Soviet Union

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Союз Советских
Социалистических Республик
Soyuz Sovetskikh
Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik
1922- 1991
Soviet union rel 1986.jpg
600px-Flag of the Soviet Union.svg.png
Coat of arms of the Soviet Union.svg.png
Flag Coat of Arms
Capital Moscow
Government Communist
Language Russian (de facto) (official)
Area 8,649,538 sq. mi. (1991)
Population 293,047,571 (1991)

The Soviet Union (Russian: Советский Союз, Sovyetskiy Soyuz), officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (or USSR) (Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, Soyuz Sovietskykh Sotsialisticheskykh Respublik, abbreviated СССР) was a progressive police state that existed from 1922 to December 25, 1991,[1] then broke into 15 separate countries, most notably the Russian Federation. Throughout its history, the leadership in the Kremlin and Politburo was never dominated by ethnic Russians. The communist ideology suppressed the dominant culture and national identity while promoting diversity and inclusion of minorities.

The Soviet Union was the most powerful established socialist state in history, coming to power under Lenin in 1918 and killing tens of millions of its people to establish an extreme leftwing ideology. Neither Russia nor the Soviet Union had any tradition of democracy, and the Russian people never voted for socialism or communism.

The Soviet Union, and Lenin in particular, was also notorious for being the first country in all of history to not only legalize abortion, but also having absolutely no restrictions on the practice, with the only exception being 1936 up until 1953 where Stalin briefly made it illegal in order to preserve some elements of the Soviet people when it became apparent the rate of abortions were such that the country would go extinct soon.[2]

After an alliance among socialists to dismember Catholic Poland (1939–41), the Nazi Germans under Adolf Hitler invaded the USSR in a war to the death. The USSR defeated the Nazis in World War II (1941–45), and took control of most of Central Europe, turning formerly independent countries into Communist satellite states. It was the primary antagonist of the United States during the Cold War (1947-1989); it then collapsed because of American pressure and its own internal economic and social failures. At its height the USSR covered one-sixth of the earth's land area, stretching from Central Europe across Eastern Europe and northern Asia to the Pacific Ocean. Although Russia and most of Soviet republics are Western world countries, during the Soviet period, a war was declared on Christianity, the country wanted to cut its Western roots and create a brand new civilization, a communist utopia.

The Soviet Union after WWII


The Ural Mountains run north-to-south through the Soviet Union (Russia), roughly dividing the eastern and western parts.

Located in the middle and northern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, the Soviet Union's 22.4 million square kilometers included one-sixth of the earth's usable land area. Its western portion (European part of Russia), comprising more than half of all European landmass, made up 25% of Russia's total area, was where 72% of the people lived, and was where most industrial and agricultural activities were concentrated. The largest region was the lightly populated Siberia, a land between the Urals and the Pacific that for centuries was infamous as a place of exile, a land of endless expanses of snow and frigid temperatures.

Extending for over 60,000 kilometers, the Soviet border was the world's longest national frontier, sharing a common border with twelve countries, six on each continent. In Asia, its neighbors were the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea), China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey; in Europe, it bordered Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), Poland, Norway, and Finland.

Approximately two-thirds of the frontier was bounded by water, forming the longest and, owing to its proximity to the North Pole, probably the most useless coastline of any country. Apart from Murmansk, which receives the warm currents of the Gulf Stream, the northern coast is locked in ice much of the year. The search for a warm water port was a central theme throughout Russian history.

A dozen seas, part of the water systems of three oceans—the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific—washed over Soviet shores.

  • Size: Approximately 22,402,200 square kilometers (land area 22, 272,000 square kilometers); slightly less than 2.5 times size of United States.
  • Location: Occupies eastern portion of European continent and northern portion of Asian continent. Most of country north of 50° north latitude.
  • Topography: Vast steppe with low hills west of Ural Mountains; extensive coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; deserts in Central Asia; mountains along southern boundaries.
  • Climate: Generally temperate to Arctic continental. Winters vary from short and cold along Black Sea to long and frigid in Siberia. Summers vary from hot in southern deserts to cool along Arctic coast. Weather usually harsh and unpredictable. Generally dry with more than half of country receiving fewer than forty centimeters of rainfall per year, most of Soviet Central Asia northeastern Siberia receiving only half that amount.
  • Land Boundaries: 19,933 kilometers total: Afghanistan 2,384 kilometers' China 7,520 kilometers; Czechoslovakia 98 kilometers; Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) 17 kilometers; Finland 1,313 kilometers, Hungary 135 kilometers; Iran 1,690 kilometers; Mongolia 3,441 kilometers; Norway 196 kilometers; Poland 1,215 kilometers; Romania 1,307 kilometers; and Turkey 617 kilometers.
  • Water Boundaries: 42,777 kilometers washed by oceanic systems of Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific.
  • Land Use: 11 percent of land arable; 16 percent meadows and pasture; 41 percent forest and woodland; and 32 percent other, including tundra.
  • Natural Resources: Oil, natural gas, coal, iron ore, timber, gold, manganese, lead, zinc, nickel, mercury, potash, phosphates, and most strategic minerals.

