The United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) has been commonly referred to throughout history as the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union began as a constitutionally Socialist nation within Eurasia around 1922, and fell in 1992. Some major rulers during the life of the Soviet Union were Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, who was its first leader. Lenin's rule came from the Russian Revolution (also called the October Revolution) and the Bolshevik Party, in the winter of 1917, when Russia was still fighting against the German Empire in World War I. The Revolution also led to the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which confirmed a Russian surrender to the German Empire, which fell a few months after.
Following the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the Russian Civil War (coming to an end in 1921), the USSR was born as a union of several Soviet Republics, though the group was still commonly referred to as Russia. The Soviet Union consisted of the Baltic states, Eastern Poland, Bessarabia, and territories gained in World War II.
Nations in the USSR
In its time the Soviet Union became the premiere Communist state, and many Communist nations at the time and in the future modeled their Communist systems after that of the Soviet Union. Within the Soviet Union, during the Cold War era and beyond, the Communist party was the lone political party within the nation, making what is known as a 'One-Party Government'.
During the period of 1941 to 1945 the Soviet Union was locked in intense combat with Nazi Germany. Germany made large advances into the Soviet Union after 'Operation Barbarossa' started. With the future for the Soviet Union looking grim, Josef Stalin chose to make conscription occur. Probably one of the most well known areas of fighting, and also one of the first events that showed the Soviets that the Nazi war machine could be beaten, occurred in Stalingrad (now called Volgograd), where thousands of Russian men and women fought to their deaths as members of the ' Red Army'. These conscripts were usually poorly armed and trained, given only basic provisions and told to fight to their deaths against the Third Reich.
During the fight for Stalingrad, the Soviet Union sustained massive losses. Their sacrifices meant that the Soviet Union became able to push the invading Nazi army out of Russia. Under Stalin's order, the Soviets eventually pushed further, progressing into Poland and liberating the country from Nazi control. This event, unsurprisingly, became known as the 'Liberation of Poland'. Massive numbers of Soviet troops advanced into the heart of the Third Reich, and eventually their fighting allowed the Soviet Union to bring about the destruction of the Reichstag, in Berlin. Nazi Germany surrendered soon after the Reichstag, symbol of the Reich, fell to the Soviets.
As soon as World War II ended, another 'war' soon started. This war was the infamous 'Cold War', called so due to the lack of actual conflict involved in the war. The two opposing nations were the United States of America and the USSR. Both nations feared each other due to their development of nuclear weapons during World War II. While the United States managed to launch the first nuclear device during the final few months of fighting at the Pacific theater, Russia had also been developing weaponry. Both nations opposed each other politically, with the United States as a more capitalist society and the USSR as a Communist society. While referred to as a 'war', the degree of actual fighting between the two countries is questioned. Supposedly, Russian pilots fought alongside the North Koreans during the Korean War, training them to fight against the United States, but an actual war between the United States and Russia did not occur. At the close of World War II, Soviet Russia and the United States were the two main super-powers in the world, and both feared each other.
One enduring aspect of the Soviet Union was propaganda. Josef Stalin has been accused of having a 'cult of personality', and this does appear to be the case by some of the posters that were produced under his rule of the USSR. Many of the posters that exist promote Stalin almost as a deity, and many of the posters that were created during World War II were intended to increase morale for those at home waiting for news about their loved ones, who were conscripted into the Red Army in order to fight. Examples of this include the poster to the left, which encourages people to become more supportive of Josef Stalin and to praise Vladimir Lenin for laying the framework of the USSR. Other images promoting Josef Stalin in particular light exist, though this poster displays the 'cult of personality' that existed around him in a clear manner.
Impact during World War II
The Soviet Union's impact during World War II began in June 1941, with the German attack codenamed 'Operation Barbarossa'. This was the attack that took the German army into the so-called Motherland of Russia, and according to some historians, perhaps one of the most significant actions leading to the Nazi loss of the war. Barbarossa still holds the distinction of having been the largest-scale invasion of another nation in the history of warfare.
Barbarossa was an unmitigated disaster for the Nazis, who found the bitingly cold Russian winter to be as much as an enemy as the men and women sent to the frontline under Stalin's command to kill. Between 1941 and 1944, 95% of all German casualties were in Russia, or at the hands of Russian troops.
Barbarossa led to two of the most well known fights to maintain Soviet Russia's independence: the Battle for Leningrad, and the Battle for Stalingrad. In these cities, the population was drastically reduced due to the nature of some tactics, such as the idea of a 'human wall' preventing the Germans from killing every soldier coming towards them. This was countered by the German weapon producers, who had been responsible for weapons such as the MG42, which fired over one thousand rounds per minute, in theory.
The Nazis are typically said to have underestimated the Soviet Union, believing that they would be a weak enemy as they may have been in the First World War. In actuality, the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union meant it had the second biggest production in the world, drawing equal to Germany behind the United States. The Soviet T-34 tanks outnumbered the German Panzers by up to 4:1 at points during WWII, and it was arguably the best tank available at the time. Of course, rapid changes meant that it fell behind to newer German Panzers and the Josef Stalin tank.
The Division of Germany and the End of the Union
This is an event that occurred after the end of World War II. Berlin, and Germany, were divided into two halves, between the Soviets and the Allies. East Germany fell under Soviet control, and the West under Allied control. Initially, security between the two was lax: some buildings sat directly on the border, and people simply walked from East Germany to West Germany, and vice-versa. Probably the most defining example of this divide was 'Checkpoint Charlie': a checkpoint at the Berlin Wall, intended to stop people defecting from the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union came to its end in 1991, with Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms and signing of the Belavezha Accords effectively dissolving the Union. Present day Russia is referred to as the 'Russian Federation', and other Soviet nations have ceased to be identified as part of the 'SSR'.
