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USSR or CCCP

600px-Flag of the Soviet Union.svg-1-

Motto
Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь! Translates:Workers of the world, unite!
Capital
Moscow
Languages
Russian (de Facto) and 14 other official languages
Government type
Federal Socialist Republic
Established
December 30, 1922
Disestablished
December 26 1991
Area (as of 1991)
22,402,200 km² (8,649,538 sq mi)
Population (as of 1991)
293,047,571
Density
13.1 /km² (33.9 /sq mi)
Currency
Ruble (SUR)


The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR, Russian: Союз Советских Социалистических Республик, СССР?·i; tr.: Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik, SSSR), also called the Soviet Union (Russian: Советский Союз; tr.: Sovetsky Soyuz), was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991.

Emerging from the Russian Empire following the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War of 1918–1921, the USSR was a union of several Soviet republics, but the synecdoche Russia—after its largest and dominant constituent state—continued to be commonly used throughout the state's existence. The geographic boundaries of the USSR varied with time, but after the last major territorial annexations of the Baltic states, eastern Poland, Bessarabia, and certain other territories during World War II, from 1945 until dissolution the boundaries approximately corresponded to those of late Imperial Russia, with the notable exclusions of Poland, most of Finland, and Alaska. The Soviet Union became the primary model for future Communist states during the Cold War; the government and the political organization of the country were defined by the only political party, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

From 1945 until dissolution in 1991—a period known as the Cold War—the Soviet Union and the United States of America were the two world superpowers that dominated the global agenda of economic policy, foreign affairs, military operations, cultural exchange, scientific advancements including the pioneering of space exploration, and sports (including the Olympic Games and various world championships).

Initially established as a union of four Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR grew to contain 15 constituent or "union republics" by 1956: Armenian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR, Byelorussian SSR, Estonian SSR, Georgian SSR, Kazakh SSR, Kirghiz SSR, Latvian SSR, Lithuanian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Russian SFSR, Tajik SSR, Turkmen SSR, Ukrainian SSR, and Uzbek SSR. (From annexation of the Estonian SSR on August 6, 1940 up to the reorganisation of the Karelo-Finnish SSR into the Karelian ASSR on July 16, 1956, the count of "union republics" was 16.)

History, Revolution, and Founding of the StateEdit

600px-Coat of arms of the Soviet Union.svg-1-

Modern revolutionary activity in the Russian Empire began with the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, and although serfdom was abolished in 1861, its abolition was achieved on terms unfavorable to the peasants and served to encourage revolutionaries. A parliament—the State Duma—was established in 1906 after the Russian Revolution of 1905, but the Tzar resisted attempts to move from absolute to constitutional monarchy. Social unrest continued and was aggravated during World War I by military defeat and food shortages in major cities.

A spontaneous popular uprising in Petrograd, in response to the wartime decay of Russia's economy and morale, culminated in the toppling of the imperial government in March 1917 (see February Revolution). The tsarist autocracy was replaced by the Russian Provisional Government, whose leaders intended to establish liberal democracy in Russia and to continue participating on the side of the Entente in World War I. At the same time, to ensure the rights of the working class, workers' councils, known as soviets, sprang up across the country. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, pushed for socialist revolution in the soviets and on the streets. They seized power from the Provisional Government in November 1917 (see October Revolution). Only after the long and bloody Russian Civil War of 1918–1921, which included foreign intervention in several parts of Russia, was the new Soviet power secure. In a related conflict with Poland, the "Peace of Riga" in early 1921 split disputed territories in Belarus and Ukraine between Poland and Soviet Russia.

UnificationEdit

On December 28, 1922 a conference of plenipotentiary delegations from the RSFSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR, the Ukrainian SSR and the Byelorussian SSR approved the Treaty of Creation of the USSR and the Declaration of the Creation of the USSR, forming the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. These two documents were confirmed by the 1st Congress of Soviets of the USSR and signed by heads of delegations - Mikhail Kalinin, Mikha Tskhakaya, Mikhail Frunze and Grigory Petrovsky, Aleksandr Chervyakov respectively on December 30, 1922. The first foreign state to recognize the Soviet Union was the Irish Republic. On February 1, 1924 the USSR was recognized by the British Empire.

