The Project of the Century

The Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) railroad has been called the project of the century in Russia. However this is not because its been the most amazing piece of construction built in Russia; this connotation is given because the project has taken about a century to be fully completed.This railway runs 2,687 miles in eastern Siberia. The BAM departs from the Trans-Siberian railway at Tayshet, then crosses the Angara River at Bratsk and the Lena River at Ust-Kut, proceeds past Severobaikalsk at the northern tip of Lake Baikal, past Tynda and Khani, crosses the Amur River at Komsomolsk-na-Amure and finally reaches the Pacific Ocean at Sovetskaya Gavan while it crosses 4,200 bridges and goes under 21 tunnels(1).

Map of major railways in Russia, with Trans Siberian Railway shown in red, the Baikal-Amur Mainline in green and the Amur–Yakutsk Mainline (including “Little BAM”) shown in orange(1)


The BAM project was proposed in the late 1800’s, but it didn’t begin construction until the 1930’s. This railroad’s purpose was to be an alternate route for the Trans- Siberian Railroad. One that was farther away from the Chinese border in case something ever happened between Russia and China or Japan. The railroad was constructed with forced labor, including POWs and political Prisoners. These laborers had to deal with the harsh conditions of Siberia. When the project was halted in 1953 afters Stalin’s death, about 150,000 laborers had died during the construction of the railway(2). The Railroad began construction again in 1974 as the next great hero project of the Komsomol(2). The railway officially opened in 1984 with a golden spike, similar to that of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the US.  However, the BAM was not fully completed until 1991, where it has seen limited use and efficiency.

The large timeline of construction can be attributed to the lack of labor and funding to complete the railway, as well as harsh conditions accompanying it, such as crossing seven mountain ranges, swamps, taiga, seismic zones, and forty percent of its rail laid on permafrost(2). One extreme problem that was faced by the workers who restarted the project was a tunnel that was filled with ice from the Stalin Era of construction. Stalin’s engineers met the railways from both sides of the tunnel without any survey technology with only a 20cm error, but it was left to freeze solid after the project was discontinued.  “The dismayed railway engineers of 1974 were left with the problem of dealing with 32,000 tonnes of ice blocking the shaft– and also of disposing of the frozen bodies of the gulag workers they frequently stumbled on while reconditioning the tunnel. When all else failed, the Soviets resorted to raw power. The workers jury-rigged an aircraft jet engine at one end of the tunnel, and hit the ignition. Its stream of superheated exhaust rapidly blasted a path through the wall of ice, clearing the tunnel for further work”(3).  The railway construction also lead to high levels of pollution into nearby rivers and lakes, such as Lake Baikal, as well as large amounts of deforestation and erosion. While the BAM project took multiple decades to complete, thousands of lives, huge amounts of funding and pollution, it still may prove itself to be an effective transportation route for the Russians.




Works Cited.

1. Baika-Amur Mainline. wikipedia.

2.Von Geldern, James .The Baika-Amur Mainline. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

3. Baika-Amur Mainline Railway.



The Soviets Didn’t Give a Dam

Throughout their history, the Soviets have not been a people to care much about the environment.  It could be said that this is because they have so much land it doesn’t really matter. Either way, the damming of the Angara River, which began in 1955 perfectly shows the lack of preservation that many Soviets had.

The Bratsk High Dam is one of four dams on the Angara River. It began construction in 1955 and was operating at full power with 18 turbines and the capacity to generate 4.5 million kilowatts of power by 1969(1). At the time of its construction, the Bratsk dam was the largest and most powerful in the world. A majority of its energy goes to nearby industry and manufacturing, “including a wood-processing combine capable of turning five million cubic yards of wood into various products, and an enormous aluminum plant”(1).  These factories, as well as the actual damning of the river help to contribute to diminishing fish populations and mass amounts of pollution in the Angara river as well as Lake Baikal(25% f the world’s freshwater). Fish are also affected by the damn since it disrupted the natural flow of the river and created a huge basin. “After the river was dammed with the 3 miles of concrete, the water level rose 479 feet”(1). This is also known as the Bratsk Sea since it is one of the largest artificial bodies of water in the world(1).


