The History of Soviet Russia

After his Bolshevik rising failed in July 1917, Lenin fled the country. From the safety of Finland he wrote the ‘State and Revolution’, which basically petitioned a new form of government that involved the people and looked to their welfare. Armed with this writing, he returned to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) in October and here his work inspired the October Revolution. It was also Lenin who was ultimately responsible for the overthrow of the Provisional Government, the storming of the Winter Palace and the beginning of Soviet rule in Russia.

In itself Soviet rule was not necessarily a bad thing. Lenin entered his position as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars with the ideals of bringing electricity to every part of Soviet Russia, modernizing industry and agriculture, and creating a free health care system for all. He also wanted to see women given more rights and a higher level of literacy amongst his fellow people. With these goals in mind, the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and three other Soviet republics merged to form the Soviet Union in 1922 with the Russian SFSR dominating the union. Non-Russians were allowed to participate in the new government at all levels and the future looked bright. Unfortunately, just two years after the establishment of the Soviet Union, Lenin died. After a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin began a two year ascent to complete dictatorial power, despite the rules and regulations which had been previously set in place.

Stalin took an active approach to changing his country by forcing rapid industrialization of the rural areas and collectivization of agriculture. In 1928 he established his first Five year Plan for modernizing the country’s economy which basically stipulated that most of the country’s economic output would be put back into the country to establish heavy industry. It was around this time that many heavy weapon factories were built. While the country began a somewhat successful transformation from an agrarian economy to an industrial powerhouse, millions of people suffered famine, loss and misery because of the severe economic upheaval. Most of the old Bolsheviks from the Revolution were killed or exiled, and by the end of the 1930s, virtually anyone who was suspected of being a threat to the government was likewise murdered or exiled to labor camps in remote parts of Siberia. They numbered into the millions.

On June 22, 1941, German forces invaded Russia. This marked the start of some of the most bloody and fierce fighting to take place in World War II. Axis Forces lost more than 5.5 million soldiers, while Soviet military casualties were in the region of about 8.6 million. A further 14 to 18 million Russian civilians also died as a result of the conflict. The onslaught was eventually halted when Germany reached Moscow and the Red Army was able to stop the Nazi offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad. Germany’s invasion had been tragic for Russia with some 27 million citizens (both soldiers and civilians) losing their lives as a result. This constitutes approximately half of all the casualties suffered during the global battle of World War II. However, the war also showed that the Soviet Union was a superpower worth taking note of.

The Soviet Union immediately occupied much of Eastern Europe and installed powers in the eastern half of Germany. A lot of emphasis was put on rebuilding the Russian economy after which a power struggle began to take place against the United States and Western Europe. This struggle later came to be known as The Cold War. While it made enemies out of former friends of the Soviet Union, it also saw the arrival of several landmark events, such as the launching of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, and the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to enter space. Rapid advances were made in the fields of rocketry, computers and material science. For the last 38 years of Soviet Rule, the Russian economy underwent a number of changes and reforms. In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected the first President of Russia in the first presidential election of Russia. Later that same year, in December 1991, the Soviet Union was disbanded, marking the end of 74 years of Soviet power in Russia.


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