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A new direction in the Soviet Union

After the end of World War Two, the everyday life conditions of Europe changed vastly. World War Two affected all of the world in a variety of different ways. The reconstruction of Europe was the great challenge that each country was faced with resolving. They were also faced with the question of how territory would be divided amongst the winners of World War Two. The Soviet Union emerged as one of the main victors of World War Two and also as one of the strong leaders of power in the World. Their country was in complete ruins after Nazi Germany’s invasion and they were faced with returning their homeland to the greatness it once held. “An estimated 20 million Soviet soldiers and civilians perished in the war, the heaviest loss of life of any of the combatant countries. (Soviet Union After World War Two, Hays)”. The war brought famine, loss of infrastructure, the severe need of reconstruction, people displacement, and a drought which caused the people of Russia to resort to any means necessary in order to find food. The Soviet Union wasted no time with rebuilding their country and expanding their power after the end of World War Two. The Soviet Union quickly expanded its power into several other countries including: “Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia” (Soviet Union After World War Two, Hays). These countries created buffer zones for The Soviet Union in case of future invasions from other countries. The Soviets learned their lesson from the past world wars and used their failures as learning lessons for future threats that they may face from other countries, especially the United States and Germany.

The death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 marked a change in the society of the Soviet Union and also marked a new direction for the Soviet Union as well. After his death Nikita Khrushchev rose to power and became the first secretary of power for the Communist party in the Soviet Union. Nikita Khrushchev soon began the denouncement of Stalin’s communist regime and initiated the era in Soviet history which was known as “de-Stalinization”.  In 1956 Khrushchev gave what is known as “The Secret Speech” to the people of the Soviet Union. In his speech he talked about the horrors that Stalin had committed against humanity during his time in power. He condemned Stalin for “creating a personality cult and unleashing “brutal violence” on anyone who stood in his way” (The Real Secret of Khrushchev’s speech, Parfitt). Hundreds of thousands of people were shot for their “insubordination” towards Stalin’s communist regime. This speech to the people of the Soviet Union represented the beginning of the “thaw” or de-Stalinization. People could live without living in fear of the communist regime that was once controlled by Stalin. “The Soviets announced plans to reduce its armed forces by more than 600,000 troops. In early 1956, Khrushchev called for “peaceful coexistence” between the East and West” (The Death of Stalin and the Cold War, Digital History ID 3407). The tensions of the Cold War would finally slow down and people were able to look toward the future of the Soviet Union in a peaceful manner.

Sources:

http://factsanddetails.com/russia/History/sub9_1e/entry-4975.html

https://www.quora.com/Why-was-Russia-given-so-much-after-WWII

https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/10/world-war-ii-after-the-war/100180/

https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/pubs/fs/46345.htm

https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1956khrushchev-secret1.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/feb/24/russia.tomparfitt

http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3407

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/books/review/Lehane-t.html

3 Responses so far.

  1. I love this post, it’s a great overview of the beginning of the thaw. However, one of the really big factors in this thaw was the response of the people. How did they respond to this apparent new freedom? Was it a feeling of relief or were they in disbelief they were safe? Did they ever feel truly unsafe and how far did that feeling of danger extend? This is a truly complicated topic that has a lot of angles. Really great post!

  2. A. Nelson says:

    Great to read your post! I agree with Cameron that this is gives us a good overview of the period. Now work for a more personal response to primary materials on a topic that interests you.

  3. Spencer Maclay says:

    Very solid outline of the time period. I am glad you mentioned the satellite states (Albania, Hungary, Poland, etc.) serving as buffer states for the Soviet Union. Even today, Russia is keen on having a buffer against potential threats.

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