Even though the dam helps to destroy water quality and fish populations, the construction of the damn was an impressive feat. The workers had to build through the freezing temperatures of the Siberian winter, which gets down to -72 degrees Fahrenheit with frost on the ground for about 3/4’s of the year. It was also a great challenge to transport materials and workers to Bratsk due to its remote location. The building of the Bratsk damn shows how far technology came for the Soviet Union and is a testament to their power at the time, but it also brought along negative side effects.  The destructive progressiveness of the Soviet Union can be represented by Valentin Rasputin and his work Farewell to Matyora, which describes the downfalls of technology and the loss of Russian peasant culture during the Soviet Union through depicting a 17th century village that becomes flooded by the dam.






Works Cited:

1. Siegelbaum, Lewis. Bratsk. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

2. Bratsk High Dam.

3. Rasputin, Valentine. Farewell to Matyora. 1976. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

4. Bratsk Damn.


Control By Sports

One problem that is faced by the leaders of a communist or authoritarian state is what to do with the free time of their citizens. Free time is dangerous to to these types of states as it can lead to various forms of opposition since the citizens have time to form groups and realize that they don’t like the situation that they are living in. This became a matter of concern for the Soviets in the fifties with their labor reforms. For example, the implemented,”the reduction of the work-day from eight to seven hours and (for some) the work week from six to five days meant more leisure time”(1).  One way the Soviets decided to fix this was though the emergence of sports and spectatorship.

They accomplished this task through the building of thousands of stadiums across the Soviet Union. They grew from 1020 stadiums in 1952 to 3065 in 1968(1).  The most notable of all was the Luzhniki Complex, which included various stadiums and fields for an array of different sports. The most notable and prestigious stadium in the Soviet Union, and one of the largest in the world with 103,000 seats was of course the Lenin Stadium.

Luzhniki Complex(2)

Surprisingly, the Lenin Stadium was built for soccer. Soccer was the most popular sport during that era, with the amount of spectators far outnumbering any other sport. The most popular teams were Dinamo and Spartak.  The average citizen looked forward to soccer all year long. They would have been more than ok if all of the stadiums built were for soccer only. It would not be until the next decade that hockey became the go to sport for the Soviets. In fact, the second indoor ice hockey rink in the Union, called the Palace of Sport, was not built until 1956(1). However, Soviet weather probably made indoor/artificial rinks a waste.


This rapid increase of stadiums and therefore sports teams and athletes helped to keep the population occupied and happy. It also helped to foster a growing and ultimately important sense of nationalism within the Soviet Union.


Works Cited:

1. Siegelbaum, Lewis. The Palace of Sport. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

2. Luzhniki Stadium 1957. Sunsite Moscow images.


Car Trouble

Most of the time it is hard to say what was worst; communism or fascism. However, sometimes it is really easy. Communism was the worst. If fascist states have one thing going for them, it is their superiority in the automotive industry. Germany alone had more car companies than the Soviet Union had car models. The car industry thrived under Hitler. Germany had Opel, BMW, Volkswagen, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, and Bugatti. Even the fascist state of Italy had Alpha Romero, Maserati, and Fiat, and eventually led to the creation of companies such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani.  Russia however was not so fortunate.

From the beginning of Stalin’s rise to prominence in 1922 as General Secretary of the Communist party the Soviets began a tragic downfall in regards to their automotive industry. Their only noteworthy car company, Dartz Motorz Company was halted until 1998. From then on the USSR produced only a select number of cars and types of cars until decades later. Their automotive section is still crippled comparatively to other superpowers. “Between the beginning of Stalin’s power until a little after WWII, the soviets only manufactured two types of cars in the largest factory in Europe; the Ford Model A and the Ford model AA truck(1)”. The truck saw far more production since it was useful during the war and for moving items.


