The Soviet Union’s Vietnam War

One of the biggest wars of the Cold War took place in Afghanistan. Before the Taliban, UN Forces, and the War on Terror brought this remote country into focus, Afghanistan was a hot-spot in the Cold War, “the only time the Soviet Union invaded a country outside the Eastern Bloc – a strategic decision met by nearly worldwide condemnation” (History.State.Gov). In an decade known for the Iran Hostage Crisis, Iran-Contra Affair, and the Reagan Doctrine, the Soviet war in Afghanistan is relatively unknown. The Soviet-Afghan War was a product of Soviet involvement in the Third World and its attempt to install communist regimes in countries that had no business being communist or having a desire in communism. This war had lasting impacts, on both the Soviet Union and Afghanistan, and exemplified the stagnation that the Soviet Union experienced and ultimately led to its fall.

A downed Soviet helicopter

The years leading up to the war were extremely tumultuous for Afghanistan. In 1978 the Soviet Union installed a communist regime in Afghanistan known as the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan was the socialist party in the country and came to power during the Saur Revolution under the leadership of Nur Muhammad Taraki.The PDPA experienced instability when it took control and Taraki was soon killed and replaced by another PDPA leader, Hafizullah Amin. The PDPA policies of forced modernization around the country led to unrest and revolts in the countryside among the Muslim tribes and tribal leaders. Repressive tactics aimed at cracking down on dissidents and mutinies in the army also led to the country’s disintegration and transition into a state of violence and warfare. Muslim tribes and people in opposition to the PDPA soon engaged in war against the central government designed to kick the communist regime out; a war the Afghan Army was not strong enough win.

The war began on December 24, 1979 when the Kremlin decided to take the Afghan situation into its own hands. A few days later the PDPA issued a request to Moscow asking for military support in the country. The dispatch begged Moscow to “protect the gains of the Afghan Revolution…and asked the USSR for urgent political, moral and economic assistance, including military assistance which the government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan had earlier repeatedly requested from the government of the Soviet Union” (17 Moments). The Soviets killed Amin and replaced him with a man loyal to Moscow: Babrak Karmal. The Red Army also entered the country in force with 80,000 soldiers and almost 2,000 tanks. Soon, reinforcements brought the total number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan to over 100,000.

Afghan opposition fighters

Much like the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet Union assumed the war in Afghanistan would end quickly and order would be restored to the country within months. Like a Russian journalist stated in 1989: “But events took an entirely different turn. Contrary to our intentions, we were drawn into an exhausting civil war. Theoretically we were shooting at ‘foreign counterrevolutionary forces,’ but we were hitting Afghan peasants” (Eastview). Soviet forces stationed themselves in cities and urban areas around the country, engaging in patrols and missions in the countryside. The Soviet presence in the country did not stabilize the country as the USSR and PDPA hoped it would and the war dragged on for ten years. The Mujaheddin, the Islamic rebels that fought the Soviets, waged a guerrilla war in the mountains that the western styled Red Army had trouble fighting. By the time the war ended, casualties numbered almost 70,000 killed and wounded. On the other hand, over a million Afghan citizens were killed during the war. The Mujaheddin, with support from the United States and other western countries, prevailed and Soviet forces left the country in 1989, humbled and defeated. The war, much like Vietnam, destroyed Russian nationalism and support for the government. The war also saw increased drug use among the Soviet soldiers and extremely low morale. The inability to defeat a seemingly backwards and non-modern enemy shamed the Soviet Union and a mere two years later, the USSR ceased to exist. Many of the Mujaheddin also ended up joining the Taliban, further engulfing Afghanistan in war that is still going on today.

A convoy of Soviet Army armoured personal vehicles
The last Soviet forces leave Afghanistan in 1989

Sources Used:

Bovin, A. “Afghanistan: A Difficult Decade.” Pravda 40, no. 51 (January 18, 1989): 10-11. Accessed April 22, 2016.

