The Origin of the Soviet Union
The United Soviet Socialist Republic was born in 1917 after a revolution swept through the whole Russia. The revolution was caused by rising public unrest, severe food shortages, and gross corruption. During the reign of Nicholas II, the Russian economy was on the decline. His bad leadership caused a lot of suffering among the people. He also constantly dissolved Parliament to avoid scrutiny. The immediate cause of the revolution was the disastrous performance in the First World War (Nikolai, 1960). Russia lacked well-equipped weapons and skilled soldiers as compared to the industrialized Germany. Eventually, many soldiers were either hurt, or died in the war front. Similarly, the economy had been drained due to this involvement in the war, and the Russian nationalists planned to overthrow him. Afterward, there was a second revolution where the police killed the demonstrators. The police failed to quell the rebellion, which made Nicholas dissolve the parliament. Czar Nicholas resigned and opted to leave the throne to his brother Michael, who refused the crown. In essence, this ended the Czarist government in Russia. Eventually, the Russian nationalists put a provisional government in place. The Bolshevik party leader, Vladimir Lenin, organized a bloodless coup de tat, which overthrew the government (conquest, 1990). The Bolsheviks and their allies went ahead to occupy government buildings and important places in the Petrograd, which was the Russian capital. A new government was formed with Lenin as the leader of the country.
The Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin
Lenin wanted to create a society that practiced socialism and went ahead to introduce it. In 1922, due to his desire to practice the ideology, many states came together and formed the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Afterward, during the Russian civil war, he nationalized all property, in a policy known as the Communism War. The policy indicated that all roads, railways, and factories should be under the government control. The government also had the role of collecting and distributing food. Furthermore, he went ahead to nationalize all key industries. Moreover, he abolished private ownership of land and went ahead to distribute land among the peasants and all the production by the companies was dictated by the government. Workers’ control of production was also introduced; hence, the government went ahead to force people to work in certain industries. As a result, many freedoms were taken away from the people and their rights were violated immensely. The outcome of these decisions was gross public dissatisfaction, a situation that made the public ineffective in their work leading to food shortages (Acton, 1990). Lenin saw it necessary to bring changes, which included formulating a new economic plan to revive the economy. In the plan, farmers were allowed to sell their products in the open markets, and they were even permitted to employ people to work for them. Similarly, the government allowed some private ownership of property, state banks were re-established, and there was freedom of trade. In essence, Lenin endeavored to introduce socialism, which encouraged working together between the government and the people to bring development in the country. After his death, the Communist Party leader, Joseph Stalin succeeded him and introduced communism in the country.
The Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin
Stalin followed the footsteps of his predecessor Lenin. However, he applied extreme measures in the country, which turned him into an absolute dictator. He introduced Stalinism, a political theory used to explain a type of communism that dominated the Soviet Union. He exercised complete control over the economy, administered all the key industries, as well as established collective farms. He introduced a command economy by controlling everything in the country. He even used propaganda to establish his personality cult. Furthermore, he used the secret police to ensure everyone submitted to his will. During his era, there was only one state party, which was the communist party because all other parties had been banned. There was also excessive use of force against those who opposed him. He practiced collectivism in agriculture, an initiative where all the harvest were collected and later distributed to all the people in the country. Any person who was opposed to his rule was either arrested or taken to labor camps while others were executed publicly to instill fear. His main contribution to communism was the establishment of socialism in the country and the introduction of the theory of aggravation of class struggle, which supported the repression of political enemies.
The Causes of the Cold War
The war started after the end of the Second World War due to the emergence of two superpowers. In essence, this meant that there were two powerful countries in the world after the war. Those countries were the United States of America and the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Their competition began after the collapse of Germany in May 1945. The war was an ideological war that was fought using propaganda, giving of financial aid, giving of military aid, and even using the spies. Firstly, United States of America wanted to spread the capitalist ideology, which advocated for a free market economy, individualism, and even multi-partyism. On the other hand, the Soviet Union advocated for a single party system, a closely controlled economy where the government took complete control over its subjects. Thus, Europe was divided into two. There was the Western Europe, which was under the control of the United States, while the Eastern Europe was communist and controlled by the Soviet Union. Secondly, another cause of the war was the Truman doctrine. Harry Truman was the United States president and he purported that the USA would help countries in Eastern Europe gain their independence, and they would support those countries to re-establish themselves with democratic systems. They were hoping to help the Eastern countries because they believed that they were more civilized than they were.