Administrative-Political-Territorial Divisions

The USSR was divided into fifteen union republics - the largest administrative and political units - officially known as Soviet republics or union republics. Theoretically they were independent countries; in practice they were controlled by the Kremlin. Nationality, size of the population, and location were the determinants for republic status. By far the largest and most important was the Russian Republic, containing about 51% of the population. In 1989 Russians made up over 51% of the Soviet population and were politically, economically and culturally the dominant nationality, there are more than 100 other nationality groups that make up Soviet society. Fourteen other major nationalities also have their own republics: in the European part are the Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, and Moldavian republics; the Georgian, Azerbaijan, and Armenian republics occupy the Caucasus; and Soviet Central Asia is home to the Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, and Tajik republics.

The Soviet republics were subdivided into administrative subdivisions called autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, autonomous okruga, kraia, or most often oblasts. These subdivisions made the country easier to manage and some served to recognize additional nationalities.


The Nobel Prize winning Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was exiled from the Soviet Union due to his criticism of the Soviet government.

The official Soviet census of 1989 listed over 100 nationalities in the Soviet Union. Each had its own history, culture, and language. Each possessed its own sense of national identity and national consciousness. The position of each nationality in the Soviet Union depended to a large degree on its size, the percentage of the people using the national language as their first language, the degree of its integration into the Soviet society, and its territorial-administrative status. This position was also dependent on each nationality's share of membership in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the number of students in higher institutions, the number of scientific workers, and the urbanization of each nationality.

The various nationalities differed greatly in size. On the one hand, the Russians, who constituted about 50.8 percent of the population, numbered about 145 million in 1989. On the other hand, half of the nationalities listed in the census together accounted for only 0.5 percent of the total population, most of them having fewer than 100,000 people. Twenty-two nationalities had more than 1 million people each. Fifteen of the major nationalities had their own union republics, which together comprised the federation known as the Soviet Union.

The nationalities having union republic status commanded more political and economic power than other nationalities and found it easier to maintain their own language and culture. In 1989 some nationalities formed an overwhelming majority within their own republics; one nationality (the Kazakhs), however, lacked even a majority. In addition to the fifteen union republics, individual nationalities had their own territorial units, such as autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts, and autonomous okruga. The remaining nationalities did not have territorial units of their own and in most cases only constituted minorities in the Russian Republic.

The nationalities that have had a significant political and economic impact on the Soviet Union include the fifteen nationalities that have their own union republics and the non-union republic nationalities that numbered at least 1 million people in 1989. They are the Slavic nationalities, the Baltic nationalities, the nationalities of the Caucasus, the Central Asian nationalities, and a few other nationalities.

  • Population: 293,047,571 (1991 estimate). Average annual growth rate 0.9 percent. Density twelve persons per square kilometer; 75 percent of people lived west of Ural Mountains.
  • Nationalities: 51 percent of population Russian, 15 percent Ukrainian, 6 percent Uzbek, nearly 4 percent Belorussian, and 24 percent about 100 other nationalities.
A Soviet propaganda poster disseminated in the Bezbozhnik (Atheist) magazine depicting Jesus being dumped from a wheelbarrow by an industrial worker as well as a smashed church bell; the text advocates Industrialisation Day as an alternative replacement to the Christian Transfiguration Day. see: Militant atheism
  • Religions: Religious worship was authorized by Constitution, but Marxism–Leninism, the official ideology, was militantly atheistic (see: Militant atheism). Reliable statistics are unavailable, but about 18 percent was Russian Orthodox; 17 percent Muslim; and nearly 7 percent Roman Catholic, Protestant, Armenian Orthodox, Georgian Orthodox, and Jewish combined. Officially, most of remainder was atheist.
  • Languages: Russian was the official language. Over 200 other languages and dialects were spoken, often as the primary tongue; 18 languages were spoken by groups of more than 1 million each. About 75 percent of people spoke Slavic languages.
  • Education: Highly centralized school system with standardized curriculum. Attendance was compulsory through eleventh grade. Strong emphasis on training for vocations selected by central authorities. Indoctrination in Marxist–Leninist ideology at all levels. Science and technology emphasized at secondary level and above. As of 1979 census, official literacy rate 99.8 percent for persons between nine and forty-nine years old. Over 5.3 million studied at universities and institutes, nearly 50 percent part-time. All education free, and in many cases students received stipends.
  • Health and Welfare: Medical care by government health institutions; free, but of poor quality for general public despite having the highest number of physicians and hospital beds per capita in world. Welfare and pension programs provided, albeit marginally, for substantial segments of population.