After the War, Stalin approved of a few more cars; the GAZ Podeba, the Moskvich, and the ZIS-110 and its armored and convertible variants meant for only the most important people in Soviet society. The ZIS-110 were built in the Stalin Factory in Moscow with Stalin owning five armored versions. For the average Soviet citizen, acquiring a car was very difficult. First they had to have enough money for the car, which was between 9,000 and 16,000 rubles. It would take the average Soviet worker over two years to acquire that money; if they didn’t spend a single ruble on anything else.  If the citizen managed to have enough money, they would still have to wait for the car. Car production in the USSR was very low and the demand was very high. “Trade unions organized waiting lists that could mean the deferment of one’s dreams of owning a car for upwards of six years”(1).  The next car model didn’t come until the late 50’s with the Zaporozhet. The automotive system within the USSR changed very little under communism. Unfortunately there is no happy ending to Russia’s poor automotive history. They still produce very few cars and have a horrific interstate system.

Gaz Podeba(4)

File:Moskvich-2140 Uzhhorod.jpg


ZIS-110 Convertible(6)



This legacy of automotive superiority/let down has lasted to this day, as nobody would say I’d rather have a Russian car over a German or Italian car. (unless you’re a dictator and want a million dollar armored Dartz SUV).


Dartz Prombron(8)



Works Cited:

1.Siegelbaum, Lewis. Cars for Comrades. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

2. Ford Model A Image.

3. Ford Model AA Truck Image.

4. GAZ Podeba Image.

5.Moskvich Image.

6.ZIS-110 Convertible Image.

7.Zaporozhet Image.

8. Dartz Image.

The Soviets Loved to Drink…Champagne?

Local Soviet Confectionery(1)


When one thinks of things synonymous with Russia or the Soviet Union , vodka  is one of the first images to pop into mind. However, the Soviets experienced fancier times when it came to their high levels of alcohol consumption.  The Mid 1930’s up until the war was an easier time for may of the people in the Soviet Union. Collectivization and the Five Year Plan, for all intensive purposes was successful, as it showed when it came to the food industry. Markets had requirements on what they must carry, which can be seen in this food advertisement.  These markets carried a much wider variety of food than what was seen in earlier parts on the century.

Among these fine items in during food surpluses across the Soviet Union was Soviet Champagne.  The drink became a staple of diet and culture in the mid thirties after the brilliant discovery of mass champagne production. “Anton Mikhailovich Frolov-Bagreev, an aristocrat and chemist was able to change the fermentation process from occurring in bottles to occurring in large reservoirs. This upped production from around 300,000 bottles in 1934 to around 12,000,000 bottles in 1942.  It became so popular and accessible that it was sold on tap in local food stores”(3).  The quantity of Soviet champagne during this era impressive, but it was also said that the quality of the champagne was to that of France.  A majority of the Champagne produced during this period came from the Northeast Coast of the Black Sea across from Crimea.

As well as having a taste for champagne, Soviets also indulged on incredible amounts of caviar and oyster. We can thank the Soviets for the rarity, price, and exclusivity of caviar and a large destruction of oysters in the region. Back then caviar was eaten very frequently; many had it everyday. Even the poorest of Soviets spread it on their bread like jam. This rapid consumption of fish eggs(sturgeon) along with their consumption in other ways helped to severely reduce their population since they are a fish that live long(100 yrs) and reproduce slowly.  This realization was not made until decades later, which results in caviar being so expensive currently; up to $250/oz on the legal market.  For Soviets, the change from bread rationing to cheap champagne and caviar in their local stores was a widely supported change that improved their happiness, but also their support of Stalin.

Caviar Tins



1. Bertha Malnick, comp.: Everyday Life in Russia. London: George G. Harrap. 1938

2. Moscow Food Advertisements. 1937. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. <>.

3.  Geldern, Von James. Soviet Champagne. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. <>.

4. Caviar Tins. <>


Bolsheviks: We Believe in Nothing

Boris Ignatovich: Restorers(1928)

“Workers dismantling a Russian Orthodox Church while reading The Godless”


Thanks in part to the beliefs of Marx and Lenin, the Bolsheviks soon began their quest to rid the Soviet Union of religion. In their point of view, “religion was the opiate of the masses”(1). In other words, religion was something for the people to hold onto and support. The people gave money to their religion, spent time involved with their religion, and followed the religion’s orders and beliefs. To the Bolsheviks, this meant a direct opposition to their regime; hey only wanted the people to blindly follow them. They did not tolerate opposition of any kind, and so religion had to go. A majority of Russians were members of the Russian Orthodox Church, however not all of them were opposed to the Bolsheviks decision to rid the state of religion. One main reason for this was because the church and the state were closely associated with one another.  Since the church and state supported each other for  so many years they were intertwined. The church was viewed as an extension of the former Russian state, so it had to go.