The doctrine was seen as an act of provocation by the western countries as the Soviet Union saw that the United States was interfering in its affairs. Joseph Stalin, on the other hand, believed that the Soviet Union had a right to direct the development of eastern European countries as it had occupied them after the end of the Second World War. Eventually, the doctrine was seen to be the immediate cause of the war. Thirdly, another cause of the war was the differences over Germany. Western nations desired for a stronger Germany, thus wanted to rebuild it after the war, on the other hand, the eastern countries wanted a weaker Germany to make sure that it does not rise against them. The eastern nations wanted to secure their position in the world. Therefore, the differences led to the division of Germany into two; the East Germany, which was communist, and West Germany, which was a capitalist.
Fourthly, the formation of military alliances acted as a catalyst for the war. The western nations formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was to help the member countries in times of wars. On the other hand, the eastern countries responded by forming the Warsaw Pact, which was supposed to serve the same purpose. The military and economic alliances made nations aggressive as they were assured of help from their coalitions. The alliances were supposed to give financial aid to the member countries in times of need. The western countries formed the Marshal Plan, which aided its members while the eastern countries formed the Comecon that was aimed at helping communist countries financially. By helping countries with loans, they would get supporters for their ideologies.
Another cause was the iron curtain policy. Winston Churchill supported the policy and said that to enhance the power of the western capitalist countries; Europe was to be divided into two. Thus, any form of interaction between Eastern Europe and Western Europe was sealed off.
Another reason for the war was the aspect of “space race.” The two power blocs competed to outdo each other in sending spacecraft or astronauts into space. Yuri Gagarin became the first man to go to space while Neil Armstrong became the first person to land on the moon. The Russians were the first people to send the Sputnik, which became the first satellite to go around the earth. Moreover, another cause of the war had to do with the disagreement over disarmament. The two power blocs continued to produce harmful weapons like the nuclear bombs. Attempts to make them disarm failed even after holding the disarmament meetings. Moreover, the domination of the western nations in the United Nations organization facilitated the war. The United Nations favored countries in Western Europe, especially the United States. Thus, the Soviet Union was forced to use her veto power to oppose all decisions made by the organization to counter the favoritism demonstrated by the western nations. Lastly, there was the creation of the Berlin wall, which was built because the Soviet Union was afraid that its people would migrate to West Germany. Thus, to prevent the immigration, they built a wall to seal off East Germany and West Germany. Berlin was also divided into two, the East and West Berlin.
The Course of the War
The war was witnessed in various countries, including Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The war was characterized by helping the opposing side with weapons or soldiers. Hence, after conquering the country, the people in that nation would be forced to adopt the ideology. It was seen in Angola, Mozambique, and Cuba, where President Batista, who was a capitalist, was removed and replaced by Fidel Castro who was a communist. In Ethiopia, the cold war was witnessed when Haile Mariam was removed and replaced by Haile Selassie, who was a capitalist. Even in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mobutu Seseseko who was capitalist replaced Laurent Kabila. Tanzania was communist after the introduction of the Ujamaa policy. Even though the war was not fought with weapons, but actions, there are cases where it erupted into a full-blown war. Finally, there was the Korean War and the Vietnam War, which resulted from ideological differences.
The Collapse of the Cold War
At around 1989, the war showed some signs of ending. The measures applied to end the war are known as the détente. The first issue that facilitated the end of the war includes the death of Joseph Stalin, who was a strong supporter of communism and had opposed any interaction between western and eastern countries. Thus, when he died, his successor such as Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev were willing to work with Western countries, a situation that led to the end of the cold war. Secondly, there was the failure of communism in Eastern Europe. Countries in the region had become poor because of depending on the government for all their needs. Also, these countries felt that their rights were being violated because the government was in charge of all their welfare. As a result of the oppression, the countries wanted to gain their independence from the Soviet Union. Thus, when they became independent, they broke away from the union leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The independent Soviet States formed the commonwealth of independent states (kotkin, 2001). Thirdly, there was the reunification of Germany. In fact, East Germany was poor compared to West Germany, which was economically stronger. Thus, East Germany wanted to be stronger like their counterparts. Eventually, this led to the demolition of the Berlin wall in 1989, a situation that was aimed at facilitating the interactions. Henceforth, the Germany reunited and started to restructure its various systems in the country.
Acton, E. (1990). Rethinking the Russian Revolution. London: E. Arnold ;.
Ev, N. (1960). The origin of Russian communism. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Conquest, R. (1990). The great terror: Stalin’s purge of the thirties. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Kotkin, S. (2001). Armageddon averted: The Soviet collapse, 1970-2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press