the conflict.  As more and more land was lost to the Germans, not only were material resources lost, but the loss of human life was detrimental.

However, as the conflict drew on and German captured more Russian held lands, the Russians began to rethink their strategy.  The lands captured by the Germans suspended Russia of many needed materials and resources, such as iron deposits, and other elements needed to create machines of war and ammunition.  Also, along with the material loss, the loss of agricultural lands began to put a strain on Russia with the production of food for the army and the people of Russia.  For a start, the Russian people, while they held a truly vast amount of land altogether, realized their constant movements backward from the fronts only made it easier for the Germans to continue moving forward.  The strategy then became to unify and “hold the line” as it were, to not give up any more land to the advancing Wehrmacht (McNeal, Order No. 227).  The Russians recognized that their major drawback was due to the level of disorganization within the ranks of the military divisions.  Commanders who were deemed unworthy were replaced with more courageous ones, and strict discipline was enforced throughout the army at all points, in order to maintain the fronts and defensive fortifications (McNeal, Order No. 227).  Something I found particularly interesting was the extent to which the utterance of the word “retreat” was treaty harshly.  The Russians were effectively removing the meaning of retreat from their soldiers to hold their lines (McNeal, Order No. 227).

In the end, the Russians were able to hold their lines and stop/defeat the world renowned German Wehrmacht.  Ironically, even though Stalin’s military purges and constant authoritarian policies at first gave the Russians the disadvantage, this was one of the reasons for the Russian victory.  The entire country was mobilized together and production centered around furthering and ending the war effort (Freeze, page 385).  In the end however, the overarching reason for the Russian victory can be seen with the actual people.  Russians did in fact band together and upheld the “No Step Back” slogan, and gave nothing the the Germans.  With the people’s determination in the factories, fields, and battlefields, the Russians defeated the most advanced military of the world (Freeze, page 390).

Another interesting website I found helpful was  This source held much of the same materials, but in more detail.  It showed that Stalin literally meant there will be no more retreats, that the soldiers were to fight for their land or die trying (Merridale).  It is interesting to what lengths the Russian command went to literally erase the meaning of the word retreat.  However, their persistence paid off in the end.




Robert H. McNeal, ed. Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974).

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A Conflict of Interest, the Chinese Railway

The Soviet and the Chinese clashed over the issue of control over a piece of the Chinese Eastern Railroad (CER).  Moving forward with the five-year plan, the expansion of the railways was a good chance to expand the Russian economy.  The portion that brought about the conflict was located in Manchuria, and through previous political agreements was lawfully owed by the Soviets.  The Chinese, who recently overthrew the Communist party in China led by Chiang Kai Shek.  Shek disestablished all relationships and ties with Russia after this.  Shek wanted to expand his influence within the region of Manchuria, hence the issue with the railroad and the reason for the Russian’s feelings of unease.

The Chinese raided along the railways, and captured and detained around 80 Russians along the way.  Even with the Russian leadership decrying these events, the Chinese continued until they seized control of all of the CER in Manchuria. The Chinese authorities within the region ignored the pleas to stop the violence and seizures.  The beginning of anti-Soviet policy was starting to become a reality within Manchuria.  The Russian consulate was one of the targets hit, and all the people inside arrested.  Even those citizens who went to visit their consulate were arrest on the spot.  The Chinese claimed to seize documents from the consulate about being anti-Chinese, but in fact these were fabricated pieces of literature in an attempt to gain ground for their anti-Soviet campaign.

Here we can see a group picture of the arrested Soviets, forced into the sitting room of the Consulate.

Outraged, the Red Army (with an assortment of tanks and planes) routed the Chinese and regained control of their portion of the CER.  This event is what was known as the “Chinese Eastern Railroad Incident.”  This event had a lasting effect on the status between the relationship of Russia and China.  The Russians wouldn’t stand for Chinese who simply invaded a consulate and arrested many of their citizens.



Xenia Joukoff Eudin and Robert M. Slusser, eds., Soviet Foreign Policy, 1928-1934; Documents and Materials (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1967), pp. 190-193.


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Revolutions of the Army

Before the period of revolutions, the Russian army was composed of close to seven and a half million people.  A good number of these people were drawn from the peasantry, showing the state that the army was in.  Changes began to come about however to attempt to improve the general state and feel of the military apparatus.  For example, Order One was passed which allowed the creation of a soldiers committee, which protected the weapons of the army.  These committees were also tasked with the election of ranking officers for the army.  These soldiers under Order One were also given equal rights as citizens outside of the army, meaning ranking officers began to refer to soldiers more out of respect than say for example calling them by the name “you.”

  This Image shows the actual Order One.