Seven official censuses have been taken in the Soviet Union (1920, 1926, 1939, 1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989). Both the quality and the quantity of the data have varied: in 1972 seven volumes totaling 3,238 pages were published on the 1970 census. In contrast, the results of the 1979 census were published more than five years later in a single volume of 366 pages.

According to the census of 1989, on the day of the census, January 12, the population of the Soviet Union was estimated to be 286,717,000. This figure maintained the country's long-standing position as the world's third most populous country after China and India. In the intercensal period (1979–88), the population of the Soviet Union grew from 262.4 million to 286.7 million, a 9 percent increase.

During the 1970s and early 1980s, the Soviet Union experienced declining birth rates, increasing divorce rates, a trend toward smaller nuclear families, and increasing mobility and urbanization. Major problems associated with such factors as migration, tension among nationality groups, uneven fertility rates, and high infant and adult mortality became increasingly acute, and various social programs and incentives were introduced to deal with them.


Over one-third of the people in the Soviet Union, an officially atheistic state, professed religious belief. Christianity and Islam had the most believers. Christians belonged to various churches: Orthodox, which had the largest number of followers; Catholic; and Baptist and various other Protestant sects. The majority of the Islamic faithful were Sunni. Judaism also had many followers. Other religions, which were practiced by a relatively small number of believers, included Buddhism, Lamaism, and shamanism, a religion based on primitive spiritualism.

The role of religion in the daily lives of Soviet citizens varied greatly. Because Islamic religious tenets and social values of Muslims are closely interrelated, religion appeared to have a greater influence on Muslims than on either Christians or other believers. Two-thirds of the Soviet population, however, had no religious beliefs. About half the people, including members of the CPSU and high-level government officials, professed atheism. For the majority of Soviet citizens, therefore, religion seemed irrelevant.


Coat of arms of the Soviet Union. The legend on the red ribbon repeats, in the fifteen national languages spoken in the original "republics," the final line from Karl Marx' Communist Manifesto: "Workers of all countries, unite!" The hammer-sickle device overspreading the world signifies the spread of Communism worldwide.

For a more detailed treatment, see Soviet Union government.
The Soviet Union administered the country's economy and society through decisions made by the extremely authoritarian leading political institution in the country, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The USSR guaranteed free healthcare and jobs as a basic right, even if the employment was in a gulag as a slave of the state.

In the late 1980s, the government appeared to have many characteristics in common with other Western, democratic political systems. For instance, a constitution established all organs of government and granted to citizens a series of political and civic rights. A legislative body, the Congress of People's Deputies, and its standing legislature, the Supreme Soviet, represented the principle of popular sovereignty. The Supreme Soviet, which had an elected chairman who functioned as head of state, oversaw the Council of Ministers, which acted as the executive branch of the government. The chairman of the Council of Ministers, whose selection was approved by the legislative branch, functioned as head of government. A constitutionally based judicial branch of government included a court system, headed by the Supreme Court, which was responsible for overseeing the observance of Soviet law by government bodies. According to the Constitution of 1977, the government had a federal structure, permitting the republics some authority over policy implementation and offering the national minorities the appearance of participation in the management of their own affairs.

In practice, however, the government differed markedly from other Western systems. In the late 1980s, the CPSU performed many functions that governments of other countries usually perform. For example, the party decided on the policy alternatives that the government ultimately implemented. The government merely ratified the party's decisions to lend them an aura of legitimacy. The CPSU used a variety of mechanisms to ensure that the government adhered to its policies. The party, using its nomenklatura authority, placed its loyalists in leadership positions throughout the government, where they were subject to the norms of democratic centralism. Party bodies closely monitored the actions of government ministries, agencies, and legislative organs.