The Bolsheviks got rid of religion through propaganda and redistributing the land that churches owned to the people or by making them government property. They also eliminated the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church; “In the first five years of the Soviet Union (1922-26), twenty-eight Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were executed, and many others were persecuted”(2). Decrees were set in place like the “the Decree of January 20, 1918 that disestablished the Orthodox Church and consigned the clergy of all faiths to second-class citizenship”(4) as well as criminal codes describing crimes regarding religion and their punishments.

The Bolsheviks began their effort to reteach the masses through various forms of propaganda including research and journals citing scientific reasoning against religion as well as many other forms of publication. Atheism was taught in schools and the continuing editions of newspapers such as The Godless were distributed. Anti-religious unions and groups were set up as well as committees such as the Anti-religious Commission. As a result of the Bolshevik’s efforts to rid the Soviet Union of religion through propaganda and crackdowns, a sense of Atheism began to sweep through the population, whether it was forced or not.


Works Cited:

1. Religion in the Soviet Union. Wikipedia. <>.

2. The Russian Orthodox Church. U.S Library of Congress. <>.

3. Violation of the Rules on the Separation of the Church and State. 1923. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <>.

4.Geldern, James Von. Antireligious Propaganda. Seventeen moments in Soviet history. <>.

Soviet State “Security”

Dzherzhinskii asks: “Comrade Lenin, when should we execute people, before or after lunch?” Lenin: “Before lunch, absolutely, and then you can give their lunches to the children of workers. Workers’ children are starving”.


The state security of the Soviets was officially established December 7, 1917. They are the precursor to all other state security systems for the Soviets, including the MGB and KGB. During the first stages, they were know as the CHEKA; All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage. They were the internal iron fist for the Soviets. They were the force that kept the Soviets in power by making sure that they had no opposition. This was done by instilling fear into the public and bullets into the opposition. The Cheka were lead by Feliks Dzerzhinskii. He would be the one who decided to increase the Cheka powers after friend and one of the Cheka leaders Jozef Unshlikht was assassinated and after Lenin’s attempted assassination. 

The objective of the Cheka was to protect the state from internal threats. They were tasked with finding and stopping anyone who opposed the state. This especially included counter revolutionary groups or activists, as well spies. More specifically, their official objectives were, “to cut off at the roots all counterrevolution and sabotage in Russia; to hand over to the revolutionary court all who are guilty of such attempts; to work out measures for dealing with such cases; and to enforce these measures without mercy. It was necessary to make the foe feel that there was everywhere about him a seeing eye and a heavy hand ready to come down on him the moment he undertook anything against the Soviet Government”(Bunyan). The increase of oppression after Jozef Unshlikht’s assassination was known as the Red Terror, in which the Cheka increased their power and arrested, imprisoned, and executed a large number of people. “Official figures for 1918 of 6300 executions by the Cheka in twenty provinces are probably an understatement”(Siegelbaum).  The Cheka were up front with who they targeted and what the penalties were; commonly being execution or prison camp.  The Chekas were also know for targeting Jews during their crackdowns in order to fill up their concentration camps. One might draw a comparison between the Cheka and the German SS.



Works cited:

 L. Krivitskii. Feliks Dzerzhinskii with children(1950). Moscow Museum of Russian Impressionism. 2001.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. State Security. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. <>

William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1935), Vol. II, pp. 475-76

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. 295-296.