Appeal by the Afghan Government

Soviet helicopter picture taken from

Afghan opposition members picture taken from

Soviet withdrawal picture taken from

A Stroll Through Havana

The Cold War, from 1945-1989, is broadly defined as a geopolitical struggle between the West and the East, democracy and communism. In reality, the Cold War was an extremely complex situation, with many layers to it, ranging from politics to proxy wars. One of the biggest sources of tension between the two sides was the competition for influence in developing countries between the Soviet Union and the United States. The post World War II world included rebuilding and developing countries after many years of war. These countries found themselves with a power vacuum, one the United States and the Soviet Union were eager to fill. The Soviet Union sought to expand its influence in most third world countries, including countries in Africa and the Middle East, most notably Afghanistan. One of the first of Khrushchev’s “wars of national liberation”, Cuba emerged as the primary focus of  the Soviet Union in the western hemisphere.

The Communist Bloc: Soviet influence found in the orange colored countries

The most notable Soviet success in a third world country was found in Cuba. In 1953, Fidel Castro led a communist revolution in Cuba which finally succeeded in 1959 and resulted in Castro taking power and founding a communist regime. Subsequently, relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union tightened over the next several decades. In 1964, officials from both countries formed a Soviet-Cuban Friendship Society in Moscow. The highly publicized event included remarks from Hero of the Soviet Union Yuri Gagarin and was designed to broadcast warm relations between the two countries (Pogosov). In an interview with Pravda in 1977, Castro stated that the “Cuban revolution was a great demonstration of the Soviet Union’s internationalist spirit for the entire world” (17 Moments). In this interview, Castro also stressed the influence of Lenin and the Soviet Union on his country. Castro also praised the Soviet Union for its endeavors around the world to preserve peace, solve hunger and poverty, and that “mankind will owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the October Revolution, Lenin, and the Soviet people” (17 Moments).

Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev




The Soviet Union strengthened its influence in Cuba in several ways. Economically, the United States had established a global trade embargo on Cuba and terminated an economic relation with the country., allowing the Soviet Union to move in. The Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations established a multilateral trade agreement with Cuba in 1961 (Walters). Annually, the Soviet Union provided billions of dollars a year in economic aid to Cuba, peaking with $4.7 billion in 1982 (CIA). Militarily, the Soviet Union sent advisers, soldiers, weapons, and equipment to Cuba to assist its military. One of the most recognized Cold War events, the Cuban Missile Crisis, concerned Soviet-Cuban military relations. The location of Cuba was especially important to the Soviet Union. Cuba is a mere 90 miles away from the United States, and establishing a Soviet foothold in the American sphere of influence would deal a blow to American prestige throughout the world. Soviet-Cuban relations remained strong throughout the rest of the 20th century until the Gorbachev era. Relations between the two countries broke apart during Gorbachev’s administration and the two country’s alliance was terminated in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union.


Sources Used:

Biggio, Charles P., Jr. The USSR and the National Liberation Movement. Master’s thesis, US Army War College, 1966. Carlisle: US Army War College, 1966.
Pogosov, Yu. “U.S.S.R.-Cuba-Soviet-Cuban Friendship Society Formed.” Pravda, November 12, 1964, 4. Accessed March 31, 2016. The Current Digest of the Russian Press.
Castro/Khrushchev picture taken from
Communist Bloc picture taken from

Khrushchev’s Harvest

The post-Stalin Soviet Union changed politically, culturally, and economically in countless different ways. Politically, Stalin’s cult of personality was denounced and his name was intentionally forgotten and excluded from Soviet daily life. Even his body, on display next to Lenin, was removed after divine intervention appealed to a woman at the 21st Party Congress, asking her to remove the body so Lenin could sleep in eternal peace. Culturally, people were given more artistic freedom with their art and literature and life became more open and free. One of the biggest changes during Nikita Khrushchev’s “thaw” occurred within the economy. Stalin focused almost exclusively on industry during his reign, putting agriculture on the back burner.A peasant himself, Khrushchev  sought to place more emphasis on agriculture and less on industry when he became leader of the Soviet Union in 1953. His agricultural reform program was called the Virgin Lands Campaign and for several years, it turned the Soviet Union into one of the world’s biggest agricultural producers.

