Soviet Terror, Victory Began 100 Years Ago

MOSCOW (AP) — The Soviet Union’s brutality, technological achievements, and rigid ideology loomed over the world like an immortal colossus.

It has led mankind into outer space, detonated ever more powerful nuclear weapons, imposed bloody purges and brutal labor camps on its own people, and portrayed itself as the vanguard of the Enlightenment Revolution.

However, its lifespan was shorter than the average human. He was born 100 years ago and died before his 69th birthday.

The Soviet Union inspired the loyalty and dismay of its 285 million citizens. This dichotomy was summed up by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who infamously served in his KGB security agency.

“Anyone who does not regret the collapse of the Soviet Union is heartless,” he said. “People who want it back are brainless.”

To mark the 100th anniversary of the treaty that formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, AP reviews the events of its rise and fall.


Five years after the overthrow of the Russian Tsar, the four subsequently formed socialist republics signed a treaty to create the Soviet Union on December 30, 1922. Belarus; Transcaucasia, which spans Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; Russia including the possessions of the old empires of Central Asia. The Soviet Union, which later expanded to include Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, left the republic with its own government and language, all subordinate to Moscow.

Death of Lenin

The first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, was already in failing health when the Soviet Union was formed and died just over a year later. Joseph Stalin defeated his rival in the ensuing power struggle.


Stalin incorporated private land into state and collective farms. Collectivization resistance and policy inefficiencies exacerbated the famine. His 1932-33 “Holodomor” in Ukraine killed an estimated 4 million people, and many call it outright genocide.

great purge

In the 1930s, the Soviet authorities, driven by fear of Stalin’s rivals, initiated show trials of notable purported enemies of the state, often citing widespread denunciations on the grounds of nothing more than accusations from neighbors. Arrested and executed. According to estimates, 1.2 million of his people died in 1937-1938, during the height of his purges.

Second World War

World War II devastated the Soviet Union, but it cemented its superpower status and inflated the minds of its citizens with the conviction that it was a noble and indomitable nation.

An estimated 27 million Soviets died. The Battle of Stalingrad was the bloodiest in history. The Nazis and their allied forces besieged Leningrad for more than his two years. The Red Army pushed back tenaciously, advancing slowly and reaching Berlin, ending the European theater of war.

The war left Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia in the Soviet Union, as well as what would later become Moldova. Stalin used the wartime conference to claim Soviet spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, ultimately drawing Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and East Germany behind the Iron Curtain. rice field.

Stalin’s death

Stalin’s death in 1953 was a shock to the adored Soviet Union. Thousands of people gathered to mourn and more than 100 people are reported to have died. He left no designated successor and the country’s leadership was embroiled in a power struggle.Nikita Khrushchev cemented his position at the top in 1955.

Khrushchev saw

A formerly loyal official, Khrushchev turned his back on his predecessor, who was once firmly in power. In his speech at the Communist Party Congress, he spent hours taunting Stalin’s atrocities and the “cult of personality” he created. He later removed Stalin’s body from the Red Square mausoleum, where Lenin’s body also lay.

This speech was a key point during the Khrushchev thaw, when repression and censorship were relaxed.

Khrushchev was ousted in 1964 by a vote of the Supreme Soviet Presidium, headed by Leonid Brezhnev. He became the leader of the Soviet Union.

space race

The launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957 aroused great concern in the United States that the Soviet Union was technologically ahead. The United States accelerated its space program, but the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin, the first man into space, four years after her. His 15-minute suborbital flight the following month by American Alan Shepard only highlighted the gap in space.

cuban crisis

Perhaps the closest the world has ever come to full-scale nuclear war was in 1962, when the United States and the Soviet Union clashed over Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba, and Khrushchev’s Sent Soviet nuclear missiles to counter nuclear-capable missiles. The U.S. ordered a naval blockade of the islands, raising tensions, but the Soviets agreed to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey in exchange for them. It was the establishment of So Hotline.


During the Brezhnev era, Washington and Moscow engaged in a so-called “détente” period, in which several arms treaties were signed, trade relations improved, the docking of Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft, the first joint missions in space. . It ended after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Brezhnev died in his 1982, and his successors, Yuri his Andropov and Konstantin his Chernenko, were in poor health and died less than 15 months into his tenure.

afghanistan war

Despite Afghanistan’s reputation as a “graveyard of empires,” the Soviets sent troops in 1979 to assassinate the country’s leader and install a docile successor. The fighting lasted him nearly ten years. The Soviet army—115,000 of him at the height of the war—was beaten down by resistance fighters accustomed to rough terrain. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev initiated his withdrawal in 1987 and completed it in 1989. More than 14,000 Red Army troops died in the conflict, tarnishing the image of Soviet military superiority.


“They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work.” This ironic line was popular during the Brezhnev era when the economy fell into slow or even negative growth. rice field.

Rise of Gorbachev

After Chernenko’s death, when Gorbachev was elected leader of the Communist Party, the gloomy melancholy that began in the late 70s was lifted. brought a very human touch to an opaque government and sparked a frenzy in the West dubbed “Golbymania.” Within months, he used “glasnost” or openness to pursue “perestroika”, the goal of restructuring, and campaigned to end the economic and political stagnation.

He signed two landmark arms deals with the United States, freeing political prisoners, allowing public debate, multi-candidate elections, freedom to travel, and ending religious persecution.

However, the power he unleashed soon escaped his control. Long-repressed ethnic tensions have erupted into conflict in regions such as the South Caucasus. Strikes and labor unrest continued, leading to rising prices and shortages of consumer goods, leaving even the most famous Moscow stores empty.


Gorbachev’s position in the West was undermined in 1986 when the reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded, spewing radioactive fallout over much of Europe for a week. Despite Gorbachev’s vaunted glasnost, during his two days the Soviets kept the catastrophe unknown to the outside world or even their own people. They allowed his massive May Day event in Kyiv despite rising radiation levels.

the fall of the berlin wall

The Soviet Union sent troops to quell uprisings in the satellite states of Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1956 and 1968, but in 1989 when a wave of democratization and dissent spread across the Eastern Bloc countries , did not intervene. East Germany opened a passageway to West Germany: jubilant demonstrators swarmed the Berlin Wall, which had blocked the Soviet sector of the city since 1961, smashing the mass.

coup attempt

On August 19, 1991, the Soviet Chancellor, Defense Minister, KGB head, and other officials, alarmed by growing separatism and economic problems, placed Gorbachev under house arrest at his vacationing dacha and ordered him out of all politics. ordered to cease operations. Tanks and troops came to the ground in the streets of Moscow, but crowds gathered to fight them. Russian President Boris Yeltsin climbed into a tank outside the parliament building and denounced the plotters of the coup. The attempt failed in his three days, and Gorbachev returned to Moscow, but with a significantly weakened power.


Over the next four months, the Soviet Union collapsed in the slow drama of collapsing glaciers as several republics, including Ukraine, declared independence. Yeltsin banned Communist Party activity in Russia.

In early December, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed a pact stating that the Soviet Union had ceased to exist. On December 25, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet flag was taken down from the Kremlin.

Debate continues as to what caused the Colossus to fall. Its oppressive methods, poor decisions by its ailing leaders, and its adherence to perhaps unworkable ideologies all may have played a role.

Thirty years later, analyst Dmitry Trenin, then director of the Moscow Carnegie Center, told the Associated Press: