Portal:Soviet Union



Znak kachestva.svg UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS Znak kachestva.svg

Introduction

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The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a Marxist-Leninist sovereign state in Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR). Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Tashkent, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres (4,500 mi) north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

The Soviet Union had its roots in the 1917 October Revolution, when the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government which had replaced Tsar Nicholas II during World War I. In 1922, the Soviet Union was formed by a treaty which legalized the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics that had occurred from 1918. Following Lenin's death in 1924 and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid-1920s. Stalin committed the state's ideology to Marxism–Leninism and constructed a command economy which led to a period of rapid industrialization and collectivization. During his rule, political paranoia fermented and the Great Purge removed Stalin's opponents within and outside of the party via arbitrary arrests and persecutions of many people, resulting in at least 600,000 deaths. In 1933, a major famine struck the country, causing the deaths of 3 to 7 million people.

Before the start of World War II in 1939, the Soviets signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, a non-aggression agreement with Nazi Germany, after which the USSR invaded Poland on 17 September 1939. In June 1941, Germany broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history. Soviet war casualties accounted for the highest proportion of the conflict in the effort of acquiring the upper hand over Axis forces at intense battles such as Stalingrad and Kursk. The territories overtaken by the Red Army became satellite states of the Soviet Union. The post-war division of Europe into capitalist and communist halves would lead to increased tensions with the United States-led Western Bloc, known as the Cold War. Stalin died in 1953 and was eventually succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, who in 1956 denounced Stalin and began the de-Stalinization. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during Khrushchev's rule, which was among the many factors that led to his downfall in 1964. In the early 1970s, there was a brief détente of relations with the United States, but tensions resumed with the Soviet–Afghan War in 1979. In 1985, the last Soviet premier, Mikhail Gorbachev, sought to reform and liberalize the economy through his policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), which caused political instability. In 1989, Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe overthrew their respective communist governments.

As part of an attempt to prevent the country's dissolution due to rising nationalist and separatist movements, a referendum was held in March 1991, boycotted by 3 Soviet republics, that resulted in a majority of participating citizens voting in favor of preserving the union as a renewed federation. Gorbachev's power was greatly diminished after Russian President Boris Yeltsin's high-profile role in facing down a coup d'état attempted by Communist Party hardliners. In late 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union met and formally dissolved the Soviet Union. The remaining 12 constituent republics emerged as independent post-Soviet states, with the Russian Federation—formerly the Russian SFSR—assuming the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and being recognized as the successor state.

The Soviet Union was a powerhouse of many significant technological achievements and innovations of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, the first humans in space and the first probe to land on another planet, Venus. The country had the world's second largest economy and the largest standing military in the world. The Soviet Union was recognized as one of the five nuclear weapons states and possessed the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. It was a founding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council as well as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and the leading member of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA) and the Warsaw Pact.

August's selected article

Tupolev Tu-142 Krivchikov 2007.jpg

The Tupolev Tu-142 (Russian: Туполев Ту-142; NATO reporting name: Bear F/J) is a maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft derived from the Tu-95 turboprop strategic bomber. A specialised communications variant designated Tu-142MR was tasked with long-range communications duties with Soviet ballistic missile submarines. The Tu-142 was designed by the Tupolev design bureau, and manufactured by the Kuibyshev Aviation and Taganrog Machinery Plants from 1968 to 1994. Formerly operated by the Soviet Navy and Ukrainian Air Force, the Tu-142 currently serves with the Russian and Indian Navies.

Developed in response to the American Polaris programme, the Tu-142 grew out of the need for a viable Soviet ASW platform. It succeeded the stillborn Tu-95PLO project, Tupolev's first attempt at modifying the Tu-95 for maritime use. The Tu-142 differed from the Tu-95 in having a stretched fuselage to accommodate specialised equipment for its ASW and surveillance roles, a reinforced undercarriage to support rough-field capability, improved avionics and weapons, and enhancements to general performance. The Tu-142's capability was incrementally improved while the type was in service, eventually resulting in the Tu-142MZ, the final long-range Tu-142 with highly sophisticated combat avionics and a large payload. Tupolev also converted a number of Tu-142s as avionics (Tu-142MP) and engine (Tu-142LL) testbeds.

Selected biography

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Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov (Russian: Вячесла́в Миха́йлович Мо́лотов; 9 March, [O.S. 25 February] 1890 – 8 November 1986) was a Soviet politician and diplomat, an Old Bolshevik and a leading figure in the government of the Soviet Union from the 1920s, when he rose to power as a protégé of Joseph Stalin, to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium (Politburo) of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. He served as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars from 1930 to 1941, and as Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939 to 1949 and from 1953 to 1956. Molotov served for several years as First Deputy Premier in Joseph Stalin's cabinet. He retired in 1961 after several years of obscurity. (More…)

Did you know...

  • ... that because Leonid Brezhnev had more than 200 decorations, it was decided to break the Soviet custom of featuring only one decoration on cushions during his funeral?

Selected anniversaries for August

  • August coup attempt - 19 to 21 August 1991 - was an attempt by a group of members of the Soviet Union's government to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev.

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Joseph Stalin, in a speech during the Second World War

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