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The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics sample essay

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (abbreviated USSR), otherwise called the Soviet Union, was a constitutionally-based socialist state that existed in Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. It emerged from the Russian Empire after 1917 Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War that occurred from 1918–1921; the USSR emerged as a union of several Soviet republics.

The geographical boundaries of the USSR varied with time; however, the last territorial conglomerations of the Baltic states, eastern Poland, Bessarabia, and other territories within the region during World War II, from 1945 until dissolution the boundaries approximately included those of late Imperial Russia, with the notable exclusions of Poland, most of Finland, and Alaska.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States of America were the two contending world superpowers that dominated the global agenda of various economic policy, cultural exchange, foreign affairs, military operations, advancements in science and technology, space technology and sports.
Soviet propaganda was not known for its intricacy. Citizens of the USSR saw the agenda as stern and authoritarian in conformity to the foundational policies it stood for. Even the buildings were designed to nuisance and imposing. It was difficult to reminisce of happy childhood memories.

Despite the tough policies of the Party, a new wave of nostalgia for Communist times surfaced in Russia. Apparently, time has glossed over memories of Soviet hardships, giving way to warm and fuzzy feelings for times of old. This is confirmed by the study by the Yuri Levada Analytical Center, Russia’s most widely-respected polling agency; 67 percent of Russians say they regret the fall of the USSR. The ultimate experience in over-the-top state promotion: the Soviet theme park is known by its Russian initials, VDNKh, it is a case study in architecture as propaganda on the outskirts of Moscow.

VDNKh is a monstrous 578-acre park in northwest Moscow, (accessible via the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya metro line). It houses more than 80 pavilions and monuments originally designed to showcase the achievements of the USSR. Each one is devoted to a specific aspect of the Soviet Union: agriculture, economics, science, industry and hunting, to name a few. And of course, there’s the cosmonaut pavilion. The place is a theme park of ideology, a carnival of communism. VDNKh was designed solely to boost the glory of the State. Welcome to Soviet Disneyland.

The years following the Empire’s collapse saw a knee-jerk purge of all things Soviet from public spaces: streets were renamed, commemorative plaques were defaced, and hundreds of statues were torn down. Indeed, VNDKh is one of the few bastions of the Soviet State left those generations too young to remember the Empire can visit.

For them, VDNKh must function as a kind of surreal testament to the entirely different world they would have lived in, had they only been born some years earlier. For tourists, it’s an intriguing chance to encounter the onetime showpiece of the Soviet Union. For older Russians, it’s either a source of nostalgia or simply an eyesore.

A walk through VDNKh provokes a deep sense of irony. The city of Moscow, lacking the funds to either tear down or reconfigure the site, has rented out the space inside the buildings to dealers of cheap electronics, furniture, toys, clothing and even handguns. The site now functions as a gigantic marketplace for goods of every description. None of the exterior facades or monuments has been removed. Buildings topped with nine-foot-tall bronze hammers and sickles are now makeshift bazaars where shady dealers peddle cheap Chinese electronics. Here, at the former epicenter of all things Communist, capitalism mushrooms.

But that’s old news. New thinking is taking root. According to a number of writers, Russians have been slowly redressing their attitudes towards their country, its economy and the plight of the ordinary Russian. The frenzied fetish for all things Western that swept the nation during the decade following the fall of the USSR seems to have dropped off, replaced by a new reverence for the old system. For many, nostalgia for the Soviet era goes deeper than memorabilia and public monuments. A growing number of Russians pine for a return to red ideology.

According to French journalist Jean-Marie Chauvier, Russians are jaded by the fact that most are worse off now then they were under communism, as the country is now run by a core of private oligarchs. Neo-Communist political parties have repeatedly tried to pounce on this. Glossing over the gulags, censorship and bread lines of the old system, they call for a return to the guaranteed security of Communist days. More and more people are listening.

A trip to VDNKh illuminates this new wave of thinking. It’s been 70 years since the place was built, and more than a decade since it was used as intended. As a free-wheeling market, kitsch and nostalgia replace reverence and fear as the dominant feelings in the place.

