History of the Soviet Era

The Beginning

Although Russia was on the way to prosperity and peace, there were some tensions inside. The failed Revolution of 1905 was an example of a revolt against quick industrialization. Unfortunately for Russia, this normal transition tensions were blown up by World War I (not without help of the communists).

WWI started like a usual war for Russia. After blessing, soldiers went to fight thinking that they will be home in at most few months - the victory seemed easy. After 3 years of war and numerous Tsar's strategic and leadership mistakes, Russia lost 1,000,000 people. Bad crops, leading to starvation and diseases, only added to social unrest. In 1917, Russia was very vulnerable from the political point: it had a hidden potential that could explode at any time.

In February, 1917, first explosion occurred. Tired of war and starvation, people in Russia blamed the government (the Tsar) everything. In the February Revolution, Tzar Nicolai II was forced to abdicate, and Russia became a Republic. It's parliamentary organ, Duma, was very indecisive and slow. People did not see much change, and the second, much bigger explosion followed - the October Revolution, or the Great October Socialist Revolution.

It is important to note that there were many catalizators of people's attitude towards the government. In 1917, the most important group agitating people was the RSDRP (Russian Socialist Democratic Party of Workers). Later renamed into RKP (Russian Communist Party), it was subsidized by Germany, who hoped to take Russia out of the war and thus, concentrate all German forces on the Western front. RKP's mottos, denouncing war and demanding food, appealed to people. Late night of October 25 (or November 7 by the new calendar), rebel tsarist warship "Aurora", parked at a dock in St. Petersburg, fired from one of its cannons, announcing the beginning of what lasted over 70 years - the Soviet Era.

The first decrees issued by the Communists were Decree on Land and Decree on Peace. The first denounced private ownership of land and proclaimed its transfer to the state, or all the people. The second declared that Russia is no longer a participant of the WWI. In addition, Russia would give up its historic possesions in Ukraine, Byelorussia and Baltic states. This, of course, completely satisfied Germany.

With Germany's loss of WWI, balance of power in Eastern Europe shifted once more. Russian Civil War 1918-1922 against joint forces of domestic resistance to RKP and foreign intervention of leading western powers (Britain, France, Germany, United States and others) became a victorious march for the newly formed Red Army. Most of Russian pre-war possesions were regained, and the great reconstruction began.

The years 1924-1939 were very difficult fot most Russians. The country was in ruins from the two wars. The new economic (communist) system was forced on people. Religion was abolished. These drastic changes could have been done only under a dictator - and indeed they were. Joseph Stalin's murders reached their peak in 1937, when millions of people were shot or died in labor camps sometimes just for questioning the Party's authority or stealing as little as a potato of THE STATE PROPERTY during starvation. The only thing that saved Russia was people's amazing enthusiasm (this worked once more after the WWII). Many were working days and nights, sacrificing themselves for the "better future"of next generations.

The new state was named the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for it consisted of several "union republics", that had their own government, flag and language. Republics in the USSR were the analog of States in the USA, only Republics were based on nationalities and had a right to terminate their membership in the Union at any time. (Of course, nobody even dreamed that would ever happen, but that's exactly what caused the chain reaction in 1990-91.) With change in the name of the country, RKP also received a new name - the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). This was the only party of the Soviet Union, and thus was simply referred to as "the Party". Produced at one of the Congresses of the Party, the 1937 Consitution stated that "construction of socialism in the USSR has been successfully completed". The country moved on to accomplishing its new goal - building of the communist society.

World War II and its legacies

With economic growth, the USSR was gaining political power. Stalin looked for an opportunity to expand the Soviet sphere, and it came very soon. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of peace had a secret supplement that divided Poland. Germans went after their share on September,1, 1939. The USSR decided to reannex its now independent Baltic neighbors - Latvia, Litva (Lithuania) and Estonia. All three became new Union Republics in 1940. The short and largely ineffective Soviet-Finnish war started and ended just before the German attack of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

Source: Igor Pavlovsky

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