The new source of Soviet agriculture, the Virgin Lands

When Khrushchev ascended to power in 1953, he wanted to rule a little differently than Stalin had. In a speech in 1953, Khrushchev stated that the state agriculture system needed reform and that “we use the enormous reserves hidden in large-scale socialist agriculture production badly” (17 Moments).  The steppes of Central Asia had millions of acres of unused farm land, virgin land, that Khrushchev believed could be used to help in the reform of the state agriculture system. The Virgin Lands Program highlighted the failures of past Soviet economic policies and outlined the goals for the project. Khrushchev wanted the campaign to expand grain planting by 13 million hectares within the next two years, the complete mechanization of the new grain planting and farming, and to increase the gross grain yield by 34% in 1954 and 1955 (Virgin Lands Program, 17 Moments). The plan was ambitious, but Khrushchev believed that it could be done and could succeed and at first, it seemed that he was right.

In 1954, the Kharkov Tractor Factory started to produce new DT-54 tractors designed for the new agricultural campaign (Zagorodny, Current Digest). Then, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians were transported east to fill the open job market created by this new agricultural endeavor. The campaign officially started in 1954 and 33 million acres of land were sown. It took a couple years before the program lived up to its potential and hype, but in 1956 the crop harvest contributed to half of the total grain produced in the Soviet Union. The crop harvest of 1956 was the apogee of the Virgin Lands Campaign, however, and the ensuing crop harvests never reached the amount of grain harvested in 1956 again. Droughts, poor weather, and early winters contributed to the low crop outputs of the following years but so did Soviet leadership. Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders decided to plant mainly wheat, most of the people that they transported to the new farmlands were not farmers, and the program failed to build proper storage units for the harvested grain, which resulted in widespread spoilage (Notes on the Virgin Lands and Russian agriculture). While it was moderately successful in the short term, the Virgin Lands Campaign was an overall failure in the long run and never reached its initial goals.

The Virgin Lands Campaign had social and political ramifications to go along with its economic impacts. The massive movement of western Russians and Ukrainians to Central Asia shifted the demographics of the region and put many Central Asians out of work. The failures of the campaign also weakened support for Khrushchev within the Party. The old school communists who had supported Stalin believed that Khrushchev’s intents to liberalize the Party and the Soviet Union were mistakes and his emphasis on agriculture upset many Party members, who wanted to maintain the focus on industry. The Virgin Lands Campaign helped lead to Khrushchev’s ouster in 1964.



Sources Used:

The Virgin Lands Program

Zagorodny, N. “Tractors Go to Virgin Lands.” Current Digest of the Russian Press. 7.9 (1955). EastView. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
Virgin Lands picture taken from
Video taken from

The Soviet “VA” and the Veterans of WW2

a Soviet veteran of World War II

The Great Patriotic War took an unbelievable toll on Russia and its people. German atrocities were widespread: villages were burned to the ground, women raped. men enslaved, and children killed. Most of the people of the Ukraine and other parts of Western Europe lots all they had to the enemy. The people of cities like Leningrad and Stalingrad saw their cities besieged, their homes destroyed, and loved ones killed. The Russian people were exposed to immense suffering, the kind of suffering that can only be truly understood by the people who were exposed to it. However, one part of the Russian population was exposed to more suffering and atrocities than anyone else. The men and women who fought the war on the front lines and in combat were exposed to the horrors of war, made all the worse by the primal and animalistic hatred between the Russian and German soldiers.

The suffering and hardship they experienced during the war was only made worse when they were demobilized and discharged. The demobilization orders promised the Russian veterans with a “full suit of clothes, shoes, rides to their places of residence no matter where they were located, yearly monetary payments for service, and resources to help rebuild their homes and lives, and help them find jobs” (17 Moments). Although the Demobilization Orders sounded great on paper, the reality was far different. The Russia the veterans returned to was a Russia vastly different from the one they left. Russia’s economy had thrived during the war but the end of the war saw a collapse in the economy and a rise in homelessness and joblessness. The veterans that returned had been trained to fight wars for the past years and didn’t have any experience or training to transition to a civilian job and were unsuccessful in finding many jobs as a result. There was also a lack of hospital beds, prosthetics, and other medical supplies that disabled and wounded veterans desperately needed but couldn’t receive.

