All About the Soviet Union

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ( USSR ), created in 1922, instituted socialism as a political-economic regime for the first time in a country.

From an agricultural nation, at the beginning of the 20th century, it became a power capable of rivaling the United States for decades , during the geopolitical period of the Cold War , characterized by the Bipolar World Order, which was extinguished in 1991.

The Soviet Union had a territory of 22.4 million square kilometers and a population of approximately 280 million inhabitants. Its territory extended from Eastern Europe to the far east of Asia, covering very contrasting natural landscapes, such as cold Siberia and the desert regions of the south.

The structure of the Soviet Union consisted of the union of 15 republics under one central government – the Supreme Soviet Council . Public-state ownership of production goods (land, for example) was implemented and a wide-ranging political reform was put in place, seeking a centralized political party (“ the dictatorship of the proletariat ”).

Territorial formation

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia faced a serious socioeconomic crisis, showing great inequality between the peasants who faced hunger and the nobility, who owned large tracts of land, an ally of the monarch – Tsar Nicholas II, who ruled with absolute powers. At that time, Russia started the industrial process and the life of the workers was arduous, given the precarious working conditions, which led to revolutionary ideals.

As a result, repression against revolutionary, populist and Socialist Democratic organizations, with a Marxist orientation, increased. In 1905, a revolution was stifled . Russia faced Germany in the First World War (1914) and, in 1917, the Bolshevik Revolution , led by Lenin, led to the fall of Nicholas II.

In 1922, a new constitution created the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) , composed of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Transcaucasia and the Central Asian republics. Vladimir Lenin became leader of the first socialist country in history.

To rebuild the nation devastated by civil war and hunger, the NEP – New Economic Policy – was established , based on small agricultural, industrial and commercial farms, with private initiatives, in order to rekindle the economy with capitalism for further expansion of socialist actions, in the face of what Lenin stated: “One step back to take two ahead.”

With Lenin’s death in 1924, the USSR faced an intense power struggle between Stalin , who argued that socialism should first be established in Russia, and Trotsky , who claimed that Russian armies should immediately propagate the communist revolution. around the world, the Permanent Revolution. Defeated, Trotsky was expelled from the country in 1929. By order of Stalin, he was assassinated in 1940, in Mexico, by Ramón Mercader – who never assumed to have acted at the behest of Stalin.

Economic and social advances

From 1928, under the administration of Josef Stalin, the USSR started to orient its economy based on the five-year plans .

In the agricultural part, the USSR was organized in large state farms administered by the government, called sovkhozes , and peasant cooperatives, called kolkhozes . With the transition from the planned economy to the market economy, the organization of sovkhozes and kolkhozes land ownership is replaced by private property and farms leased to families.

With the creation of the USSR, industrialization took place with great speed, making this country one of the largest industrial powers in the world: an industrial park with great technological development, with great productive diversity (steel, metallurgy, chemistry, fuels, armaments, transportation, space etc.) and with great growth potential.

In the period of greatest industrial growth, steel production grew seven times, that of cement, 17, that of aluminum, five and that of electricity, 55. This accelerated process of industrialization sought to match the USSR with the park and the American industrial potential, your rival in the Cold War.

Despite the state planning directed towards the spatial distribution of the industry, industrial distribution has a strong concentration in the European part, despite some industrial spaces in regions of Siberia with strong mineral exploration or strategically located in front of the transport systems (mainly the Trans-Siberian railway) .

Regarding transport infrastructure , the USSR made heavy investments in railways, highways, waterways, ports, pipelines (gas and oil) and air transport. The need to integrate the immense territory and to take advantage of the abundant wealth spread throughout all regions are factors that contributed to major transportation works.

In the energy sector , the USSR also made heavy investments in order to take advantage of the wealth present in the territory – hydrocarbons, mineral coal, hydroelectric potential, atomic minerals – to make the Soviet superpower an industrial power without dependence on the import of energy and raw materials. minerals, in fact, to take it to the condition of exporter of these sources of energy and raw materials.

In social matters , the Soviet power achieved great advances, leading its population to a high quality of life, equivalent to that of the countries of the First World.

Soviet rise in post-World War II

With the advance of Nazi troops, Stalin signed the non-aggression agreement with Germany in 1939, fearing that Hitler would invade the country. Even so, in 1942, the Germans entered the USSR and Stalin joined the Allies. In 1943, German troops were defeated at the Battle of Stalingrad by the Russians.

With the end of World War II in 1945, the Soviets had already secured possession of Eastern Europe, or Eastern Europe. The Soviet Union was one of the countries that suffered most from the Second World War and was also decisive for the victory of the Allies over the Axis countries.

After the war and through rigorous state planning, the USSR managed to compose itself and occupy a prominent position on the international stage; internally the country was already composed of several nations and different ethnicities and cultures.

In the Cold War decades, Josef Stalin programmed an extremely orthodox policy regarding the expansion of socialism. He died in 1953, after governing the country for 29 years, establishing one of the bloodiest and cruelest dictatorships in history, known as Stalinism .

Decline and extinction of the USSR

The need to maintain its power on a planetary scale and, consequently, its areas of influence and domination and the military and technological (aerospace) balance with the United States pushed the USSR into a strong crisis, which brought negative consequences for both the economy and for social issues.

The exhaustion of the closed, centralized and excessively bureaucratic political model led the USSR to a political crisis , causing strong popular dissatisfaction and the resurgence and growth of nationalist movements, accelerating the end of the Soviet power.

The economic crisis and the insufficiency of the political model led to strong popular dissatisfaction in the Soviet Union, and the government of President Mikhail Gorbatchev sought political reforms that would lift the country out of accelerated decline.

Gorbatchev proposed two structural reforms, one political, Glasnost , and the other economic, perestroic. The glasnost proposed an internal political openness, allowing participation and popular organization, freedom of the press, belief and cultural events. Already perestroika proposed extensive restructuring and liberalization of the economy, namely reforms in the economic structure planned with a view to the adoption of market pro-economy measures.

The intensity of the crisis did not give Gorbachev time to effectively put his proposals into practice and reap the expected results. In August 1991, the coup d’état carried out by the conservative wing of the Communist Party, contrary to the reforms proposed by Gorbatchev, led to a countercoup with strong popular participation and the effervescence of nationalist movements in several republics of the country, which began to declare independence in relation to the central, Soviet government.

That same year, while the republics sought independence, a complementary movement sought the formation of an economic community formed by the newly independent countries. In December of that year, Gorbachev resigned, the Parliament extinguished itself and, through the Minsk treaty, eleven of the fifteen republics formalized the creation of the CIS – Commonwealth of Independent States , later formed by twelve countries and with strong hegemony of the Russian Federation – heir military, economic and political power of the USSR.

All About the Soviet Union