The content of the Soviet Constitution differed in many ways from typical Western constitutions. It generally described existing political relationships, as determined by the CPSU, rather than prescribing an ideal set of political relationships. The Constitution was long and detailed, giving technical specifications for individual organs of government. The Constitution included political statements, such as foreign policy goals, and provided a theoretical definition of the state within the ideological framework of Marxism–Leninism. The CPSU could radically change the constitution or remake it completely, as it has done several times in the past.

The Council of Ministers acted as the executive body of the government. Its most important duties lay in the administration of the economy. The council was thoroughly under the control of the CPSU, and its chairman - the prime minister - was always a member of the Politburo. The council, which in 1989 included more than 100 members, is too large and unwieldy to act as a unified executive body. The council's Presidium, made up of the leading economic administrators and led by the chairman, exercised dominant power within the Council of Ministers.

According to the Constitution, as amended in 1988, the highest legislative body in the Soviet Union was the Congress of People's Deputies, which convened for the first time in May 1989. The main tasks of the congress were the election of the standing legislature, the Supreme Soviet, and the election of the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, who acted as head of state. Theoretically, the Congress of People's Deputies and the Supreme Soviet wielded enormous legislative power. In practice, however, the Congress of People's Deputies met only a few days in 1989 to approve decisions made by the party, the Council of Ministers, and its own Supreme Soviet. The Supreme Soviet, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, and the Council of Ministers had substantial authority to enact laws, decrees, resolutions, and orders binding on the population. The Congress of People's Deputies had the authority to ratify these decisions.

The government lacked an independent judiciary. The Supreme Court supervised the lower courts and applied the law, as established by the Constitution or as interpreted by the Supreme Soviet. The Constitutional Oversight Committee reviewed the constitutionality of laws and acts. The Soviet Union lacked an adversary court procedure. Under Soviet law, which derived from Roman law, a procurator worked together with a judge and a defense attorney to ensure that civil and criminal trials uncovered the truth of the case, rather than protecting individual rights.

The Soviet Union was a federal state made up of fifteen republics joined together in a theoretically voluntary union. In turn, a series of territorial units made up the republics. The republics also contained jurisdictions intended to protect the interests of national minorities. The republics had their own constitutions, which, along with the all-union Constitution, provide the theoretical division of power in the Soviet Union. In 1989, however, the CPSU and the central government retained all significant authority, setting policies that were executed by republic, provincial (oblast, krai, and autonomous subdivisions), and district (raion) governments.


For a more detailed treatment, see History of the Soviet Union.


The Soviet Union was established in December 1922 by the leaders of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) on territory generally corresponding to that of the old Russian Empire. A spontaneous popular uprising in Petrograd overthrew the imperial government in March 1917, leading to the formation of the Provisional Government, which intended to establish democracy in Russia. At the same time, to ensure the rights of the working class, workers' councils (soviets) sprang up across the country. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir I. Lenin, agitated for socialist revolution in the soviets and on the streets, and they seized power from the Provisional Government in November 1917. Only after the ensuing Civil War (1918–21) and foreign intervention was the new communist government secure.

From its first years, government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communists, as the Bolsheviks called themselves beginning March 1918. After unsuccessfully attempting to centralize the economy during the Civil War, the Soviet government permitted some private enterprise to coexist with nationalized industry in the 1920s. Debate over the future of the economy provided the background for Soviet leaders to contend for power in the years after Lenin's death in 1924. By gradually consolidating influence and isolating his rivals within the party, Joseph V. Stalin became the sole leader of the Soviet Union by the end of the 1920s.

Lenin had a criticism of the tsarist Russian empire as a prison house of nations,[3] but in the end under communist rule the USSR became the most prison-like state the world had ever seen up to this point.


Joseph Stalin, the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953, founded the League of Militant Atheists, whose chief aim was to propagate militant atheism and eradicate religion.[4] See also: Atheism

In 1928 Joseph Stalin introduced the First Five-Year Plan for building a socialist economy. In industry, the state assumed control over all existing enterprises and undertook an intensive program of industrialization; in agriculture, the state appropriated the peasants' property to establish collective farms. These sweeping economic innovations produced widespread misery, and millions of peasants perished during forced collectivization. Social upheaval continued in the mid-1930s when Stalin began a purge of the party; out of this purge grew a campaign of terror that led to the execution or imprisonment of untold millions of people from all walks of life. Yet despite this turmoil, the Soviet Union developed a powerful industrial economy in the years before World War II.