Russian veterans sharing drinks

The unspeakable scars of war also took their toll mentally and psychologically on the veterans. There were no institutions in place designed to help veterans with PTSD or deal with their mental issues that developed during the war. Russian veterans developed more psychological issues than most other nation’s veterans during the war. The Russian military had no furlough policy during the war (17 Moments) which meant that most Russian veterans had been on constant campaign for 4 years. The situation regarding the psychological health and treatment of the Russian veterans was remarkably similar to the struggles of the United States today to deal with the PTSD of its own veterans. The Soviet social institutions simply weren’t equipped to assist soldiers with the mental issues created by years of constant death and carnage. Even the soldiers who had been captured by the Germans had to answer for their “crimes as traitors” and were subjugated to further punishment and mental stress. When they all returned home, no one understood what they had been through and had to bottle up their emotions and mental scars and try to move on with their lives. According to the Soviet Academia of Science the Soviet government never took an active effort to study the psychological trauma experienced by the Soviet people during and after the WW2 (Transyl2014.blogspot). While the American VA system is vastly better than anything the Soviet government offered its veterans, its struggles to deal with the cases of PTSD that so many veterans have is similar to the Soviet government’s struggle after the war. In America, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars veteran population has a %14 PTSD rate (Veterans and PTSD) but often have trouble receiving help at the VA for their mental pain. The average wait time at the VA for primary medical care is 115 days (Washington Post). While the two situations are vastly different, they show the struggles of a country to take care of its veterans who have given so much for their country but haven’t received anything close to what they deserve in return.

Sources Used:

Veterans Return Images

Demobilization Order

Saluting veteran picture taken from

Veterans drinking picture taken from



A Palace Fit for a King (or Stalin)

The 1930s in the Soviet Union was a decade marked by political and military upheaval and a continuation of the modernization of the country, dominated by the growing cult of personality surrounding Joseph Stalin. A man never meant for power, Stalin ruthlessly consolidated his control over their country and went about reforming it his way with many building projects, administrative reforms, and purges that rid him of any opposition within his government, both real and perceived. One of the lesser known aspects of Stalin’s Russia in prewar years was Stalin’s ambitious plan to rebuild Moscow into a modernized capital. An article in the New York Times from 1935 captures this project perfectly.

“An all inclusive plan for rebuilding Moscow in ten years into a completely modern metropolis, covering more than three times the area of the present city and providing comfortably and spaciously for a 5,000,000 population, was adopted today jointly by the Council of People’s Commissars and the central committee of the Communist Party.” (Seventeen Moments – Soviets to Rebuild Moscow in 10 Years)

The designs of the Palace of the Soviets within Moscow

Stalin’s plan to enlarge and modernize Moscow was not designed to just create a modern metropolis like New York City or London, it was meant to be a testament to Communism and the Soviet people. The Metro was completed in 1932 and a canal through the city was finished by 1937. Stalin’s crowning achievement of his new Moscow was the Palace of the Soviets. It was designed to be the new meeting place for the Soviet Congress and also a symbol of Socialism and the iron will of the Soviet people. As well as being the golden child of Stalin’s rebuilding program, the Palace firmly marked the shift from pre-Soviet culture to Soviet culture. The spot chosen to build the Palace on was the grounds of  the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, one of the greatest churches in all of Russia. Stalin clearly saw this as a way to contribute to the death of the Orthodox Church in Russia and the culture of the old ways and demolished it in 1931. Work on the Palace began the same year. The project was contracted out to Boris Iofan who went through several designs before settling on the final. Iofan’s final plans intended for the Palace to be 316 meters high with a 100 meter statue of Lenin topping the building; the area of the building would be 11 hectares.

What a completed Palace of the Soviets would have looked like in modern Moscow
The Moskva Swimming Pool, built on the foundations of the Place of the Soviets

Production began in 1937 and Iofan was able to build the base of the monument by the time Germany invaded Russia in 1941.  Construction was suspended during the war and the resources needed to finish it, such as concrete and steel, were redirected for the war effort. Construction of the Palace was never resumed and it was converted into the world’s largest swimming pool after the war. When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, the Church of Christ the Savior was rebuilt on the Palace’s foundations. Although it was a failed project, the Palace of the Soviets would have been the defining example of the cultural shift between old and new during the 1930s. Stalin’s destruction of the Church of Christ the Savior was a symbol of the his attempts to kill the Church and Russia and replace it with the Soviet state. The statue of Lenin on top of the building symbolized the success of the Reds during the Civil War and their transition to power within Russia. Overall, the Palace of the Soviets was the perfect symbol of the new culture of the Soviet state and would have been awe inspiring to look at had it been completed.

Sources Used:

Soviet to Rebuild Moscow In 10 Years

Rebuilding of Moscow

Design picture taken from

Hypothetical Palace of the Soviets picture taken from

Swimming pool picture taken from

The Successes and Flaws of a Socialist City of Steel

The First Five Year Plan

The Great Turn, the period following Lenin’s death during the late 1920s, oversaw a radical reshaping of Russian life, including politics, social life, and the economy. The most important aspect of this period was the economic progress made. Stalin himself claimed that “we are 50 to 100 years behind advanced countries. We must cover this distance in 10 years” (history-world). He viewed Lenin’s New Economic Policy as too capitalistic and replaced it with a more state controlled one of his own. The First Five Year Plan, started in 1929, was one of the biggest parts of the Great Turn and his economic policy. Within this program, Stalin ordered the collectivization of agriculture and the modernization of Russian industry as well as expanding industry and tapping into unused natural resources across the country. Perhaps the best example of the economic progress during the First Five Year Plan and the Great Turn is the city of Magnitogorsk. Known as the “socialist city of steel” (17 Moments) Magnitogorsk quickly became the focal point of Stalin’s industrialization program.

The Steel and Iron Works at Magnitogorsk

When Stalin began the First Five Year Plan, he wanted to create the biggest steel and iron works plant in the world, something that all other modern capitalist countries would be jealous of and strive to copy. Stalin decided to build this plant on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, which were extremely rich in iron and coal. In order to build it perfectly, he contracted the construction out to an American construction company. Within several years Magnitogorsk was supplying the entire country with iron and steel, contributing to a rising tractor and car industry. Industrial output rose from 48% in 1928 to 70% in 1932 (Stalin, In the four years that the five year plan was in effect, Russia rose its oil exports, created car and tractor industries, and was able to supply its agricultural system with modern machinery. A new working class had been created which fed directly into the communist party. As a whole, the First Five Year Plan was successful and transformed Russia into a modernized world power.

For all of the success that the First Five Year plan and Magnitogorsk had, there were plenty of failures and flaws. Often, the rapid industrialization was too rapid and the deadlines too great for workers to meet in time. A letter, written by a worker in Magnitogorsk to his family in 1931, represents many of the flaws of the First Five Year Plan. In this letter, the author complained of the fact that he and other workers were dropped off in an open field and forced to live in leaking tents that did not protect them from the weather or elements. He also lamented the fact that there were so many workers that work was scarce and that many of them sat around all day and did nothing. Many of these struggles were due to the insufficient resources that the Soviet Union had to industrialize their country. The speed that the First Five Year Plan dictated was almost impossible to keep up and many companies and projects struggled due to the speed with which they had to meet daunting deadlines. Stalin’s collectivization of the agriculture system was also flawed and led to massive famines in the Ukraine and mass migration followed. These migrations had negative affects on the economy because many of the people that made up the new industry’s workforce were inexperienced in factory life. As the author of this letter says, “right now we’re building temporary housing. But you can understand yourself what sort of carpenters we are” (17 moments). Most of the workers brought to Magnitogorsk were not industrially trained or did not have specific crafts that were useful to the completion of the plant. Although it was flawed and had problems, Magnitogorsk eventually became the largest steel and iron plant in the world and remains so to this day, a lasting legacy of the Great Turn and First Five Year Plan.

Sources Used:

Personal Letter from Magnitogorsk

Magnetic Mountain

First Five Year Plan propaganda poster taken from

Magnitogorsk picture taken from

Oppression and Violence – a Russian Tradition

The Kronstadt Uprising

When the Bolsheviks emerged from the Russian Civil War victorious, they found themselves in shaky control of their new nation. Although in political control of Russia, they still had to win over the majority of the population who were uninformed and resistant to Communist rule. In Kronstadt,  a naval base outside of St. Petersburg, the Bolsheviks found allies in the form of Russian sailors. These sailors assisted the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the February Revolution by bombing the Winter Palace. The country was far from stable at the conclusion of the Civil War and the Bolsheviks had a handful of problems to deal with. Their lack of control over the agrarian population of Russia led to food shortages and famines throughout the major cities of Russia. Their use of brutal violence and oppression against their critics and enemies also caused them to lose support within the country. This discontent spread to Kronstadt where this oppression, coupled with food shortages, led the sailors to view the Bolsheviks as straying too far away from their Revolutionary goals and they rebelled against the local Communists.

