The hammer and sickle of the Unoin of Soviet Socialist Republics1 once drew fear from the western world but the nation that had only a 80 year history had an important place in the earth's political and exploratory evolution. So here is a concise history of the USSR and what it stood for.
In 1917 at the height of the First World War, the troops sent by Tsar Nicholas II to fight on the Eastern Front against the German's turned back and headed home. The reason the felt they had a far greater struggle to fight back home against the opulence of the ruling class than against the armed agression of the Germans, thus the Communist revolution began. The main leader was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, AKA Lenin.
Socialism had been festering in the Russian Empire since before the war had begun. In 1861 the peasants were fiannly emancipated from serfdom, not because of any great change of heart on the part of Tsar Alexander II but merely to play catch up with the other European powers most notably Great Britain and France. Although emancipated from the small class of landowers the peasant couldn't be truely, fully emancipated and still had to exist as part of the village commune. The Russian version of Karl Marx's 'Capital' appeared in 1869, only two years after it's publication.
The Opening Gambit: The Revolution of 1905
The precursor to the great October of 1917 occurred shrtly after the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904. The Russian forces were ill-trained, under-equied and out-fought. On 9 January 1905 a protest lead by a priest was fired upon by troops and wnet down in history as 'Bloody Sunday'. Trotsky was an instigator behind this first revolution, he was arrested and exciled to Siberia.
Development: 1917 Onwards
Russia was engaging the Germans on the Eastern Front. While back home the people still feeling disenfranchised by the Emperor.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin, was the first leader of the Soviet Union.
Gorbachev and Glasnost
Gorbachev came to power in 198* and started on the long marck of Perestroika. He was a reformer and his wife Raisa mixed with the Western Heads of State's wife he was to meet very much as an equal in terms of clamour as opposed to previous Soviet Leaders.
The Endgame of 1991
Two years after the start of the break down of the Eastern European Communist regimes, in August 1991, Vladimir Kryuchov lead a coup d'etat whilst Gorbachev was at his holiday home on the Crimean coast. Gennadi Yanayev the Vice President of the Soviet Union was made the figurehead of this new regime which actually was reverting to old hard line principles. The coup leaders2 took over the White Palace, the home of the Russian Parliament, and clamped down on the independance movements in the Balkan Soviet Republics3.
Sport was seen as a great propaganda tool by the Soviets to prove that their system was superior to that of the west. Although a lot of the success has since been overshadowed by the allegations of systemnatic drug use of ther top athletes it does not take away for the determination and motivation that lead to many great advancements in sport.
The Soviets started the system of sports academies. Taking children who showed a talent for sport and placing them in an environment where they were allowed to develop that particular talent to it's full potential.
Chess and the Olympic sports were particualary targeted as areas in which to shine. Russia already had many great Chess players before the 1917 revelution from then on, the concentration of the world's top players from the U.S.S.R. increased as Chess was seen as the national sport and factories, schools and parks had places set aside for the playing of the game.
The Break-up of the Empire
The USSR started to splinter and fracture following the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. Gorabachev felt he could keep the Union together by bringing forward his reforms but the rise of Nationalism amongst the diverse peoples that made up the USSR became to strong a force to oppose and so the various republics started to go their seperate ways and thus began another bloody episode in the history of this very proud group of people.
References to the USSR in Media
The David Lean film 'Dr. Zhivago' covers a love story through the period of history that was the creation of the U.S.S.R. and many of the scenes in it depict historic moments from the Republics early history. Also 'Fiddler on the Roof' covered a simialr period from a Jewish village's perspective.
Of course the Soviet Union had it's own film industry at one point it produced even more films than Holywood. These of course were films that were seen as fit for the comrades of the Soviet Union to watch and although not necessarily all were propaganda films they steered away from any mention of how things were done in non-Communist societies.
The Beatles wrote a song as a bit of a take off of the Beach Boys 'California Girls' the song was 'Back in the USSR'. Although no Western Pop group was to appear there until the 1980's.
There are numerous films which make reference to the USSR indeed Hollywood has been crying out for a politically correct enemy ever since to no avail. The Cold war really added to the tension that thrillers could have by inserting a Soviet agent or the Red Army.