World War II

Stalin tried to divide up Central Europe with Germany by concluding the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with Adolf Hitler in 1939. The USSR took over the Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) and the eastern borderlands (Polish: 'Kresy') of Poland, while going to war with Finland. Communists across the world ended their diatribes against fascism, while Stalin provided the German war machine with supplies of oil and grain. Europe was not big enough for two dictators, so in June 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The U.S. and Britain formed an alliance with Stalin to fight the Nazis, and poured in Lend Lease aid. After many humiliating defeats and the loss of three mission soldiers, the Red Army finally stopped the Nazi offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43 and then all of Central Europe before Germany surrendered in 1945. Although severely ravaged in the war, the Soviet Union emerged from the conflict as one of the world's great powers.

Cold War

During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded its economy, using resourcs stripped from defeated Germany. The Red Army imposed Communist political control over postwar Central Europe and the Balkans, except for Yugoslavia and Albania. The active Soviet foreign policy helped bring about the Cold War, starting about 1947, which turned its wartime allies, Britain and the United States, into foes. Within the Soviet Union, repressive measures continued in force; Stalin apparently was about to launch a new purge when he died in 1953.


Nikita Khrushchev liked to threaten and bully, often using "brinkmanship" (the threat of nuclear weapons); Time Sept. 8, 1961

see: Nikita Khrushchev

After three years of a join leadership, Nikita Khrushchev seized power, denounced Stalin's use of terror and effectively reduced repressive controls over party and society. Khrushchev's reforms in agriculture and administration, however, were generally unproductive, and foreign policy toward China and the United States suffered reverses. Khrushchev's colleagues in the leadership removed him from power in 1964.


Following the ouster of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued, which lasted until Leonid I. Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the preeminent figure in Soviet political life. Brezhnev presided over a period of détente with the rest of the West while at the same time building up Soviet military strength; the arms buildup contributed to the demise of détente in the late 1970s. Also contributing to the end of détente was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

After some experimentation with economic reforms in the mid-1960s, the Soviet leadership reverted to established means of economic management. Industry showed slow but steady gains during the 1970s, while agricultural development continued to lag. In contrast to the revolutionary spirit that accompanied the birth of the Soviet Union, the prevailing mood of the Soviet leadership at the time of Brezhnev's death in 1982 was one of cautious conservatism and aversion to change. Brezhnev was succeeded by former KGB head Yuri Andropov.

Reagan challenge

Friction with other Western countries continued in the 1980s, especially with the United States and its new president, Ronald Reagan, who saw the Soviet Union for what it was and branded it an "evil empire," partially in response to the Afghanistan occupation. Reagan negotiated with West Germany to provide sites for the basing of Pershing II medium-range ballistic missiles, which was bitterly opposed by Moscow. A short period of confrontation existed between the two superpowers during the period of late-1983 through 1984, beginning with the tragic Soviet attack on a commercial airliner, Korean Airlines Flight 007, over international waters near Sakhalin Island on September 1, 1983, and killing 269 civilians, including a sitting U.S. Congressman, Larry McDonald; this was followed by events within a military exercise known as Able Archer, in which a falling satellite was mistaken for an incoming ICBM and almost triggered a major war. Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, a space-based missile defense system critics derisively dubbed "Star Wars" as well as his expansion of the United States military, also prompted a new, expensive arms race.

Andropov and his successor, Konstantin Chernenko, kept the communist system under Brezhnev intact, but upon Chernenko's death Mikhail Gorbachev became party chairman.

Gorbachev and the end of communist rule

see Mikhail Gorbachev

A reformer, he introduced a series of economic and political reforms known as glasnost ("openess") and perestroika ("restructuring"), which began to creak open the doors of the Soviet's closed system. A failed attempt to reign in the three Baltic States in 1989 led to a domino-effect of Warsaw Pact countries abandoning communism; a coup attempt against Gorbachev in 1991 by hard-liners trying to keep their tattering empire ended within days. The USSR was formally dissolved on Christmas Day 1991 by Boris Yeltsin, freeing many from its tyranny. The main successor state to the Soviet Union is Russia; the effort to form a "Commonwealth of Independent States" went nowhere, and the 15 republics of the USSR are now independent states.

