Where is the Soviet Union

Birth of a superpower

Hunger, misery and millions of dead are at the beginning of the history of the Soviet Union. In November 1917 - in the middle of the First World War - the Bolsheviks had usurped power in Russia. The hated tsar was already in exile. Now the bourgeois government was also driven out. Workers 'and soldiers' councils, the so-called soviets, now determined politics. The instigator of the coup, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, promised the people a new era.

"What is it, Soviet power? The Soviet power is not a miracle-bringing talisman. It cannot cure all the evils of the past overnight. But it paves the way to socialism. It now gives those who were previously oppressed the opportunity." to stand up again and to take, to an ever greater extent, the entire government of the country, the entire administration of the economy and the entire management of production into their own hands. "

But the disempowered Russian nobility did not just let their property be taken away. The October Revolution turned into a civil war. Millions of people were killed on battlefields, through terror and epidemics. In the end the communists won. But the country was down. The daily newspaper "Pravda" wrote in February 1920:

"The workers in the cities and, in some cases, in the villages too, are writhing with hunger. The railways barely move from the spot. The houses are weathered and dilapidated. The cities are full of rubbish. Epidemics are spreading, and death takes its victims everywhere."

Communist economic policies made it worse. The industry was nationalized. The Russian farmers had to give up their entire harvest. A gigantic bureaucracy now ensured redistribution. Productivity fell well below the pre-war level. The population starved and froze. In March 1921 the Kronstadt sailors mutinied.

The uprising was bloodily suppressed, but the regime corrected its policy. Some market economy was allowed again. Lenin himself announced the decision:

"Comrades! Because the obligation to deliver grain has been replaced by tax in kind, the farmer will have an abundance of grain if the harvest is good. The farmers are legally free to use this grain surplus, for example to improve their own supplies, as fodder, as an exchange for industrial goods."

The economy recovered and the Bolsheviks began to build the state. After the October Revolution, Soviet republics had also emerged in Ukraine, Belarus and the Caucasus. But the communists disagreed about what cooperation might look like. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of Russia, Joseph Stalin, pleaded for the countries to be annexed to Russia in order to unite all power in Moscow. Lenin, on the other hand, wanted to give the peoples a limited autonomy. He had a federation in mind. He also wrote this in his theses on the national question:

"The federation is a transitional form to the complete unity of the working people of different nations. The federation has already proven its expediency in practice, both in the relations of Russia with other Soviet republics as well as within Russia with regard to the nationalities, which previously had neither a separate state existence still had an autonomy. "

Lenin largely prevailed. On December 30, 1922, representatives of the Russian, Ukrainian, Byelorussian and Caucasian Soviet Republics met in Moscow and founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - USSR for short. The many peoples of the country were promised autonomy in educational and cultural matters. Headquarters in Moscow was in charge of foreign and defense policy.

This laid the foundations of the state. The relationship between Lenin and Stalin, however, remained shattered. Lenin recommended that the party replace Stalin as general secretary. But the leader of the revolution could no longer assert himself. Several strokes left Lenin speechless. In 1924 he died shielded from the public. But Stalin developed the USSR with extreme brutality into a superpower.