The intensive restructuring of the economy, industry and politics of the country began in the early days of Soviet power in 1917. A large part of this was performed according to Bolshevik Initial Decrees, documents of the Soviet government, signed by Vladimir Lenin. One of the most prominent breakthroughs was the GOELRO plan, that envisioned a major restructuring of the Soviet economy based on total electrification of the country. The Plan was developed in 1920 and covered a ten to 15 year period. It included construction of a network of 30 regional power plants, including ten large hydroelectric power plants, and numerous electric-powered large industrial enterprises. The Plan became the prototype for subsequent Five-Year Plans and was basically fulfilled by 1931.

Stalin's RuleEdit

443px-Stalin1-1-

From its beginning years, government in the Soviet Union was based on the one-party rule of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks). After the economic policy of War Communism during the Civil War, the Soviet government permitted some private enterprise to coexist with nationalized industry in the 1920s and total food requisition in the countryside was replaced by a food tax (see New Economic Policy). Soviet leaders argued that one party rule was necessary because it ensured that 'capitalist exploitation' would not return to the Soviet Union and that the principles of Democratic Centralism would represent the people's will. 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 his influence and isolating his rivals within the party, Georgian Joseph Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union by the end of the 1920s.

In 1928, Stalin introduced the First Five-Year Plan for building a socialist economy. While encompassing the internationalism expressed by Lenin throughout the course of the Revolution, it also aimed for building socialism in one country. In industry, the state assumed control over all existing enterprises and undertook an intensive program of industrialization; in agriculture collective farms were established all over the country. It met widespread resistance from kulaks and some prosperous peasants, who withheld grain, resulting in a bitter struggle of this class against the authorities and the poor peasants. Famines occurred causing millions of deaths and surviving kulaks were politically persecuted and many sent to Gulags to do forced labour. A wide range of death tolls has been suggested, from as many as 60 million kulaks being killed suggested by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn to as few as 700 thousand by Soviet news sources. Social upheaval continued in the mid-1930s. Stalin's Great Purge of the party eliminated many "Old Bolsheviks" who had participated in the Revolution with Lenin. Yet despite the turmoil of the mid- to late 1930s, the Soviet Union developed a powerful industrial economy in the years before World War II.

The 1930s saw closer cooperation between the West and the USSR. In 1933, diplomatic relations between the United States and the USSR were established. Four years later, the USSR actively supported the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War against the Nationalists, which were supported by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Nevertheless, after Great Britain and France concluded the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany, the USSR dealt with the latter as well, both economically and militarily, by concluding the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact, which involved the occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the invasion of Poland in 1939. In late November 1939, unable to force Finland into agreement to move its border 25 kilometres back from Leningrad by diplomatic means, Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland. Although it has been debated whether the Soviet Union had the intention of invading Nazi Germany once it was strong enough[citation needed], Germany itself broke the treaty and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The Red Army stopped the Nazi offensive in the Battle of Stalingrad, lasting from late 1942 to early 1943, being the major turning point, and drove through Eastern Europe to Berlin before Germany surrendered in 1945 (see Great Patriotic War). Although ravaged by the war, the Soviet Union emerged from the conflict as an acknowledged superpower.

During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded its economy, while maintaining its strictly centralized control. The Soviet Union aided post-war reconstruction in the countries of Eastern Europe while turning them into Soviet satellite states, founded the Warsaw Pact in 1955, later, the Comecon, supplied aid to the eventually victorious Communists in the People's Republic of China, and saw its influence grow elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the rising tension of the Cold War turned the Soviet Union's wartime allies, the United Kingdom and the United States, into enemies.

Post Stalin RuleEdit

Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953. In the absence of an acceptable successor, the highest Communist Party officials opted to rule the Soviet Union jointly, although a struggle for power took place behind the facade of collective leadership. Nikita Khrushchev, who had won the power struggle by the mid-1950s, denounced Stalin's use of repression in 1956 and eased repressive controls over party and society known as de-Stalinization. At the same time, Soviet military force was used to suppress nationalistic uprisings in Hungary and Poland in 1956. During this period, the Soviet Union continued to realize scientific and technological pioneering exploits; to launch the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1; a living dog, Laika; and later, the first human being, Yuri Gagarin, into Earth's orbit. Valentina Tereshkova was the first woman in space aboard Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963, and Alexey Leonov became the first person to walk in space on March 18 1965. Khrushchev's reforms in agriculture and administration, however, were generally unproductive, and foreign policy towards China and the United States suffered difficulties, including those that led to the Sino-Soviet split. Khrushchev was retired from power in 1964.

Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued, lasting until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the preeminent figure in Soviet political life. Brezhnev presided over a period of Détente with 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. Another contributing factor was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979.

Throughout the period, the Soviet Union maintained parity with or superiority to the United States in the areas of military numbers and technology, but this strained the economy. 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 aversion to change. The long period of Brezhnev's rule had come to be dubbed one of "standstill" (застой), with an aging and ossified top political leadership.

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. Agricultural development continued, but could not keep up with the growing consumption and the USSR had to import food products like grain. Due to the low investment in consumer goods, the USSR was largely only able to export raw materials, notably oil, which made it vulnerable to global price shifts. Moreover, human welfare in the Soviet Union was keeping behind Western and socialist Central-European levels, after initially converging in the 1950s and 60's. Even in absolute measurements, Soviet citizens were becoming less healthy between the 1960s and 1985: the crude death rate climbed from 6.9 per 1,000 in 1964 to 10.3 in 1980.

Gorbachev reforms and dissolutionEdit

Perestroika-1-

Two developments dominated the decade that followed: the increasingly apparent crumbling of the Soviet Union's economic and political structures, and the patchwork attempts at reforms to reverse that process. After the rapid succession of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, transitional figures with deep roots in Brezhnevite tradition, beginning in 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev made significant changes in the economy (see Perestroika, Glasnost) and the party leadership. His policy of glasnost freed public access to information after decades of heavy government censorship.

In the late 1980s, the constituent republics of the Soviet Union started legal moves towards or even declaration of sovereignty over their territories, citing Article 72 of the USSR Constitution, which stated that any constituent republic was free to secede.[9] On April 7, 1990 a law was passed, that a republic could secede, if more than two thirds of that republic's residents vote for it on a referendum. Many held their first free elections in the Soviet era for their own national legislatures in 1990. Many of these legislatures proceeded to produce legislation contradicting the Union laws in what was known as "The War of Laws". In 1989, the Russian SFSR, which was then the largest constituent republic (with about half of the population) convened a newly elected Congress of People's Deputies. Boris Yeltsin was elected the chairman of the Congress. On June 12, 1990, the Congress declared Russia's sovereignty over its territory and proceeded to pass laws that attempted to supersede some of the USSR's laws. The period of legal uncertainty continued throughout 1991 as constituent republics slowly became de facto independent.

A referendum for the preservation of the USSR was held on March 17, 1991, with the majority of the population voting for preservation of the Union in nine out of fifteen republics. The referendum gave Gorbachev a minor boost, and, in the summer of 1991, the New Union Treaty was designed and agreed upon by eight republics which would have turned the Soviet Union into a much looser federation.

The signing of the treaty, however, was interrupted by the August Coup—an attempted coup d'état against Gorbachev by hardline Marxist members of the government, who sought to reverse Gorbachev's reforms and reassert the central government's control over the republics. After the coup collapsed, Yeltsin came out as a hero while Gorbachev's power was effectively ended. The balance of power tipped significantly towards the republics. In August 1991, Latvia and Estonia immediately declared restoration of full independence (following Lithuania's 1990 example), while the other 12 republics continued discussing new, increasingly looser, models of the Union.

On December 8, 1991, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords which declared the Soviet Union dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place. While doubts remained over the authority of the Belavezha Accords to dissolve the Union, on December 21, 1991, the representatives of all Soviet republics except Georgia, including those republics that had signed the Belavezha Accords, signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the dismemberment and consequential extinction of the USSR and restated the establishment of the CIS. The summit of Alma-Ata also agreed on several other practical measures consequential to the extinction of the Union. On December 25, 1991, Gorbachev yielded to the inevitable and resigned as the president of the USSR, declaring the office extinct. He turned the powers that until then were vested in the presidency over to Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia. The following day, the Supreme Soviet, the highest governmental body of the Soviet Union, recognized the collapse of the Soviet Union and dissolved itself. This is generally recognized as the official, final dissolution of the Soviet Union as a functioning state. Many organizations such as the Soviet Army and police forces continued to remain in place in the early months of 1992 but were slowly phased out and either withdrawn from or absorbed by the newly independent states.

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