According to declassified CIA documents, George Soros targeted the Soviet government as early as 1987. Soros worked closely with a CIA linked non-governmental organization, the Institute for East-West Security Studies, to take advantage of Glasnost and Perestroika for the purpose of infiltrating and sabotaging the Soviet economic and political system. [5]

To assent to the reunification of Germany, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev ultimately agreed to a proposal from then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker (DOS) that a reunited Germany would be part of NATO but the military alliance would not move “one inch” to the east, that is, absorb any of the former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO.

On Feb. 9, 1990, Baker said: “We consider that the consultations and discussions in the framework of the 2+4 mechanism should give a guarantee that the reunification of Germany will not lead to the enlargement of NATO’s military organization to the East.” On the next day, then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said: “We consider that NATO should not enlarge its sphere of activity.”[6] Gorbachev’s mistake was not to get it in writing as a legally-binding agreement.[7]

Gorbachev and Yeltsin agreed to collapsing the Soviet Union in exchange for a non-NATO expansion pledge. In 2021 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg denied such agreements ever existed or discussions even took place.[8]
“U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s famous ‘not one inch eastward’ assurance about NATO expansion in his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on February 9, 1990, was part of a cascade of assurances about Soviet security given by Western leaders to Gorbachev and other Soviet officials throughout the process of German unification in 1990 and on into 1991, according to declassified U.S., Soviet, German, British and French documents …

The documents show that multiple national leaders were considering and rejecting Central and Eastern European membership in NATO as of early 1990 and through 1991, that discussions of NATO in the context of German unification negotiations in 1990 were not at all narrowly limited to the status of East German territory, and that subsequent Soviet and Russian complaints about being misled about NATO expansion were founded in written contemporaneous memcons and telcons at the highest levels. … The documents reinforce former CIA Director Robert Gates’s criticism of ‘pressing ahead with expansion of NATO eastward [in the 1990s], when Gorbachev and others were led to believe that wouldn’t happen.’ …

President George H.W. Bush had assured Gorbachev during the Malta summit in December 1989 that the U.S. would not take advantage (‘I have not jumped up and down on the Berlin Wall”) of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests.’”[9]

The minutes of a March 6, 1991 meeting in Bonn, West Germany between political directors of the foreign ministries of the US, UK, France, and Germany contain multiple references to “2+4” talks on German unification in which Western officials made it “clear” to the Soviet Union that NATO would not push into territory east of Germany. “We made it clear to the Soviet Union – in the 2+4 talks, as well as in other negotiations – that we do not intend to benefit from the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe,” the document in British foreign ministry archives quotes US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Canada Raymond Seitz. “NATO should not expand to the east, either officially or unofficially,” Seitz added. A British representative also mentions the existence of a “general agreement” that membership of NATO for eastern European countries is “unacceptable.”[10]

The dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991 was a watershed event in terms of the decline of leftism and the decline of the secular left.

See also



  • Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Grand Failure: The Birth and Death of Communism in the Twentieth Century (1990)
  • Ingram, Philip. Russia and the USSR, 1905-1991 (1997) excerpt and text search
  • Keep, John L. H. Last of the Empires: A History of the Soviet Union, 1945-1991 (1996) online edition
  • McCauley, Martin. The Soviet Union: 1917-1991 (1993) online edition
  • McCauley, Martin. Who's Who in Russia since 1900, (1997) online edition
  • Malia, Martin. Soviet Tragedy: A History of Socialism in Russia (1995) excerpt and text search
  • Nove, Alec. An Economic History of the USSR 1917-1991 (3rd ed. 1993)
  • Pipes, Richard. Communism: A History (2003), by a leading conservative
  • Suny, Ronald Grigor. The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States. (1998) online edition

Lenin and Stalin

  • Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (1992), a double biography covering each man in separate but parallel chapters
  • Lee, Stephen J. Stalin and the Soviet Union (1999) online edition
  • McCauley, Martin. Stalin and Stalinism (3rd ed 2003), 172pp
  • Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography (2004), along with Tucker the standard biography
  • Service, Robert. Lenin: A Biography (2002)
  • Tucker, Robert C. Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929 (1973); Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1929-1941. (1990) online edition with Service, a standard biography; online at ACLS e-books
  • Ulam, A. B. Stalin (1973), good older biography; replaced by Tucker and Service
  • Wood, Alan. Stalin and Stalinism, (2004), 105pp online edition