Now that it’s little more than a bazaar where anything goes, it’s easy to forget old atrocities and wish to return to a rosier past. The same goes; it seems, for Russia herself. Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (born on December 11, 1918) is a Russian novelist, dramatist and historian. Through his writings, he made the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet labor camp system, and, for these efforts, Solzhenitsyn was awarded both the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 and exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974. He returned to Russia in 1994. In 1994, he was elected as a member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Department of Language and Literature. He is the father of Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a well-known conductor and pianist.

In his work Solzhenitsyn continues the realistic tradition of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and complements it with his views concerning the flaws of both East and West. Throughout the 1960s and 70s he produced a number of major novels based upon his own experiences of Soviet prisons and hospital life under the communist dictator Joseph Stalin. Later in his life Solzhenitsyn saw that his primary mission was to rewrite the Russian history of the revolutionary period in the multivolume work The Red Wheel (1983-1991).

At the age of 42, Solzhenitsy had written a great deal secretly, but published nothing. After Nikita Khrushchev had publicly condemned the “cult of personality” – an attack on Stalin’s heritage – the political censorship loosened its tight grip. Solzhenitsyn’s first book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, appeared the following year in the leading Soviet literary journal Novyi Mir. It marks the beginning of Soviet prison-camp literature. Solzhenitsyn uses third-person direct speech to examine Soviet life through the eyes of a simple Everyman. Written in a direct style, it describes the horrors of just one day in a labor camp. The book found success both in the USSR and the West, and was compared with Fedor Dostoyevsky’s novel House of the Dead.

‘”When they announced on the radio that some new machine had been invented, I heard Matryona grumbling out in the kitchen, “New ones all the time, nothing but new ones. People don’t want to work with the old ones any more, where are we going to store them all?”‘ (From ‘Matryona’s Home’, 1963)

Historical views

During his years in the west, Solzhenitsyn was very active in the historical debate, discussing the history of Russia, the Soviet Union and communism. He tried to correct what he considered to be western misconceptions.

Communism, Russia and nationalism

It is a popular view that the October revolution of 1917 resulting in a violent totalitarian regime was closely connected to Russia’s earlier history of tsarism and culture, especially that of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great. Solzhenitsyn claims that this is fundamentally wrong and has famously denounced the work of Richard Pipes as “the Polish version of Russian history”. Solzhenitsyn argues that Tsarist Russia did not have the same violent tendencies as the Soviet Union.

For instance, in Solzhenitsyn’s view, Imperial Russia did not practice censorship; political prisoners were not forced into labor camps and in Tsarist Russia numbered only one ten-thousandth of those in the Soviet Union; the Tsar’s secret service was only present in the three largest cities, and not at all in the army. The violence of the Communist regime was in no way comparable to the lesser violence of the tsars.

Instead of blaming Russian conditions, he blamed the teachings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, arguing that Marxism itself is violent. His conclusion is that Communism will always be totalitarian and violent, wherever it is practiced. There was nothing special in the Russian conditions that affected the outcome. He also criticized the view that the Soviet Union was Russian in any way. He argued that Communism was international and only cared for nationalism as a tool to use when getting into power, or for fooling the people. Once in power, Communism tried to wipe clean every nation, destroying its culture and oppressing its people.

According to Solzhenitsyn, the Russian culture and people were not the ruling national culture in the Soviet Union. In fact, there was no ruling national culture. All national cultures were oppressed in favor of an atheistic Soviet culture. In Solzhenitsyn’s opinion, Russian culture was even more oppressed than the smaller minority cultures, since the regime was less afraid of ethnic uprisings among these. Therefore, Russian nationalism and the Orthodox Church should not be regarded as a threat by the west, but rather as allies that should be encouraged…

Minor Works

Solzhenitsyn published two anti-Stalinist short stories in the January 1963 issue of Novy Mir: “Incident at Krechetovka Station” and “Matryona’s House.” The first told of a military commandant of a railroad station in World War II who denounced a seemingly innocent man to the secret police and later regretted it. The second told of the struggle for survival of a poor and unassuming peasant woman. In summer 1963 Solzhenitsyn published another story in Novy Mir, “For the Good of the Cause,” which tells in ironic terms a tale of Khrushchevan bureaucrats acting in the manner of junior Stalins.


Old USSR Posters about Stalin and Soviet people (from 30th)

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