Saturday, January 12, 2013

Soviet Union

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Other names

Союз Советских Социалистических Республик
Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik

Motto: Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!
(Translit.: Proletarii vsekh stran, soyedinyaytes'!)
English: Workers of the world, unite!
Anthem: "The Internationale"

"National Anthem of the Soviet Union"
and largest city
55°45′N 37°37′E
Official languages none (de jure)/Russian (de facto)
Ethnic groups (1991) 50.78% Russians
15.45% Ukrainians
5.84% Uzbeks
3.51% Byelorussian
About 100 others and unspecified
Demonym Soviet
Government Union,
Marxist–Leninist single-party state
Legislature Supreme Soviet
 -  Total 22,402,200 km2
6,592,800 sq mi 
GDP (PPP) 1990 estimate
 -  Total $2.660 trillion
 -  Per capita $9,130
GDP (nominal) 1990 estimate
 -  Total $775.810 billion
 -  Per capita $2,684
Currency Soviet ruble (руб) (SUR) (SUR)
Time zone (UTC+2 to +13)
Drives on the right
Calling code +7
Internet TLD .su
On 21 December 1991, eleven of the former socialist republics declared in Alma-Ata (with the 12th republic – Georgia – attending as an observer) that with the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ceases to exist.
Assigned on 19 September 1990, existing onwards.
The governments of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania view themselves as continuous and unrelated to the respective Soviet republics.
Russia views the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian SSRs as legal constituent republics of the USSR and predecessors of the modern Baltic states.
The Government of the United States and a number of other countries did not recognize the annexation of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to the USSR as a legal inclusion.
Soviet Union
This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the Soviet Union
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Russian: Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик, tr. Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik) abbreviated to USSR (Russian: СССР, tr. SSSR) or the Soviet Union (Russian: Советский Союз, tr. Sovetsky Soyuz), was a constitutionally socialist state that existed between 1922 and 1991, ruled as a single-party state by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital. A union of 15 subnational Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized.
The Soviet Union had its roots in the Russian Revolution of 1917, which deposed Nicholas II, ending three hundred years of Romanov dynastic rule. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd and overthrew the Provisional Government. The Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic was established and a civil war began. The Red Army entered several territories of the former Russian Empire and helped local communists seize power. In 1922, the Bolsheviks were victorious, forming the Soviet Union with the unification of the Russian, Transcaucasian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian republics. Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika collective leadership and a brief power struggle, Joseph Stalin came to power in the mid 1920s. Stalin committed the state ideology to Marxism-Leninism and initiated a centrally planned economy. As a result, the country underwent a period of rapid industrialisation and collectivisation which laid the basis for its later war effort and dominance after World War II.However, Stalin repressed both Communist Party members and elements of the population through his authoritarian rule.
During World War II, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, opening the largest and bloodiest theatre of war in history and violating an earlier non-aggression pact between the two countries. The Soviet Union suffered the largest loss of life in the war, but halted the Axis advance at intense battles such as at Stalingrad, eventually driving through Eastern Europe and capturing Berlin in 1945. Having played the decisive role in the Allied victory in Europe, the Soviet Union established the Eastern Bloc in much of Central and Eastern Europe and emerged as one of the world's two superpowers after the war. Together with new socialist satellite states, through which the Soviet Union established economic and military pacts, it became involved in the Cold War, a prolonged ideological and political struggle against the Western Bloc, and in particular the other superpower, the United States.
A de-Stalinisation period followed Stalin's death, reducing the harshest aspects of society. The Soviet Union then went on to initiate significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including launching the first ever satellite and world's first human spaceflight, which led it into the Space Race. The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 marked a period of extreme tension between the two superpowers, considered the closest to a mutual nuclear confrontation. In the 1970s, a relaxation of relations followed, but tensions resumed when, after a Communist-led revolution in Afghanistan, Soviet forces entered the country by request of the new regime. The occupation drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results.
In the late 1980s the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, also sought reforms in the Union, introducing the policies of glasnost and perestroika in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and democratize the government. However, this led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. By 1991, the country was in turmoil as the Baltic republics began to secede. A referendum resulted in the vast majority of participating citizens voting in favour of preserving the Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état attempt by hardliners against Gorbachev and aimed at preserving the country, instead led to its collapse. On 25 December 1991, the USSR was dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states. The Russian Federation, successor of the Russian SFSR, assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations and is recognised as its continued legal personality.