- The Soviet Union holds the distinction of being both the first nation into space, and also being the first nation to launch a man into space. Sputnik 1 entered orbit during 1957, and Yuri Gagarin exited the earth's atmosphere in 1961 aboard the spacecraft 'Vostok'.
- The 'Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947', or AK-47, was first designed and employed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. This rifle has since become the stereotypical yardstick for every other automatic rifle to be compared to, even though the Soviets phased the rifle out during 1974, in favor of the more modern AK-74 and its variants, such as the AKS-74u.
- The Soviet Union holds the record for the most powerful nuclear device ever detonated. Known as the Царь-бомба, or 'Tsar Bomba', the AN602 was a hydrogen missile tested on October 31st, 1961, in Novaya Zemlya. Originally designed to detonate with the force of one hundred megatons, it was reduced to fifty in order to prevent huge amounts of nuclear fallout. Interestingly, AN602 was surprisingly clean for a nuclear weapon.
- Putting the scale of the Tsar Bomba's power into comparison, it is approximately 1,400 times more powerful than the combined power of both atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II by the United States.The bomb was so large that the Tupolev Tu-95 used to drop it had to be modified in order to hold the bomb in its bomb bay.
- The Rage Against the Machine album, 'Evil Empire', derives its title from the term that Ronald Reagan and others used to describe the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union in Modern Culture
The Soviet Union is a very common country in different videogames, due to its role in history and also the history that surrounds it. The Soviet Union appears in many war-based games, and even in modern-era titles, such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Possibly the best way to explain the reasoning for the Soviet Union's prominence in gaming is the fact it was viewed as an enemy of the United States and the Western world in general. Soviet imagery is a common aspect of games in general: in many cases, the Soviet Union are shown as antagonists, though in some games they are portrayed as allies or even protagonists. The Soviet Union acts as a major plot piece within the game Snatcher. The Red Alert series features the USSR and its allies very prominently as antagonists. In The Red Star, the abbreviation 'USSR' is changed to 'URRS', or the 'United Republics of the Red Star'. In the alternative-history era the game is set, the Soviet Union had expanded to such a degree that the term 'Soviet' no longer had any real significance, and the main feature of the expanded Union was the red star incorporated in the design.
Stereotypically, the Soviet Union is viewed as an enemy in all forms of media. It has become something of a yardstick for governmental corruption - any nation can be compared to the Soviet Union in this regard, as it remains in recent history and some of its actions are well documented. Groups such as the KGB wield reputations throughout the world for their actions during the height of the USSR's power. Rarely, the Soviet Union is viewed as an ally, though this tends to be reserved for World War II era games.
|In the original 2003 Call of Duty title, developed by Infinity Ward and produced by Activision, players get to take on the role of a soldier in the Red Army during the fight for Stalingrad, as well as for control of Nazi Germany. In the first Soviet mission, players get to witness an actual reality of the Red Army at the time. In-game, soldiers were ordered to queue up. One soldier would receive a Mosin-Nagant rifle, and the following soldier would receive additional ammunition for the rifle. The system would repeat, and the idea of giving some soldiers ammunition but not a rifle reflected on the poor training and expected survival time of each soldier. During this scene, soldiers arriving along with you are gunned down by their commanding officers for cowardice: another practice that occurred during the war.|
Later in the Soviet campaign, several soldiers attempt to retreat from the frontlines, whence they are cut down by their commanding officer in a hail of machine-gun fire, for cowardice. West and Zampella, the two founders of Infinity Ward, said that part of their reasoning behind the creation of the new company was to display moments like these, in order to shock the player.
|During Call of Duty: World at War, players took on the role of Private Dimitri Petrenko during the fight for Stalingrad, the push into Nazi Germany, and also during the final days of the fascist Reich. World at War does not show the same lack of training as the original title did, though this does reflect the increased capabilities of the Red Army after having further experience fighting against the fascist army. The game also displays some of the cruelty visited upon both German and Soviet soldiers. For example, the game offers a scene where the player must kill surrendering members of the Wehrmacht, either with a gun or a Molotov Cocktail. Furthermore, Nazis can be seen torturing captured Soviets.|
On top of this, players take control of a Soviet T-34 tank during their advance across German territories, fighting the remnants of the Wehrmacht as they storm across the Third Reich. Treatment of German soldiers during the game is somewhat reflective of what occurred during real life encounters between the two opposing forces.
|In Call of Duty: Black Ops, the Soviets are never shown as allies, with the exception of Viktor Reznov and the prisoners in the Vorkuta labor camp. The primary antagonists are both Russian soldiers, and the horrors that awaited the survivors of World War II are alluded to during this game. Rather uniquely, in the 'First Strike' downloadable map pack, a map called 'Berlin Wall' displays the division between East and West Germany. This map features the infamous 'Checkpoint Charlie', and also automatic gun turrets that mow down those caught in no man's land.|
During the campaign, Spetsnaz soldiers occasionally oppose the protagonist. The Spetsnaz characters are unique, as they have different AI to the rest of the enemies, attempting to avoid your shots through rolling and moving erratically. The Spetsnaz also wield weaponry unused by the rest of the AI, such as the PM-63 RAK.