What is the Soviet Union? How Many Republics Does It Consist?
II from the Romanov Dynasty. After the overthrow of Nicholas’ reign, Russia emerged from the civil war of 1921 as the newly formed Soviet Union. Thus, this state, which had one of the largest and most powerful peoples in the world and covered almost one-sixth of the surface area of the world until its final dissolution and collapse in 1991, took its place in the history pages as the world’s first Marxist-Communist state. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR, consisted of 15 Soviet republics: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
The Soviet Union has its roots in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Left-wing radical revolutionaries ended the centuries-long Romanov rule by dethroning Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The Bolsheviks established a socialist state on land previously belonging to the Russian Empire. This was followed by a long and bloody civil war. The Red Army, which supported the Bolshevik Rule, defeated the White Army, representing allied forces made up of monarchists, capitalists, and supporters of other forms of socialism.
In a period known as the Red Terror, the Bolshevik secret police organization, known as the Cheka, launched a mass execution operation against the supporters of the tsarist administration and the upper classes of Russia. The treaty signed between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transcaucasia in 1922 established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, SCCR. The Communist Party, newly founded by the Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, took over the administration of the state. SCCR grew to include 15 Soviet Socialist Republics at its height.
Georgian-born revolutionary Joseph Stalin rose to power with the death of Lenin in 1924. Under the dictatorship of Stalin, he ruled the administration with terror by applying ruthless policies that caused the death of millions of citizens. Until his death in 1953, Stalin transformed the Soviet Union, which had an agricultural society, into an industrial society and a military super-state. Stalin implemented Five-Year plans to stimulate economic growth and transform the Soviet Union. The First Five-Year Plan is aimed at collectivization and rapid industrialization in agriculture. The next plan was to grow ammunition and soldiers.
Between 1928 and 1940, Stalin required collectivization in the agricultural sector. Farmers in rural areas were forced to join collective farms. Their land and livestock were taken away from them. Hundreds of thousands of high-income farmers gathered together. He was executed, and his remaining property was seized. Communists believed that combining individual farms into a large state-run collective farm would increase agricultural productivity. However, the opposite was true.
3.The Great Purge
Amid the rural resistance to confusion and collectivization, agricultural productivity declined. This led to dramatic food shortages. Millions of people died in the Great Famine in 1932-33. The SCCB kept the results of the 1937 census, which revealed how great the loss was. He denied the Great Famine for many years.
The Ukrainian Famine, known as the Holodomor, consisted of the Ukrainian words “hunger” and “do not cause death.” Thanks to the Communist Party officials and the public secret police, Stalin eliminated any possible opposition to his leadership by terrorizing them.
An estimated 600,000 Soviet citizens were executed between 1936-38, which included the rise of Stalin’s terror operation, known as the Great Purge. Millions of people were either deported or sentenced to forced labor camps known as the Gulag.
II. After the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of World War II, the troubling wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States and the United Kingdom began to break down. In 1948, the Soviet Union established communist-prone governments in Eastern European countries that the USSR freed from Nazi control during the war. The Americans and the British feared the spread of communism in Western Europe and around the world. In 1949, the US, Canada, and their European allies formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The alliance between the Western bloc countries was a political demonstration of strength against the SCCB and its allies.
5.Khrushchev and de-Stalinism
After Stalin died in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev rose to power. Khrushchev became prime minister in 1958 after becoming minister of the Communist party in 1953. Khrushchev’s tenure covered the toughest years of the Cold War. It triggered the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, placing nuclear weapons just 145 km from the Florida coast in Cuba. However, Khrushchev initiated a series of political reforms in his homeland that made the Soviet people less repressive. In this period, later known as Stalinism, Khrushchev criticized Stalin, who arrested and expelled his opponents, took steps to improve living conditions, released many political prisoners, loosened censorship on art, and closed the Gulag labor camps.
The deteriorating relations between the Soviet Union and its neighbor China and the food shortage in the SCCB put an end to Khrushchev’s validity in the eyes of the Communist Party. Members of his political party removed Khrushchev from his post in 1964.
The Soviet Union launched rocket science studies and space exploration programs in the 1930s. The first work was attached to the Soviet army and kept it secret. However, by the 1950s, space would become a new area where super-states could compete and conduct their duels.
On October 4, 1957, the SCCB officially launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to exist, into Earth’s low orbit. Sputnik’s success caused Americans to fear that America fell behind its rival in technology in the Cold War.
The ensuing “Space Race” escalated even more in 1961 when the first man to enter space was Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. President of the United States of America John F. Kennedy replied to Gagarin’s success that the United States would send a man to the moon within the next ten years. When astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon on July 16, 1969, the US made its claim.
In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev, a longtime Communist Party politician, rose to power. It took over a stagnant economy and a collapsing political system. He launched two series of practices that he believes will regulate the political system and turn the SCCB into a rich and productive nation. They called them glasnost and perestroika.
Gorbachev’s glasnost plan included an openness policy. He touched on the individual restrictions of the Soviet people. Glasnost removed the traces of Stalin repression, such as the banning of books and the publicly hated secret police. Newspapers could criticize the government and other parties other than the Communist Party could participate in the elections.
Gorbachev’s perestroika plan included restructuring the economy. With Perestroika, the Soviet Union moved towards a joint system of communism-capitalism, as in modern China. The Communist Party Executive Board, called the Politburo, would control the course of the economy as before. Still, the government would allow some production and development decisions to be governed by the forces in the market.
8.The Collapse of the Soviet Union
During the years 1960-70, millions of middle-class Soviet citizens were facing hunger while the Communist Party elite was rapidly gaining wealth and power. The industrialization effort of the Soviet Union at all costs caused a shortage of food and consumer goods. Bread queues were normalized during 1970-80. Soviet citizens could not access even the most necessities such as clothes and shoes. The gap between the over-wealthy Politburo and the poverty of Soviet citizens caused an unexpectedly powerful reaction by the young population who refused to adopt their parents’ Communist Party ideologies.
The SCCB also faced foreign attacks on the Soviet economy. In the 1980s, the United States, headed by Ronal Reagan, excluded the Soviet economy from the rest of the world. It has led the oil prices to their lowest levels for many years. The oil and gas revenues of the Soviet Union fell sharply. The USSR began to lose control in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Gorbachev’s reforms were slow to pay off. Instead of helping him, it accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union. The loss of control over the Soviet people encouraged independence movements in the Soviet troops in Eastern Europe.
The political revolution in Poland in 1989 sparked many, mostly peaceful, revolutions in Eastern European states. It caused the Berlin Wall to collapse. By the end of 1989, the SCCB had torn off the seams.
In August 1991, an unsuccessful coup attempt by Communist Party strong supporters diminished Gorbachev’s power. It determined the fate of the Soviet Union by drawing the democratic forces led by Boris Yeltsin to the forefront of Russian politics.
On December 25, Gorbachev resigned from the leadership of the SCCB. The Soviet Union ceased to exist on December 31, 1991.