Reforms and dissolution

Gorbachev in one-to-one discussions with U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
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. Kenneth S. Deffeyes argued in Beyond Oil that the Reagan administration encouraged Saudi Arabia to lower the price of oil to the point where the Soviets could not make a profit selling their oil, so that the USSR's hard currency reserves became depleted.
Brezhnev's next two successors, transitional figures with deep roots in his tradition, did not last long. Yuri Andropov was 68 years old and Konstantin Chernenko 72 when they assumed power; both died in less than two years. In an attempt to avoid a third short-lived leader, in 1985, the Soviets turned to the next generation and selected Mikhail Gorbachev.
Gorbachev made significant changes in the economy and party leadership, called perestroika. His policy of glasnost freed public access to information after decades of heavy government censorship.

Soviet troops withdrawing from Afghanistan in 1988
Gorbachev also moved to end the Cold War. In 1988, the Soviet Union abandoned its nine-year war in Afghanistan and began to withdraw its forces. In the late 1980s, he refused military support to the Soviet Union's former satellite states, resulting in the toppling of multiple communist regimes. With the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and with East Germany and West Germany pursuing unification, the Iron Curtain came down.
In the late 1980s, the constituent republics of the Soviet Union started legal moves towards potentially declaring sovereignty over their territories, citing Article 72 of the USSR constitution, which stated that any constituent republic was free to secede. On 7 April 1990, a law was passed allowing a republic to secede if more than two-thirds of its residents voted for it in 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 its chairman. On 12 June 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 17 March 1991, with the majority of the population voting for preservation of the Union in nine out of the 15 republics. The referendum gave Gorbachev a minor boost. In the summer of 1991, the New Union Treaty, which would have turned the Soviet Union into a much looser Union, was agreed upon by eight republics.

Yeltsin stands on a tank to defy the August Coup in 1991.
The signing of the treaty, however, was interrupted by the August Coup—an attempted coup d'état by hardline members of the government and the KGB who sought to reverse Gorbachev's reforms and reassert the central government's control over the republics. After the coup collapsed, Yeltsin was seen as a hero for his decisive actions, while Gorbachev's power was effectively ended. The balance of power tipped significantly towards the republics. In August 1991, Latvia and Estonia immediately declared the restoration of their full independence (following Lithuania's 1990 example), while the other twelve republics continued discussing new, increasingly looser, models of the Union.
On 8 December 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 accords to do this, on 21 December 1991, the representatives of all Soviet republics except Georgia signed the Alma-Ata Protocol, which confirmed the accords. On 25 December 1991, Gorbachev yielded to the inevitable and resigned as the President of the USSR, declaring the office extinct. He turned the powers that had been vested in the presidency over to Yeltsin, the President of Russia.
The following day, the Supreme Soviet, the highest governmental body of the Soviet Union, dissolved itself. This is generally recognized as marking the official, final dissolution of the Soviet Union as a functioning state. The Soviet Army remained in place in the early months of 1992, but was thereafter absorbed into the different military forces of the newly independent states.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991, Russia was internationally recognized as its legal successor on the international stage. To that end, Russia voluntarily accepted all Soviet foreign debt and claimed overseas Soviet properties as its own. Under the 1992 Lisbon Protocol, Russia also agreed to receive all nuclear weapons remaining in the territory of other former Soviet republics. Since then, the Russian Federation has assumed the Soviet Union's rights and obligations.