Socialist Revolutionaries

The Socialist Revolutionaries, or the SRs were a leftist revolutionary movement that officially began in 1901. This radical group drew many of their ideals from the Populists, however they agreed with the terror tactics of the People’s Will(Freeze 246). They believed that the capitalist state was doing wrong to the people, specifically the peasants and the workers. The SRs took it upon themselves to help these people by changing the government, whether that was through legal reform or terrorism.

The disagreement on the use of terrorism, which was a large part in the beginning stages of the SRs, was one of the first party disagreements that led to their downfall. In the beginning, the SRs were unified in regards to their beliefs and objectives, but they were conflicted as an organization on what means should be used to achieve this goal.  Until 1911, the SRs had a large hand in terrorism. This was led by their combat organization which would execute assassinations of high ranking officials.

In the earlier years of the Socialist Revolutionaries, political power was consolidated and very influential in the Russian political atmosphere. They were one of the largest and widely supported parties in Russia. The SRs won 37 seats in the Second Duma, but boycotted the 1st,3rd, and 4th. Even though the SRs also won a plurality of the votes in the First Congress of Soviets in 1917, they were soon powerless due to disagreements and divisions within the party. It was soon realized that the SRs could not deliver on any of their policies.  After the First Congress in 1917, they split into the Left SRs and the Right SRs, with the left supporting the Bolsheviks and their beliefs and the Right supporting the Mensheviks. The party was split on topics like the support of the war and the provisional government. The Left SRs believed that Russia should leave WWI and that land needed to be redistributed. After the Bolsheviks took power, the Right SRs were banned from the government and the Left SRs merged with the Bolsheviks, making one of the most powerful parties in Russia disappear.


Works Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Socialist Revolutionary Party. Wikipedia. Web. 7 Sep 2014. <>.

Programme of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, 1905. Web.  7 Sep 2014.<>.

Simkin, John. Party of Socialist Revolutionaries. Spartacus Educational. Web. 7 Sep 2014. <>.


Russia’s Industrialization

The photograph above, “Factory Interior with Electrical Generators” is from the  Prokudin-Gorskii collection taken on the Murghab River circa 1910. These generators were imported from Hungary, which helps to give one an idea about Russia’s industrialization capacity in the early 1900’s.

Before the Crimean war, Russia had a very weak economy with little industrialization compared to the Western European powers.  This was in part due to serfdom and a greedy upper-class.  However, after the Crimean war, Alexander II enacted various reforms including the emancipation of serfdom. This would pave the way for Russia to begin its process of industrialization. True industrialization didn’t kick off in Russia until the late 1800’s with reforms by Tsar Nicholas II and the minister of finance, Sergei Witte .  Russia’s economy had a notable increase between 1890 and 1910, due in part to higher exports of natural resources and the expansion of the Trans- Siberian Railway. “Russia’s economic progress in the eleven years of Witte’s tenure as minister of finance was, by every standard, remarkable. Railway track-age virtually doubled, coal output in southern Russia jumped from 183 million pounds in 1890 to 671 million in 1900″(Llewellyn).

The economic and industrial growth during this period would become the foundation of Russia later in the century. However, Russia still had a variety of problems when it came to industrialization and its side effects. One negative side effect of industrialization was the influx of population in Russian cities. Unlike other industrialized countries, Russia’s cities did not grow to accommodate their growing populations. Workers in the cities experienced poor and unsanitary living conditions as well as long hours with little pay. Due to the past history of serfdom in Russia, there was little technological advancements and people who had the capacity to create technologies for the industrial revolution.  As a result, Russia suffered and ended up relying on other countries for the machinery and technology that was needed to sustain the growth of the revolution.  The generators above give an example of how the foundation of Russia’s industrial revolution was based off of other countries. Russia also faced problems such as pressure from outside markets and typical international economic fluctuations. Other problems included a lack of venture capitalists and low labor productivity, as well as a struggling domestic market due to a largely poor population(Freeze, 217).  Even though Russia had an industrial revolution with a variety of problems associated with it, the economic growth was something new that Russia needed which would help pave the way for Russia’s future advancements.


Works Cited:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

Llewellyn, J. “The Russian Revolution.” Russian Revolution. Alpha History, n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2014. <>.