Russian soldiers attack the Kronstadt rebels

The sailors believed that the democracy and freedom for all promised by Lenin never materialized and that Bolshevik politics took advantage of the common man it was supposed to protect. Sailors stationed on the Petropavlovsk and the Sevastopol mutinied on February 28 and sent an envoy to the Kronstadt Soviet listing their demands for the people of Kronstadt. Included in these demands were basic rights such as freedom of speech, assembly, reelection of the soviets by secret ballots, and equal rations for all workers and the dissolution of grain collecting squads. In response to the sailors’ demands, Lenin “denounced the Kronstadt uprising as a plot instigated by the White Army and their European allies” (Spartacus). This was a tactic that became the norm in dealing with insubordinate soldiers and civilians alike. Communist troops were sent in to the city to deal with the renegade sailors and the rebellion was crushed in a matter of weeks and by March 18 the rebellion was over. The survivors were taken by the Cheka, the secret service, and tortured, killed, or sent to prison camps.

The transition from revolutionaries to rulers of Russia was a far more difficult task than Lenin expected. The Kronstadt Uprising was one of the first major problems the new Bolshevik government was forced to face while in power. Within a year of defeating their enemies in a bloody civil war, they were already losing support with one of their revolutionary allies. With no prior experience in dealing with political and social insurgencies, Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries resorted to the method they knew best: violence. Once the Kronstadt Uprising was over, “the Bolshevik government had lost contact with the revolution and from then on it would be a path of state terror and dictatorial rule” (Spartacus). Lenin and his compatriots and their successors now saw violence and oppression as a means to limit and destroy any critics or uprisings against their authority. They also saw this tactic as the most efficient and quickest way to establish their presence and power over the Russian state. This tradition continued during the rest of Lenin’s leadership and into the Stalin years on an even greater scale. With the bloody end of the Kronstadt Uprising, Lenin transformed himself and his government from a revolutionary one to a ruling one, with terror and violence by his side.

Source Used:

Kronstadt Uprising

Demands of the Kronstadt Insurgents

Kronstadt Uprising poster taken from

Russian soldiers picture taken from

Calling all Kadets

The October Revolution

When all hell finally broke loose in Russia in 1905, multiple political groups and factions rose up to rebel against the Tsar and his autocratic government. Starting with Bloody Sunday on January 9th, 1905, the Revolution of 1905 was critically important in the revolutionary phase of Russian history. With strikes, bloodshed, and revolts, and mutinies, this revolution had all of the ingredients for the undoing of the Tsar and Russian Monarchy. In October of 1905, Tsar Nicholas II capitulated to the strikes and demands of the widespread revolution and signed the October Manifesto, which created the Duma (legislative body) and led to the creation of the Constitution of 1906, which made political parties legal, set up a multi-party government, and transformed the Russian government into a limited constitutional one. One of the more important concessions the Tsar made was the legalization of political parties which resulted in parties such as the Bolsheviks and Octobrists.

A Kadet poster

One of the more important early political parties were the Kadets, or Constitutional Democrats, led by Pavel Milyukov. Made up of intelligentsia members and academic men, they were the biggest liberal party at the center of the new political system present after 1905 and focused mainly on political reform within Russia. Their platform revolved around keeping the Tsar in power, but limiting that power severely by transforming the government into a full constitutional monarchy, much like that of Great Britain. They called for local government to be expanded throughout Russia and the representatives could come from any background or class, along with universal suffrage. Any Russian citizen, regardless of class, could travel around the country and seek any job or occupation he/she wanted to. Economically, they called for the legalization of labor unions, an 8 hour work day, state sponsored medical care, and state sponsored social security and disability benefits. They also wanted discrimination free education that would be free at the elementary level and extremely cheap at the university and professional levels.