However, as revolution began within Russia, the army was further crippled.  Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops (peasants) fled the army and returned to their local villages, eager to take part in these revolutions to hopefully gain more land or types of benefits from them.  The officer system within the army fell apart as well, as officers were increasingly assassinated.  The moral of the troops and corp as a whole had sunk low as a result of the failing commanders and officers.  Violence spread throughout the ranks of the army, and the breakdown of the military had begun.  Due to the failure of the ranking soldiers, a pacifist mood had flared up within the army, meaning taking offensive measures or even preparing for them was out of the question.  The troops even went as far as to assume they would not be punished for wrong doings due to the general lack in faith of their commanders.  With ill rationed and equipped troops, ever attempt to make orders by the leaders was met with hostility, and claimed to be anti revolutionary.  The army was in a state of total despair, unwilling to follow their orders.  The Commander and Chief of the Army, General Alekseev, attributed this falling apart due to the spread of the revolutionary propaganda and literature.

In short, the military was in total degradation.  The soldiers were unwilling to follow an orders, stole their weapons and pressed for demands, kill their officers and the like all showed how much the army has fallen apart.  Attempts with the Orders One and Two attempted to reign in the revolutionary movements but to no avail.  The troops on all fronts were experiencing these feelings, not wanting to do much of anything.  With the spread of the revolutionary feelings, the troops continued to do acts such as this or even just deserted he army and returned home.  All these examples have shown how the army was in disarray and needed many changes.  Those changes should start with reforming the officers and the leadership within the army, who could then better control the rest of the army.




Alan Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army: The Old Army and the Soldiers’ Revolt (March-April 1917) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), pp. 335-6.

Frank Golder, ed., Documents of Russian History, 1914-1917 (New York: The Century Co., 1927), pp. 286-290.

James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 24-26.

James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 26-27.

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The 1905 Revolution in Russia

The year of 1905 witnessed a particularly strong movement for reform and change throughout the nation.  More to the point, one aspect of the revolution that caught my interest how the movement swept everybody (workers, peasants, intelligentsia, and even clergymen) in the same fashion.  The revolution united all these types of individuals together, changing what the book says on page 252, a liberal protest movement (with very minimal civil disputes) into a full on revolution.

The government within Russia attempted to appease the workers and hear their outcries through the creation of a governing body known as the “Shidlovskii Commission.”  This commission was set up in order for the working class’s elected representatives to have a chance to meet and discuss the ever growing problems.  However, the Commission was never convened, only disgruntling the workers and peasants even more.

Later, the book mentions how the nation-wide strike began to gain more traction throughout the people of the nation.  This revolution, which began as a form of committee, fascinates me.  The prospect of hundreds of years of authoritarian rule being able to be brought down by simple revolutionary thoughts is one thing, but have an entire nation (which was largely made up of the workers and peasants that were revolting) is another matter entirely.  Starting in Moscow with simple printings in news papers, and being carried throughout the nation on its newly established railways, the revolution truly began its spread throughout the nation.  This combining of arms of the classes so to speak is what brought about the massive social and political change that we think of when we think of old Russia today.

With most of the government’s troops off fighting the Japanese and the harvest season over, September became a crucial month in the beginnings of the revolutionary movement in Russia.  This gave the more liberal thinkers the courage to step up and continue forward with the revolution,  even going as far as the creation of the “Union of Unions.”  This body combined the militancy of the working class with the liberal thinkers, encouraging the revolution even more.

In short, this period interested me due to how fast the revolutionary feelings were able to sweep across this vast nation.  Beginning with the printed works of revolutionary thinkers, and traveling with the railways of Russia, this revolution gained ground and had social implications in just a matter of weeks.   Change was inevitable, and the absence of Russian troops gave way to monthly and even sometimes weekly change throughout the revolution.  Even though most of the revolution was put down by Czar Nicholas, the seeds were sown for political and social change that would effect Russia forever.

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The Beginnings of a Sluice Dam, for the Russian Empire (By Lee Cole)

Image: Cementing the Foundation of a Sluice Dam

In 1896, the beginnings of a sluice dam were laid out for the construction of the massive dam.  This dam was designed the help with the navigation of Volga river, which in turn helped with the bolstering of trade and transportation.  Trade along this river helped the improvement of the Russian economy, and with the increased means of transportation the trade increased greatly.

A sluice gate is designed to redirect water towards a water mill for the use of creating hydroeletric power.  This picture shows how with the creation of this type of dam, the Russian began had begun to become more modernized, keeping up with the advances in modern technology.  This sluice dam was able to generate a vast amount of power, and also gave the workers a type of employment.  Along with the advances in technology, this picture captures a snap shot of the expanding Russian Empire.  The men working on the photographed dam helped with the creation of the large Russian Empire.

The picture depicts workers and foremen alike pausing to take a picture before laying the cement foundation of the dam.  The picture was taken while Emperor Nicholas the Second was visiting the area where he ordered the construction of the dam.  As mentioned earlier, after this picture was taken, the cement was poured for the foundation of the sluice dam on the Volga River.  This seemingly meaningless snap shot showed us a bit of the beginnings of the Russian Empire.


Library of Congress, “Emperor Nicholas II Dam and Sluice, Sheksna, Russian Empire,”

retrieved from:

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