Peoples, society, culture

  • Cole, J. P. Geography of the Soviet Union (1984) online edition
  • Davis, Nathaniel. A Long Walk to Church: A Contemporary History of Russian Orthodoxy (1995) online edition
  • Denber, Rachel. The Soviet Nationality Reader: The Disintegration in Context (1992) online edition
  • Lane, David. Soviet Society under Perestroika (1992) online edition
  • Lapidus, Gail Warshofsky. Women, Work, and Family in the Soviet Union (1982) online edition
  • Lutz, Wolfgang Lutz, Sergei Scherbov, Andrei Volkov. Demographic Trends and Patterns in the Soviet Union before 1991 (1994) online edition
  • Wixman, Ronald. The Peoples of the USSR: An Ethnographic Handbook (1984) online edition


  • Daniels, R. V., ed. The Stalin Revolution (1965)
  • Davies, Sarah, and James Harris, eds. Stalin: A New History, (2006), 310pp, 14 specialized essays by scholars excerpt and text search
  • De Jonge, Alex. Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union (1986)
  • Fitzpatrick, Sheila, ed. Stalinism: New Directions, (1999), 396pp excerpts from many scholars on the impact of Stalinism on the people (little on Stalin himself) online edition
  • Hoffmann, David L. ed. Stalinism: The Essential Readings, (2002) essays by 12 scholars
  • Pipes, Richard. A Concise History of the Russian Revolution (1996) excerpt and text search, by a leading conservative
  • Tucker, Robert. Stalinism: Essays in Historical Interpretation (1998) excerpt and text search

Gulag and Terror

  • Applebaum, Anne. Gulag: A History. 2003. 736 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror: A Reassessment (1991) online edition
  • Pohl, J. Otto. Ethnic Cleansing in the USSR, 1937-1949 (1999) online edition
  • Rosefielde, Steven. "Stalinism in Post-Communist Perspective: New Evidence on Killings, Forced Labour and Economic Growth in the 1930s" Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 48, No. 6 (Sep., 1996), pp. 959–987 in JSTOR

World War II

  • Brandon, Ray, and Wendy Lower, eds. The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization. (2008). 378 pp. online review, on the Holocaust
  • Broekmeyer, Marius. Stalin, the Russians, and Their War, 1941-1945. 2004. 315 pp.
  • Overy, Richard. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia. 2004. 448 pp. focus on 1930-45 excerpt and text search
  • Priestland, David. Stalinism and the Politics of Mobilization (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Roberts, Geoffrey. Stalin's Wars: From World War to Cold War, 1939–1953 (2006).

Cold War

  • see Cold War
  • Craig, Campbell, and Yuri Smirnov. Truman, Stalin, and the Bomb (2008)
  • Gaddis, John. A New History of the Cold War (2006)
  • Holloway, David. Stalin and the Bomb: The Soviet Union and Atomic Energy, 1939-1956 (1996) excerpt and text search
  • Mastny, Vojtech. The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years (1998) online edition online at ACLS e-books
  • Zubok, Vladislav M. A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007) excerpt and text search

Khruschev, Gorbachev

  • Brown, Archie. The Gorbachev Factor (1996) online edition
  • Dallin, Alexander, and Gail W. Lapidus. The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse (1995) online edition
  • Matlock, Jack. Reagan and Gorbachev: How the Cold War Ended (2005), by leading conservative excerpt and text search
  • Taubman, William. Khrushchev: The Man and His Era (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Zubok, Vladislav M. A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War from Stalin to Gorbachev (2007) excerpt and text search


  1. This Day in History USSR Established 1922
  3. Lenin’s Electoral Strategy from 1907 to the October Revolution of 1917: The Ballot, the Streets—or Both
  4. Michael Hesemann, Whitley Strieber (2000). The Fatima Secret. Random House Digital, Inc.. Retrieved on 9 October 2011. “Lenin's death in 1924 was followed by the rise of Joseph Stalin, "the man of steel," who founded the "Union of Militant Atheists," whose chief aim was to spread atheism and eradicate religion. In the following years it devastated hundreds of churches, destroyed old icons and relics, and persecuted the clergy with unimaginable brutality.” 
  7. For years it was believed there was no written record of the Baker-Gorbachev exchange at all, until the National Security Archive at George Washington University in December 2017 published a series of memos and cables about these assurances against NATO expansion eastward.

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