While influential at first, the Kadet Party ran into trouble in 1906 when the Duma was dissolved by Nicholas II and many Kadet leaders, along with other social democrat and peasant leaders, wrote the Vyborg Manifesto in Vyborg, Finland. In response to the dissolving of the Duma, this manifesto called for a peaceful protest of the government, refusal to pay taxes, and refusal to respond to the draft. The Vyborg Manifesto was not successful and resulted in the Kadets losing most of their seats in the Duma when it was resumed in 1907 to the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. During this time they opposed the government’s endeavor of Russification in Finland, which became a point of contention within the party. After World War I, many of their leaders formed the provisional government once the Tsar abdicated his throne. Although they were in power over the country, they quickly fell from grace and were replaced by the Bolsheviks for several reasons. They promised the Allies that Russia would continue to fight in the war and most of their leaders resigned when the government made promises to the Ukraine concerning independence. Once the Bolsheviks were in power, the Kadet party was persecuted, oppressed, and many of their leaders were imprisoned by Lenin while others were forced to leave the country. Within a little over ten years, the Kadet party had gone from leading the Russian liberal movement to being outlawed within their own country, like many Bolshevik enemies.

Sources Used:

The October Manifesto

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

October Revolution painting taken from

Kadet propaganda poster taken from


An Industrial Russia? Say it ain’t so!

An iron ore mine in between the Ural Mountains and Siberia. 1912.

As the personal photographer to Tsar Nicholas II, Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii traveled across the vast lands of Russia photographing various scenes of Russia for the Tsar and his family. Born into a noble family in 1863, Prokudin-Gorskii was considered a “pioneer of color photography, talented scientist and inventor, educator, and social activist” ( Above all else, his work in photography established him as one of the leaders of the color photography movement. His expeditions across Russia resulted in photographs depicting all walks of Russian life, from her people to her mountains and rivers. This color photograph, taken in the Ural Mountains in Western Siberia during a waterway survey, reveals an iron ore mine where the ore is being stacked next to the mine it just came from. Although this photograph displays an iron mine, it is clearly one that is simple and crude, highlighted by its lack of machinery or technology. The ditch in the ground, the wooden instruments used to mine the ore, and the rural setting of the mine indicate the poor state of Russian industry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This photograph can also be used to examine Russia’s industrial revolution and her desperate need for modernized industry.

Sergei Witte, the man responsible for Russian industrialization

During the first half of the 19th century, Russia’s grain exports supplied Europe with food but industry was lacking and revenue mainly went to the wealthy landowners, who oversaw grain production, rather than other industrial ventures. Russia’s defeat during the Crimean War exposed their lack of industrialization compared to other European powers and their need to modernize their economy and military. After the Crimean War, Tsar Alexander II signed off on many economic reforms, including emancipating the serfs (slaves), in order to develop the Russian economy. The emancipation of the serfs also led to the rise of a Russian peasant class, the kulaks, which enabled them to own their own land and animals. The first major undertaking of the Russian industrial revolution began in the 1880s, when Sergei Witte, the Minister for Transport, Communication, and Finance, began to build Russia’s railroad infrastructure and “oversaw the planning and construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway” (Alpha History). The construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway allowed material and manpower to be funneled into potential industrial areas such as the location of this photograph taken by Prokudin-Gorskii. Witte also remodeled Russian currency, built electrical plants, modern mines and built telegraphs. by the start of the 20th century, Witte’s reforms turned Russia into a top five producing country of iron and petroleum and building projects were being undertaken across the empire, thanks to Witte’s new railroads. By the twilight of the Empire and the start of World War I, Russia had transformed itself from a backwards agrarian country to a modern industrialized one. Witte’s reforms, while modernizing Russia’s economy, also turned many former peasants to the cities to fill the new available jobs and formed a new social class comprised of these new factory workers. The rise of this social class also contributed to the downfall of the absolute monarchy and the rise of communism. Vladimir Lenin needed the abused factory workers to further his cause and the seeds of revolution began within this “industrial proletariat” (Alpha History).

Sources Used:

Russian industrialisation

Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii picture taken from

Sergei Witte picture taken from